In the spirit of the holiday season, tonight I’m going to risk my life on a rickety ladder pulling giant red bins off the top shelves in the garage to get to the Christmas lights. They’re stacked so high I have to rope myself off like a mountain climber lest I fall to my death on the concrete floor. Here in Oregon it has been dry for 2 days, and according to the weatherman, we’ve got one day left before the rain comes back and pours until July – I have to use this window of opportunity to get those outside lights done!

If I survive getting all ten monstrous bins down without breaking something (on me – who cares about the bins), I’ll dig through them all until I find the one with the lights that mostly don’t work. I’ve purchased replacement strings every year for the last ten years, but by New Year’s Day, only forty percent of the lights will still be twinkling. They will either go out individually or malfunction in thirds – 1/3 of the string will be lit and 2/3’s won’t.

Only two stings of cheap lights that are twenty-plus years old always manage to stay lit. I bet I could cut them with scissors and they’d still work. The new ones burn out in direct proportion to what I pay for them. I thought if I quit buying off brands (like “Great Balls of Fire Outdoor Lights**”) I’d get more life out of them, but that has not been the case. Au contraire, the more I spend, the quicker they die.

Each year when I plug these newer strings in to see if they’ve burned out while in storage (and of course some have), I try and figure out which culprit in the sting of 100 is the lowlife causing the whole bunch to go belly up. Then I go out in the cold night and throw them all over the yard to make a festive display because I’m practically the only one on our small block that decorates. They count on me. “Your house makes the whole street look merry and bright,” they say. It would be a lot merrier and brighter if they would bring me some spiked cocoa.

Their compliments are no longer enough to make me enthusiastic about this whole thing. The last couple of years I’ve strung a bunch of faulty lights together in a long line that looks like a redneck’s teeth – some white, then a black gap, then some more white. I fling them at the shrubs like I’m casting a net into the ocean. After a few minor adjustments to camouflage the un-lit parts of the strings, I call it good.

It doesn’t make much difference whether it looks decent when I finish anyway, because in the next couple of weeks, one by one, whole sections will go out and it will look like a city with a power outage – a few lights here and there, but mostly dark.

Let more ambitious people meticulously cover every inch of their yards and exhaust their savings with sleighs, Santas, reindeer, toilets filled with plastic poinsettias, snowmen, elves, etc. In the spirit of Christmas, I hope everyone has some twinkle in their yards and in their hearts, and if they’re lucky, a husband or contractor to put all that crap there for them.