Thursday, December 11, 2008


The words to one of my favorite Christmas songs say:

“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love; ev’ry song you hear seems to say, ‘Merry Christmas, may your New Year dreams come true.’ And this song of mine in three-quarter time wishes you and yours the same thing, too.”

But as that song keeps running through my head, the lyrics change to: “It’s that time of year … when the world goes crazy … every neighbor tries to out-decorate his friends …”

Yep, it’s that time again – time for decorating for Christmas. I have to admit that the older I get, the less excited I am about pulling down all the boxes (about 30—not exaggerating!) from the attic and then untwisting Christmas light strands and trying to get them to work.

I think simple is better. There’s no way I’m going to put out thousands of lights that are computer-controlled to pulse in time with music. I have a friend in Tyler who does that - of course, their neighborhood is clogged with dozens (hundreds?) of cars trying to see the show. You can save yourself the drive and watch his light and sound show on youtube or click this link.

FYI, nobody is going to post my decorations on you tube, so don’t waste time looking!

Cindy and I have survived 34 years of marriage by agreeing that she will decorate the inside of the house and I will decorate the outside, and never shall the twain meet! I wasn’t able to get the jump on the Christmas lights until this past week. I was gently reminded that “all the other neighbors have their lights out.” So, I bent my back to the job – literally.

For me, decorating our front yard means lining the sidewalks with C7 lights (all you men will understand my decoration-code-speak). That involves spreading out the lights along the sidewalk and then inserting plastic light holders into the ground and then clipping the light into each holder. It’s a long way down to the ground these days – in fact, I had one older gentleman tell me that it’s so hard to bend down to tie his shoes that when he does it, he looks around to see if there is anything else he can do while he’s already down there!

So, since I used approximately 9,000 lights (my estimate), I spent several hours bending down and bending up repeatedly …. Only then to find out that I had the plugs at the wrong ends ….. so I got to do it again! Oh Joy to the World! The sound I keep hearing wasn’t a crackling fire, but a crackling spine! And those weren’t chestnuts popping—those were my joints! Do You Hear What I Hear? It wasn’t a Silent Night as I groaned into a hot bath later!

Okay, when the sidewalks are lined, then I get to put fake garland around the outer and inner front door (we have a porch) – and then I string miniature lights through the garland – that’s a pretty simple task.

The hardest job is stringing hundreds of miniature lights on the two 10 feet tall Christmas-tree shaped holly bushes that frame our front door. They’ve grown so tall and broad that it’s gotten harder each year to string the lights around them. And invariably after I placed the lights, one or more strands of lights would decide to stop working. So this year I came up with the brilliant plan of using those “light nets” which are lights that are connected to form a net that simply drapes over bushes. Thus began my Four-Wal-Mart-Afternoon adventure. Ho Ho Ho.

On the way home from church, I drove to the Troup Highway Supercenter and found the clear light nets. (That’s trip #1) I had no clue how big the nets were so I estimated two per bush. I got home and started putting them on and found that one bush is much wider than the other, so I was one net short. So I drove to the South Broadway Supercenter and fought the traffic and crowds and purchased one more box of net lights. I paid my $8 and drove back home (that was trip #2). Laughing all the way ….

I got back to my house and opened the box only to discover that I had mistakenly bought multi-colored lights instead of clear! I uttered a pleasant interjection at this point and got back in my car and drove back to the South Broadway Supercenter since I recalled they had plenty of lights. The parking lot was almost full by now so I drove around searching for a parking space in Smith County. I finally found one about 6 miles from the front door. Park! The Herald Angels Sing!

I walked up to the cashier in the Garden Center and told her of my mistake. I asked her if I could simply swap it out for the clear lights (I had the receipt). She explained that it would mess up their inventory, so I had to go to customer service. So I walked all the way through the crowded aisles of the store and got in line at customer service. I’ve never seen so many people in line. I’m sure that there were even Angels From the Realms of Glory there.

I finally got my $8 back and then returned to the Garden Center to buy a box of clear net lights. Of course, you can probably guess by now – they had dozens of boxes of multi-colored light nets, but not one single box of clear lights! So I left that Wal-Mart (that’s trip #3) Oh, Come on all you faithful! I even stopped by the Lowe’s down the road to check to see what they had … nada. It was a ghost town on the Christmas aisle because they had reduced all their decorations to 50% off.

So, I drove across town back to the Supercenter on Troup Highway, and voila! If you’re thinking they were out – you’re almost right. I searched among the dozens (hundreds?) boxes of multi-colored light nets and found the last two boxes of clear light nets hiding behind several stacks of multi-colored boxes on a center display. I grabbed them and held them over my head in victory like I was lifting the trophy for winning the Master’s Golf Tournament. “Yes!” I screamed as I headed to the cashier. The little lady next to me who heard my yell looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you that preacher I see on TV?” I was dressed in my sweats and cap and didn’t look very ministerial at that moment so I replied, “Joel Osteen? I get that a lot! No, I’m not him. Merry Christmas!” And I quickly moved to another line to check out. (And that was Wal-Mart trip #4). Tyler has grown so large and the traffic is so bad that I was wishing I lived in Oh Little Town of Bethlehem!

So as the winter sun was setting, I returned home and finished placing the light net on the holly bush (with one extra box left over just in case), and when I plugged everything in, it worked!!!! So what should have taken me about 45 minutes to do ended up taking almost four hours and I used up about 20 gallons of gas!

Oh well, Merry Christmas to you. When I was sitting at a traffic light on one of my many Wal-Mart trips I saw a hand-lettered cardboard sign nailed to a telephone pole that said, “We hang lights” with a phone number listed. I wrote the phone number down.
God Rest Me Merry Gentlemen ...

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