[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the manger… plus what candy I got that day… You should check it out. In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping]
I hung up my Christmas lights the other night. I spent three hours on a stepladder stringing a mere 75 lights from 8 hooks above my windows. Most of that time was spent calculating the proper amount of randomness to the lights which would create the most pleasing effect.
I don’t care that the wire shows horribly to the outside world. Don’t get me wrong… I teared up when the woman who lives in the YMCA up the street said she looks forward to them each year. But, they’re for me. I mean, look at that pleasing glow. It is so damned festive in my living room right now, it’s lit like a small-town gay bar with a name like Secrets or Reflections II
Why shouldn’t I be able to see my own Christmas lights? I paid for them. I slogged them home on a crowded F train from that fancy Home Depot on 23rd. And I had to put on pants to hang them because I was in the front window. So, I get to enjoy them. It is one of the great joys of Christmas for me. Actual lights in the apartment would be kinda sad, especially since I don’t really go in for trees because of space concerns and a mild pine allergy. They would just sort of limply hang there, and I would have to look at them in the daylight. A string of Christmas lights is only happy around 40% of the time; the rest is bare wire. But put them on the other side of those nasty sheers that came with the apt, and you have an other-worldly glow that speaks to the ancient mysteries of Yule.
I learned this trick from my dad.
When we moved into the place on Deeside off the 16th tee, my dad quickly grew to appreciate the view from his easy chair through the two stories of glass, over the yard, and down the short rough that separated the backyards from the par four 16th. It was a well-earned view to have from one’s easy chair. At Christmastime, we would put up the lights in the front of the house on the bushes that framed the windows of rooms we never used. These lights were, of course, white because everyone tsk-tsk’ed at the one house that put up colored lights. One just didn’t use colored lights in Muirfield. We would flip them on, and the empty living room would be a tiny bit less dark. We still didn’t go in there.
But my dad had me pick up a few extra colored strands when we got yet more lights for the tree, which during these Deeside years was an exercise in stupid giganticism. As I was finishing up the white lights, he motioned me over and handed me boxes of colored lights. “Put these in the trees in the backyard.”
“I’m not sure I can reach the branches even with the ladder.”
“Then just throw them.”
“Then they’re just gonna hang there.”
“Good. They don’t have to be symmetrical. They just gotta be there.”
He then went on to explain how when he sat in his easy chair, he wanted to be able to just turn his head a few degrees and see twinkling lights. He made a “twinkling” gesture with his fingers on both hands.
“What about the big Christmas tree? Can’t you just look at that?”
“I have to turn my head this far…” He twisted his head back about 105 degrees. I shouldn’t have to do that to see my own twinkling lights.” Fair enough. After all, the man got a view like this because of his well-honed sense of efficiency.
“Well, the lights from the tree reflect.” I had figured that the most efficient thing was for me to get back inside having done no more work.
“They’ll be a bonus. You’re telling me you can’t throw something in a tree for me?”
It took over an hour for me to throw three strands of lights into a tree in a pleasingly random arrangement while he directed me from the safety of the inside.
But he was right. When you sat in that easy chair, barely moving your head, you felt like the king of Christmas.