After four hours and 25 knot disentanglements, I stood like Clark Griswold on my front porch, took a deep breath, and plugged the string of light strands into the extension cord.
The resulting pop and metallic smell knocked me backwards.
Though thankful all three dogs emerged from the house unsinged, the darkness of daylight savings time engulfed my enthusiasm, and my patience felt fried.
Where did I go wrong?
Looking back, I suppose I knew deep down I tempted fate connecting half-lit strands to half-lit strands. At the time, I figured I could throw the non-working portions behind a bush and no one would ever know. Besides, we had plenty of lights from last year, and I didn’t feel like heading to the consumer-congested malls on Black Friday. So on and on I went, connecting strands and covering every bush and pillar with lights. (Later, my husband told me you’re only supposed to link — at most — three strands together.)
Nowadays, many outdoor lights are wired and circuited to avoid burnouts and blown fuses — if the user puts them up according to package directions. But who needs directions during the holidays? Tis’ the season to throw caution to the wind and cast my Scrooge-y self to the wayside.
For too long, my sons have lamented about our lack of moving, LED deer.
For too long, they’ve pressed their sweet cheeks to our cold car windows, coveting neighbors’ collections of inflatable candy cane carousels, bears and snowmen as we drove by. I decided this was the year to make it all up to them by going all-out with the lights.
And so goes it during the holidays. Best intentions backfire, and the season ends up hurting more than most folks let on. Knotted up and packed away in boxes all year long, family dysfunction emerges with half-lit feelings and busted fuses. The more such strands are re-used, the more explosive — or plain inoperative — they become. You can link broken strands, but you can’t hide them behind a bush. Sooner or later the whole display blows.
So what’s a Clark-Griswold-wanna-be to do?
I culled three suggestions from Cousin Eddie’s best therapists and talk show hosts.
First, buy a new strand of lights. Start new traditions. Replace battered bulbs. Change colors, sizes and styles. Maybe even try the flashing snowflake variety.
Second, stick with the three-strand limit. Don’t spread yourself — your emotions or your pocketbook — too thin. If that means staying in rather than traveling over the river to Uncle Louis and senile Aunt Bethany’s, by all means stay in. Take care of yourself, because, after all, no one else will.
Finally, don’t complete with the neighbors. Someone else will always have more inflatable reindeer around the corner. Instead, focus on the blessings and people under your own roof. Those are the only ones we can really protect and impact anyway.
Then when at last it’s time to plug everything in, you can take a deep breath and relax, knowing you and your pets will still have all their fur come New Year’s Day.
Amy Sorrells is a Zionsville resident and writer. Amy welcomes thoughts and ideas via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.