Last night I was, for the first time in my life, thwarted by Christmas lights. An hour in, one line from the parody The Twelve Pains of Christmas was running though my head on a loop – You’re so smart? You rig up the damn lights!
It was my fault, really. The first thing I did wrong was to break the cardinal rule. Despite that, I will claim from now until the end of time that this is really Dan’s fault.
Every year when we take the tree down, I exhibit a rare streak of anal retentive organization and planning. Each light cord is removed from the tree and wrapped carefully in zig zag pattern around a cardboard block. When it it carefully wrapped, I plug it in to be sure I didn’t dislodge any lights in my wrapping process, then box it away in the big crate.
Last year, Dan put away the lights. And over the course of the following seasons little evil beings in the attic conspired to weave the strands together into a nearly incomprehensible bundle of chaos.
By the time I’d spent nearly an hour unraveling the knots, explaining to Quinn that the ornaments couldn’t be put up until after the lights were on, and having the 100 pound dog land in my lap, thrilled by all the stuff, I was kind of frustrated.
It was in my frustration that I forgot the rule. Test them before you put them on the tree.
A few minutes and some choice words at the dog later, the lights were wrapped carefully around each branch. And I used the Martha Stewart method, which means two things: I am an idiot and it took twice as long as it would have otherwise.
Plug them in and. . . nothing. Awesome.
In the meantime, Dan for some obscure reason was compelled to go down into the basement and get the trim boards we removed when we painted the living room. They hadn’t been put back up yet, as they seemed to require thirty layers of paint.
He was running back and forth, muttering. Where are the nails? We have jars of nails somewhere.
Tool are another area in which I am organized to a very nerdy degree. Galvanized nails are in cans. Screws are in jars. Regular nails are in plastic.
“Don’t you put those up unless you can find finishing nails!”
He was on a mission and scowled. “We can redo it later.”
“No. No. One, we’ll never go back and redo it, and in the meantime I am not having it appear that our living room was sponsored by the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.”
“No! This is the first step to having a mounted deer head on the wall we’d need to decorate. We are not doing this. I’ll get nails tomorrow. Take down the lights instead.”
While he was taking down one of the strands on the tree, I began testing a couple of strings I hadn’t used. Ummm, literally half of the first set lit up, the other end was all dark. Fuse.
Ok. Spare fuses, slide open the fuse slot. Slide open the fuse slot. Slide open the fuse slot. Slide. Open. Open!
You know? I don’t like that set anyway. The lights are dull. Next test. Nothing.
I shall not discuss the helpful suggestions my husband has been making throughout this process. If I think of them again, I’ll go smother him while he’s sleeping.
I finally got one of the fuse slots open and pried out the fuses. They looked ok, but I put in new ones anyway. Or a new one. The second one fell and skittered under the couch.
“Quinn, Where’d you put that little plastic bag that was right here?”
He was all jacked up on Christmas cookies and running around the house draped in the dull lights. Probably some sort of kid proofing rule against that.
“I don’t knowwwwwww.” This as he streaked from the room with handfuls of disco ball ornaments.
We have now been working on the tree for well over an hour and all we have accomplished is getting it to stand upright.
I took a deep breath. “I’m tagging out.”
I went to the porch, lit a cigarette and tried really hard to ignore the impending holiday.
And I heard from the living room, Dan talking to Quinn. “Mama’s silly. These lights here work fine.”
I knew what he was talking about. The white strand lights.
I hate white strand lights.
“I hate white strand lights.” I thought it only fair to announce this before they began wrapping them around the tree.
Weird personal tic on my part. Unless they are outside, white strand lights drive me batty. So do white shoes. I didn’t even wear white shoes to my wedding.
When I went inside two minutes later, I realized I’d heard the comment far, far too late. The tree was wrapped from head to foot with the white strand lights, glittering cheerfully.
I gave up. Kept my mouth closed while we continued decorating the tree with the disco balls, snowmen and stars. The Humpty Dumpty ornament got a special place of honor, meaning he was placed high enough so that Quinn couldn’t take him off and play with it.
And finally, four hours after we began, we were done. We turned off the house lights and gazed in wonder at the craptacular sensation before us.
The family Christmas Tree, as envisioned by Larry the Cable Guy.