How to de-stress while untangling Christmas tree lights.


By Bill Derby

It happened. Judy and I opened the fold-down attic steps to get a few Christmas decorations. The boxed-up fake tree was the first thing I brought down. It seemed heavier this year or was it my advanced age? We both remembered only half the lights on the tree worked. Our skinny fake tree looked weird without lights “a glowing” on the center limbs.

When Judy says “only a few decorations,” she really means a few hundred. After 48 years, five months and six hours of marriage, I knew better. She volunteered to bring down, no, throw down the remaining boxes to me from the attic. Next came working on the fake tree.

Rule number one: Make sure you’re not stressed, dang it. When you are untangling or re-lighting, take a step back, put on some Christmas music, and make yourself a cup of tea or something stronger if inclined. I decided to remove the lights and re-string a new strand around the fake limbs.  There is no sap on this tree but the needles are cutting and sharp.  Working on the tree requires leather work gloves.  Grabbing my wire cutters I started to cut the lights and wiring off.  The wiring was intricately weaved throughout the tree which was in three sections.  I hope the Chinese worker who wired this tree was paid double because it was like trying to undo Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights tangled in a huge bundle.

I spent three hours and ten minutes cutting hundreds of lights out of the tree and unwinding the wiring.  I was determined not to let the Chinese weaver win. I kept listening to Christmas music.  I was finally able to put on the new lights.  When I turned them on it was obvious they were outdoor lights.  They are bright white. It’s actually more comfortable wearing sunglasses viewing our Christmas tree. Shadows are thrown against the side of our neighbor’s home. Judy did a great job of decorating the tree even with sunglasses on. She is a magnificent decorator.

Now, over enthused with decorating I took the next step. We had two extra strands of lights I had purchased five years ago but had never unpacked. I decided to wrap our front porch columns with them and some left over fake greenery to highlight the glow.

The new old lights were designed as icicles with dangly blue and white strands but seemed slightly brittle. I carefully unpacked them and climbed the ladder.  I gently wrapped them around our front porch columns along with the fake greenery.  Anxious and hopeful for success, I plugged them in feeling a little like Mr. Griswold.

Whoa baby, the lights were automated blinking icicles blue and white. Our front porch looked more like the grand opening of a car dealership than a low-key decorated front entrance.

“Judy come look at this,” I yelled. “Come on outside. You will need to stand back to get the full effect.” I felt as proud of my artistry as ‘The Old Man’ Darren McGavin winning the coveted and prized ‘major award leg lamp’ in Christmas Story.

She couldn’t stop laughing. Maybe thirty minutes later she calmed down enough to slow down her giggles. She started calling me Clark Griswold.

It is a little gaudy but I have to say our decorations are different than anyone in the neighborhood. I’m sure our neighbors think the Derby’s are a bunch of bumpkins.

Last Thursday evening I came home after an event. It was easy to see where we lived as our blinking lights showcase our front porch much like a Las Vegas nightclub.

Judy has the bug too. Once she starts decorating there is no stopping her. New lights are appearing throughout our house like magic day by day. But I have to say they are very beautiful except for my front porch. It just qualifies as a functional nightclub entrance. You can’t miss it.


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