December 10, 2012
Do you love Christmas lights? Oh, I do. Of course, I’m talking about lights on houses during the months of November and December, maybe even part of January. I just can’t look at a house decorated with thousands of bright lights and be in a bad mood. By the same token, I find icicle lights and elves adorning a home in July a bit depressing, but that’s an observation for another day.
Every year at our house, the exterior illumination portion of decorating is a major undertaking. It involves very tall, very shaky-looking ladders, miles of tangled strings of lights, dangerous stomping around on the roof, something to calm my nerves, and earmuffs for children under 16 when my husband gets on a roll. The end result, however, is breathtakingly beautiful. Magical, even.
In years past, outdoor decorating even included our neighbors’ house, and they’d always do a little something to our house in the spirit of the season. One year, my husband (a contractor) and children (I was horrified) deposited an outdoor toilet on our neighbors’ lawn, wrapped it with festive paper and hung hundreds of lights on it. Our neighbors in turn rigged up a complicated web of colored lights that unfolded every time we opened our garage door, while Chipmunk Christmas music blared from a hastily-rigged speaker.
We’ve wrapped their car; they’ve unscrewed every light bulb in our shrubs and trees – literally thousands – while we slept one night. The stakes got higher each year, until the anticipation of the prank was almost as much fun as the surprise itself.
This year, I approached the subject of installing outdoor lighting gingerly and with care. My husband takes great pride in his outdoor lighting skills, and there is an unspoken but very real competition with our neighbor. I had to choose my words carefully.
“Honey, we’re so busy this year, why don’t we just keep the outdoor lights to trees and shrubs?” I asked nonchalantly, as we both popped our daily blood pressure pills and I strapped on my knee brace. I could see his face darken immediately, thinking up a hundred or so answers to my ridiculous proposition. You see, while my husband is chronologically my age; in his head he is still, oh, 18 years old. I could see I had my work cut out for me.
As I listened to his response, which included “but the kids expect it” (brilliant, as well as tactical), I decided to pull out the biggest gun I had, and that was the story I have about meeting the man in physical therapy earlier this year who had fallen off the roof of his house while decorating it last year. It took him 7 months to heal enough to even begin the torture of physical therapy.
To make a long story short, we will be featuring Christmas lights in the shrubs and trees around our house this year, not floating gracefully from the eaves and rooftop of our house. Our youngest, always bluntly honest with her opinion, lamented openly that it’s awful when your parents get old.
The lights are still beautiful, and no call to 9-1-1 was necessary. However, neither neighbor has made the first move (their lights have mysteriously disappeared from the rooftop and are now twinkling in shrubs and trees, too). I can only imagine how these two men and their now-grown children are going to celebrate on each other’s houses.
That reminds me, I need to keep my camera handy.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (released October 2012). She is also a regular weekly guest on FOX News Radio station WYXC 1270 AM on Wednesdays during the Live Drive at 5. Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at festivals and book signings, and speaking publicly at various events.