I’m watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation right now and it’s at the part where Clark Griswold kicks his plastic reindeer across his front lawn and goes bat$hit crazy because his lights aren’t working. Let me tell you…I feel his pain. I am currently experiencing the same insanity at my house this week. Out of all the 12 Ways to Lose Your Mind this Christmas Season, this is the easiest way to find yourself in a straight-jacket.
#4. Hang outdoor lights. You want to be festive and you want your neighborhood to know it. Outdoor lights really get everyone in the holiday spirit—they’re so peaceful and relaxing to look at. So you retrieve your boxes and boxes and boxes of Rubbermaid containers that hold your Christmas decorations from the attic or the basement or wherever you store them. Remind yourself that you will not put out as many lights as last year because it took forever to put up and forever to take down and it stressed you out. Take the rolls of lights out of the bin and wonder where all the lights you put up last year are. Did they burn out? Did you put them somewhere else? Realize that you are going to have to buy more lights, even though you’re pretty sure you had a gazillion strands of lights last year. You plug each strand of lights in individually and discover 20% of the strands have lights out. Now you’re definitely gonna have to make a trek to the store for more lights. You venture outdoors to hang the lights and then go immediately back inside because it’s 10 degrees colder than you thought it would be. Who invited winter to come before these lights were up? It was 72 degrees yesterday…why is it 32 degrees today? You put on a coat and gloves and slap some headphones on to play Christmas music (you know, to get in that holiday spirit and all) and head back outside. You discover that trying to untangle the strands of lights with gloves on is akin to wrestling a T-bone steak away from a rabid dog (or your husband). You yank the gloves off and ignore the stabbing pain from the cold as you detangle the balls of lights. You contemplate the most efficient way to hang the lights, factoring in available electric sources and how to cover the most square footage with the least amount of work. You consider where all the garland and the bows are going and how they will fit into this equation as well. You grab a step ladder and get to work.
Within minutes you are teetering precariously on that ladder as you try to stretch your body across the parts of the house you really can’t reach. You step on the railing and pray that when you land on the sidewalk below, your family will at least hear the thud and call the ambulance for you. You succeed in hanging lights from the top of the porch and break two nails in the process. You curse, annoyed because you know that if you had the gloves on that wouldn’t have happened. You connect the next set lights and start weaving them over the bushes. This requires you to crouch under, squeeze behind, and climb over mostly dead branches of what used to be fully alive bushes on your front lawn. You scratch up your hands and break another nail. Sticks pierce your thighs as you brush past. Evergreen needles flutter into the neck of your coat and somehow end up wedged in your underwear. You will spend the rest of the day trying to dislodge them, by the way. As you snake around the back of a bush, you hear a sickening crunch. Yup. You just stepped on a strand of lights and ruined seven bulbs. You attempt to pull the broken lights out and replace them with the extras in the package, but after trying to get the first two off and breaking out into a cold sweat trying to do so, you give up and retrieve a new set of lights. You unwind the crunched set (which is always on a difficult bush to reach) and put the new ones, taking extra care not to step on them again. A few more hours out in frostbite city repeating this process and you are done.
You step back and admire the lights. It was hard work, but it was so worth it. You set the timer for dark and go inside for a hot chocolate. You come back out to see the lights at 5 pm and they are dark. You play with the timer, switching it on and off until you discover that the lights go on and then go off immediately. Then they come on and go off. On and off. Instead of crying, you override the timer and go in the house for a stronger cup of hot chocolate. You’ll figure it out tomorrow when it’s light out. You go outside two hours later to run a errand and discover that the lights on the left side of the house are completely out. You feel your body breaking out into hives as you frantically unplug the first set on the strand of lights in search of the culprit. Yes, it’s the first strand of lights—that’s the strand that is intricately wrapped around the railings and intertwined with garland. OF COURSE. You undo those lights and put a new set up. It takes you an hour. You have clocked about six hours total on this project already. But you put up a brand new set of lights this time, so it shouldn’t be a problem—brand new lights don’t burn out. The next night you go outside to figure out the problem with the timer. You realize the timer goes on and then off because it’s on solar—it turns on when it gets dark, but then the lights are so bright it thinks it’s daytime again. You feel really smart for figuring this out, but then realize you forgot how to set your timer. You override the lights and go back inside. Once again, later on, half the lights are out. The same half…the half intertwined in the garland. You now cry and rip the lights off the side of the house in frustration. You rip the bells and the garland and some more lights off. You kick your blow up reindeer.
Your husband comes out and finds you in a ball on the front lawn. He calmly removes the lights from around your neck. He replaces the fuse in the lights, plugs them into a different outlet and walks away. The lights come back on. You’re still crying as he comes back out and hands you a glass of wine.
Inevitably, your mother will come over on Christmas Eve and compliment your husband on the nice job on the lights. You will resist the urge to strangle her with a set of burnt out lights.