I didn’t ever put up outdoor Christmas lights until I met my wife and started spending Christmas in Georgia. What can I say? It’s a lot more civilized to be putting up seasonal decorations in T-shirt weather than whilst fighting the cold winds of my northern home to hang lights. I admit it – I am officially a wuss. But please, no one let the Canadian government know. They might revoke my citizenship.
Over the past 14 years, part of my annual tradition has been to put up our lights and outdoor displays while my wife is at work, so she can come home and simply enjoy the spectacle without any attendant stress. I regard it as one of my gifts to her, along with the wide assortment of cookies I’ll soon be baking. Oddly, this zeal doesn’t extend to the inside of our house, and some years we have a Christmas table rather than a Christmas tree. We have a very small living room, and Santa appears to have no issues with putting gifts under a table instead of a tree. Hey! They’re both wood. He probably doesn’t even notice the difference. So it’s all good, especially since then we don’t have to take the tree down come the New Year. But I digress.
When I put up our lights, I’m not in competition with anyone in the neighbourhood, in part because almost no one else puts out any decorations. So this is not a Georgian version of Deck the Halls and our home certainly can’t be seen from space. But each year we’ve added another light string or decoration, until it now takes me an entire day to put the full display in place. Inevitably something goes awry: a timer doesn’t go off when it’s supposed to; I run out of extension cords and have to run to the nearby Home Depot; part of a net light stays dark; or I knock over a gnome whilst dragging long light strings into place.
Yes, we have gnomes in our garden. Don’t judge. They’re all football gnomes, though they’ve done little this year to inspire my wife’s favourite Wisconsin-based teams. Maybe I need to hang tinsel on them.
This year when I climbed the ladder to start hanging the lights, I realized that the fall winds had littered our roof with leaves and pine needles. Deciding to kill two birds with one stone, I hauled the blower up onto the roof and started clearing the debris. While I was up on the rooftop, it occurred to me that it would be easier to drape lights on a couple of troublesome spots if I worked from the roof rather than the ladder. I knew my wife would kill me if I fell off the roof, so I carefully calculated how best to carry out this operation.
My idea was to lie on the roof with all four limbs extended for maximum stability, reach one hand under the eaves, and loop the light string onto the pre-placed cup hooks. My plan worked splendidly. Though it involved an ungainly crab crawl along the edge of the roof, it went quickly and efficiently. This was the first year it took me longer to do the ground ornaments than the roof.
I was part way through my task when the young woman who lives next door came outside with her dog. I called a cheery good morning, and though she had to look around to see where my voice was coming from, she responded in kind. We carried on a brief conversation before she took the dog back inside. Only belatedly did it occur to me how startling it must’ve been for her to see me up there, wriggling along the edge of the roof. I can just imagine the conversation with her housemates when she went back into the house. “You would not believe what our crazy neighbour is doing. She’s up there crawling on the roof!” Perhaps I should’ve donned a red suit and white fluffy beard first, and called “Ho, ho, ho” rather than “Hello.”
In a couple of years, my post-retirement wife will be moving north, and we’ll spend our first Christmas together in the land of ice and snow—assuming global warming hasn’t made that an impossibility by then. As much as I love my wife and enjoy lighting up our home for her delight, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to muster the same enthusiasm for outdoor decorating in non-T-shirt weather. I can easily envision a scenario in which my wife diplomatically points out that the neighbours already have their lights up, and I look from her, to the window framing a wintery scene, then back to her, and say, “But baby, it’s cold outside!”
Whatever the weather where you are celebrating this time of the year, be it Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza or the Celtic Alban Arthuan festival during the Winter Solstice – be warm, be at peace, be happy, and be safe.
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