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Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Clark Griswolds


For the last few years a tradition has been unfolding in our house. Our little Cole (who's now the tallest in the family) insists on putting up the tree. And for a fifteen-year-old boy whose room is filled with gatorade bottles and dirty socks, he's strangely particular how the tree is decorated.

When it all went down a few weekends ago, I tried help Cole by rearranging a few ornaments–only to be scolded by my very own Christmas Nazi. My eldest and wise daughter Alex sat quietly and knowingly on the chaise, reading her book and not daring to say a word after her one unfortunate mention of the tree's lobsided-ness.

Overall, Cole did a pretty nifty job. Once he had completed his masterpiece, he made a hot chocolate run to the kitchen. That's when I noticed he had hung the balls without hangers. While I was impressed how he had squeezed the branches through the  tiny holes of the ornaments, I understood too well that these balls were at high risk falling off–especially with a frisky cat around. (I secretively fixed the problem when he got back to work playing his PS4.)

But his spirit was contagious that day. I decided to keep on with the decorating, urging him off his gaming system to tackle the outdoor lights since Doug was in the field. He jumped right into it. Alex remained in her peaceful position, reading on the chaise.

Frustrated Elf
The first task in our exterior illumination project was to decde which lights to hang. Plain white? Colored twinklies? Colored bulbs? White dangling icicles? We quickly ruled out the white lights. Too boring! And we had been there and done that last year. For this Christmas we first chose the white danglies–so elegant and charming. After spending a fair amount of time untangling, we tested. No bueno. Most of these lights were on strike. (Wind is tough on lights on the farm.) But we weren't discouraged! On to the next set: colored bulbs. Fun and festive. Again, we repeated the untangle and test process to find more dysfunctional lights. Finally we settled on the colored twinklies and were awed to find brilliant success! So we set about to hang them, by first laying them in position. And then taking an hour detour to find extension cords. Once the extension cords were secured, we seemed to spend the next  one or five hours figuring out how we'd plug them in, which should have been easy since we've lived here for 16 years. But it never is. But we finally go it! And now it was time to hang, starting at the tall scary end of the house with our shaky ladder and monster shrub. But we did it! We made it past the challenging parts and were on the final pass WHEN...all of the lights went out. Every single strand. I won't even tell you about our struggles we had with the replacement bulbs. Let's just say we dismantled them with a fair amount of disgust threw away almost every strand of lights we had.

Our only hope at that point was the boring white lights. And Doug.

Fast forward to Sunday. Sunday, cold Sunday. With Cole's help, Doug hung those white lights in twenty minutes. No problema whatsoever. And what do you know? They aren't one bit boring! Every night when I come home from work, I see that single row of white lights running across our roof and I feel like the Griswolds as they stood looking at their audaciously-lit home. It makes me happy.

Of course, we've added a few more elements, like snowflake spotlights and flashing rope lights on our front railings, which still doesn't begin to compete with Clark. But it does make our entire family happy. These lights, as challenging and simple as they may be, fill us with a festive air as we prepare for the most important birthday of all–on December 25th.

Good luck to you and your family as you prepare for this great holiday!

Enjoy this video we sent to our college girl Alex, capturing the essence of our light show.