72: Christmas Glow

72: Christmas Glow

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Christmas Glow

The words light and Christmas are close together in the dictionary of our hearts.

~Author Unknown

I blame National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for my husband Derek’s reluctance to attempt outdoor lighting and decorations during the holiday season.

Watching the movie is an annual tradition in our home, but I fear Clark Griswold’s electrical mishaps may have installed a wariness of Christmas lights in my own “Sparky.”

Each year, the day after Thanksgiving finds me knee-deep in red and green storage bins and tinsel as I deck our halls. My usual décor comes off the walls and is replaced with framed Santa prints and holiday sentiments.

Glittering candles gleam from every surface. Candy canes fill Christmas mugs. Our fifteen-year-old son Sam constructs a gingerbread house. The nativity set is carefully unpacked and surrounded by a heavenly host of angels I’ve collected over the years. The stockings are hung by the entertainment center with care and our plain white dinnerware is packed away, replaced by elegant holiday-themed dishes.

Though the inside of our home may seem like a winter wonderland, the only visible evidence of the season outdoors are two dispirited wreaths flanking the front door.

I’m not alone in my wish to have the outside of our home reflect its indoor cheer. Sam has been hankering for outdoor lights for years. “Please, can we just have a few?” he asks. “I’ll help you hang them. I’ll make sure our house doesn’t look Griswoldy!”

“We’ll see,” his dad replies. Every child knows “we’ll see” means “no” in dad-talk.

But this fall, Derek and Sam discovered several boxes of lighted holiday displays while helping my mother-in-law clean out her garage. “What should I do with these?” his mom asked. “We haven’t put them up since your dad died.”

Sam seized the moment. “We’ll take them!”

“But…” Derek started to say.

“Of course you can have them! Papa would love to know you’re using them,” said Grandma.

A father’s objections are no match for a grandma and grandson combo.

So, this year while I unpacked the bins from the basement, Sam went to the shed and lugged out boxes filled with deer, a star, a nativity set and a Christmas tree.

He manfully untangled wires and lights and assembled various parts of reindeer anatomy. However, Sam insists they are not reindeer. “The boxes say ‘deer,’ ” he said. But I’m at a loss as to what regular old deer have to do with Christmas, so I’m calling them reindeer.

In true Griswold fashion, the lights on the middle part of Dancer (yes, I named them) refused to shine. Enter Derek, who spliced some wires and sliced his thumb and soon all was bright.

Then it was the Christmas tree that kept collapsing and Dasher who tipped sideways like he’d tipped back one too many rum toddies. By this time Derek was sweating and I could see why he’d been reluctant to take the holiday lights plunge.

Sam, however, had enough enthusiasm for the both of them.

Finally, they hauled the decorations out to the front yard and departed to the hardware store to buy electrical cords and timers and whatever else they needed before the big reveal.

I’ve learned much about hardware store trips over the years. Enough to know one trip is never enough. I also surmised that getting hundreds of lights to twinkle may take a lot of time and may involve language I prefer not to hear. So, while they were at the store, I headed out to have dinner with friends.

The sun set and I prolonged my outing with a few errands, uncertain what I’d find when I returned. Would fuses be blown? Tempers lost? Light bulbs smashed?

I needn’t have worried. As I rounded the corner to our home, a soft glow beckoned. I followed the light and it led me to a shining star suspended beneath our front window. On the lawn below, the nativity set sparkled with jewel-toned lights, while a pair of mostly-lit reindeer kept watch. The lighted Christmas tree shimmered nearby.

It was tasteful. It was beautiful. Papa would be proud.

“Great job, guys!” I said, as I entered the house.

Derek and Sam grinned. “Yeah, it turned out pretty nice,” my husband said. “But you know, we could add more. Maybe some angels, candy canes, some more deer…”

Sam joined in the dreaming. “They put all this stuff on sale after Christmas — we could get some great deals!”

Their voices followed me into the kitchen as I poured a cup of cider. “Trains! Snowmen! Santas!”

Once again I’m reminded, ’tis the season to be careful what you wish for.

~Cindy Hval

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