He has not seen me wrestling with lights. I am touched. He thought there was a roof leak. I beam a warm smile toward my dear neighbor, who apparently doesn't believe in Christmas lights, from the evidence of the seven or eight holidays they've lived beside us.
As I eye the still unlit gutters, I'm thinking ...
North Korean lights
The thing about Christmas lights is they are an erratic technology, equivalent to North Korean missiles. Sometimes they work, often they don't.
Then there's the confounding environmental conundrum of the half-working string of lights. Do you fling them out in disgust and exasperation when you plug in strings of last year's lights and only the first 5 feet of the 10-foot string light up?
Or do you creatively double the lights back on themselves to keep them from landfills, creating an even greater challenge as you dangle your backbone over a gutter, attempting, in effect, an aerial macramé of Christmas lights?
Disgust and exasperation win!
The patient young Nigerian clerk at the local Walgreens greets me again with a smile as I return to their holiday display once again to replace no less than three North Korean strings of lights.
I am speaking metaphorically. I think they're actually from China.
I won't even get into the extremely inspired curses that followed upon the heels of my post-Walgreens discovery up on the roof. It was this: The single string of last year's lights that did work would not connect to the new lights purchased from the nice clerk because the plugs were different.
It is fortunate I know how to curse in French as well as English. My Mormon neighbors likely heard the vile sounds through the walls of their unlit house. Although unless they ran them through Google translator they would not know how offensive their only seemingly mild-mannered neighbor could be.
The Christmas Bear
My last surge of effort was to twirl separate strings of red tube lights down the length of the short white pillars astride my porch. I was going for a candy-cane effect.
The strings kept drooping. Do you know how hard it is to create a candy-cane effect? I'm just saying: not for the faint of heart. Drooping canes, more like it.
But I have to say, as dusk came on and I retreated down the ladder to terra firma one last time, I was feeling accomplished. Then, I remembered.
Damn! I forgot the Christmas Bear.
The Christmas Bear and I have a complicated relationship. First, who ever heard of a Christmas Bear? I know there are polar bears and stuff. But I mean, like, the Christmas Bear?
The other problem is the Christmas Bear is wired with hundreds of lights and put together weirdly. He always tips over and falls into bear pieces. I have to use bread-bag ties to keep his legs and head on.
I dig the bear out of the basement. Plug him in. Gratefully, he lights up fine. I note a black blur between his legs. Luna, our cat, is chewing on the bear's wiring.
"Luna, stop!" I cry. "Leave the Christmas Bear alone!"
I get the bear onto the porch without incident. Standing back in the dark, I study my day's labors.
My daughter, you see, has a rare form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's a variant you might call Yuletide OCD (YOCD), in which all Christmas decorations need to be exactly, evenly balanced.
If there is any Christmas decoration not in perfect symmetry -- for instance, my candy-cane lights, which appear to be something Willy Wonka concocted on an LSD trip -- this is just not going to cut it for YOCD sufferers.
I know my daughter will hate my drooping canes. I leave her a note and tape it to the front door before she returns from work.
"Dear Daughter: You may re-do the candy cane poles any way you like. Your Dad."
I know she will know what I mean.
I am done, is what I mean.
Then, I drive to Kroger and purchase a rather expensive bottle of wine.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.