Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

-Norman Vincent Peale

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Decorating for Christmas

Decorating for Christmas is something I look forward to and dread at the same time. I look forward to it, because I like the feeling of knowing the holidays are near and seeing the Christmas tree lit up and the nativity scene shining in the lights. I like wrapping presents and the anticipation of waiting for them to be opened. All of those things evoke warm feelings inside of me.

What prompts the thud in my stomach and the dread in my heart is decorating outside the house. Let's just say my husband likes to be creative. Dangerously creative.

I don't mind the inflatables staked out in the yard. I think they look great when they're full of air. I love the animated bear and deer as they nod and swing their heads when lit in all their glory. Even the spiral Christmas trees that line the sidewalk look pretty. It's the rest of the decorations.

The lights.

What to do with the lights.

We have a lot of lights. Strings and strings of lights. Mostly clear, but some colored ones as well. My husband likes to use the clear ones. He'll stretch the strings across the front yard, one next to the other, making sure not to touch or cross wires. Then he'll have me plug each one in to test them to make sure they're still working. They usually are, minus a bulb or two. All of this is fine, until he walks out of the garage with the big ladder.

Not the step ladder. The big ladder. The one that can go eighteen feet into the air.

He usually has a plan around this time. He'd have been thinking about it for a few days, deciding where he was going to put the lights. He wouldn't tell me his plan, though. It would give me a head start on trying to talk him out of it. No, he waits until the day he's putting up the lights to spring it on me.

It starts out like this.

Him: "I'm going to finish decorating."
Me: "You mean put up the lights?"
Him: Yeah, I'm going to put up the lights."
Then there's a pause.
Me: "Please don't fall off the ladder."
Him: "You're no fun."
Me: "Most holiday accidents are from men falling off ladders while decorating for Christmas."
Him: "I'll be fine."
Me: "I'm too weak to carry you from the yard to the car and drive you to the hospital."
Him: "That's why God invented 911."
Me: "Please don't fall off the ladder."
Him: "You might want to stay out here."

And, so it goes. By this time, he's placed the ladder where he's going to climb. One year, it was against the house up to the roof. He laid out all the strings of lights in an outline of the house's roof. I have to admit, after all the scares of watching him slide across the roof and walk the peak, the house looked very pretty.

Until the squirrels chewed through the wires and blinked out half the lights. Then it just looked like the lights were haphazardly tossed on the roof in any which place.

But, this year he had something special planned. Something that he'd been talking about for years, but I'd managed to talk him out of it so far. This year he wasn't listening.

The ladder went up against the large oak tree in the front yard.

Me: "You're really going to put lights in the tree?"
Him: "I've got it all planned out. It'll be easy."
Me: "Please don't fall out of the tree."
Him: "You're not going to climb up this ladder, no matter how much you think you should."
Me: "Yeah, right."

He coiled up all the lights that were strung across the yard and placed them just so on the ladder and branches of the tree. This way they'd all be within reach while he was up in the tree.

My job? Stay away from the ladder.

I looked up at my husband as he balanced himself in the crook of two very large branches as he took note of his surroundings. He grabs the first set of coiled lights and tosses them onto a higher branch.

Him: "Oh."
Me: "What?"
Him: "I didn't think about that."
Me: "Think about what?"
Him: "How I'm going to wrap the lights around the branch. It's too big for me to grab from my other hand."
Me: "Oh darn. Guess we'll have to stop."

Not hardly. My resourceful husband wasn't going to be swayed so easily. Determined, he thought and then offered up me as the solution. I was to stand under the tree and catch the lights as they were tossed over the branch, then toss them back up to him.

And, so it went. He draped strings of lights around branches, dropped, and I tossed back up. Then we plugged in more strings and continued our drape, drop, and toss ballet.

Up one branch, then over to another. He stretched higher into the tree. I swallowed the lump in my throat. Finally, he was done. He climbed out of the tree and down the ladder. The big moment had arrived. Plugging the lights in. That was my job.

Him: "Oh no! %@#&, some of the lights aren't working. Two strings are out."
Me: "But they worked when we tested them."

Of course, that was no help at all. My first thought was, well, we can just take them all out of the tree but then I had visions of my husband climbing back into the tree and I quickly tossed that idea aside.

Dear husband had other ideas. He was going to find the errant bulb that caused the lights to not work.

Him: "All I have to do is find the bulb that is out but it's not going to be easy because the filament is so tiny."
Me: "Maybe they don't work because there's a bulb missing?"

I'm delegated to finding replacement bulbs. Easy enough. But, they don't match the light bulbs from the other string. Great. Ever resourceful, my husband pulled the bulb apart and fitted it into the new socket. He places the bulb in the empty socket and we sigh with relief as the string lights up. One down. One to go.

Once again, my husband starts scrutinizing the light bulbs looking for the one that could be broken. But, luck was on his side. He twisted a bulb, and viola! The string lit up. It was only a loose bulb.

My husband was happy. He'd put lights in our tree.

Him: "I'm not sure how I'm going to get the lights down."
Me: "Really?"
Him: "Maybe they'll stay up there." Pause. "Maybe I'll cut them down."
Me: "Maybe the squirrels will eat through the wires."

Come on, squirrels.