The Christmas lights went up at our house this weekend, with a minimum of swearing, I might add, and as we stretched out string after burnt-out string of little white lights, I began to see the wisdom of all those people around us who just pay someone else to do it. But only for a moment. Because if we paid a truckload of immigrant workers from some north shore company upwards of $1500 to install all our Christmas decorations, we would be denying ourselves this beautiful and frustrating tradition.
Self-discovery is one by-product of our Christmas decorating tradition we would miss out on. You see, I usually grab an armful of icicle lights and drag them out to the front porch where I sometimes remember to light them first before I hang them with my frozen blue fingers. But, let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve hung Christmas lights with an Electrical Engineer! He will stretch out the lights in the warmth of your living room, testing them first by plugging them in, and then, if any strands don’t work, getting out the little light tester device he bought last year to check each and every tiny little bulb for dimness. At least until the little light tester device breaks. Watching my husband approach this project with his analytical mind, the exact opposite way my artistic one works—at least when it comes to stringing up lights and garland—was a lesson in how opposites must attract.
My sons contributed by carrying the bins with the lights and garland down from the attic and then carrying them back up again when we’d finished without too much grumbling. Unfortunately, they were unable to help us decorate this year because they had too much homework to do, which, in teenage boy speak is secret code for, playing Xbox in the basement. Our daughter was out there with us, helping my husband string the higher lights by handing him the strands, helping me untangle long swaths of fake garland that turned both our hands green. It’s perhaps for her more than anyone, that I wouldn’t forsake this tradition, because for her, having been here only two-and-a-half years, she’s just beginning to understand traditions, period.
All three of my kids complain, loudly, when it’s Christmas card picture time, but my daughter was the first one downstairs with her Santa hat on, calling up to her brothers to “Get down here! It’s time to take the picture!” Seeing her come to understand and want to participate in our traditions, at least until her hands get cold, is worth more to me than having some professional team install our decorations while I watch from inside with a hot cup of cocoa. Besides, with all the money we saved, I can buy my husband a new little light tester device for next year.