Living Retired — ‘Merry Griswold’
Living Retired – ‘Merry Griswold’
The Christmas season is upon us – a time for tradition and hope. One of our family traditions is that I put up the Christmas lights outside our home. My hope is that they work!
My neighbour and I were chatting why we go through the painful experience hanging outdoor lights each December. We agreed that it comes down to one reason: our wives. How else can you justify climbing out of your Lazy Boy recliner on the coldest day of the year to stand 20-feet up in the air on a wobbly ladder – and then reach another 3-feet beyond your fingertips to attach blinking lights that do not blink onto razor-sharp aluminum eavestroughs!
I have learned a thing or two hanging Christmas lights over the years – mostly that although they come in numerous colours, I can bet my last rum and eggnog that when Jan sees them lit up they are the wrong colour!
“Gary, what on earth were you thinking? You had the audacity to hang red and green Christmas lights! You know we painted the house trim Olive Sprig green to contrast with the Sage colour on the eavestroughs.”
Something else I have learned about putting up outdoor Christmas lights is that it is about preparation. I begin by doing my impersonation of Nik Wallenda walking across Niagara Falls – balancing my 30’ long aluminum extension ladder between the two cars in the garage out to the front yard. To save trips I also juggle two miles of frozen extension cords, a bazillion strings of Christmas lights that resemble our grandchildren’s bowl of spaghetti, a mittful of plastic hooks to attach the lights onto the eavestrough, duct tape to use when the plastic hooks break apart in the freezing cold, and a flask filled with scotch.
“Gary, be sure you have some of those florescent-coloured pylons and a portable defibrillator – otherwise the insurance policy I have on you is null and void.”
I prefer to unravel the strings of lights on the driveway. This is not easy because instead of strings of lights I have a big blob of lights. Note to self: next year instead of a tangled mess of 150 Christmas lights that do not blink, purchase new lights sandwiched into boxes the size of extra-strength Tylenol, which is what I will need when I am finished.
Next, after maneuvering the extension ladder into position without smashing the living room window, I like to turn around and wave to our neighbours who are peering through their California shutters: “Look dear, Gary is putting up his Christmas decorations. This will be fun.”
With the ladder safely wedged into the bricks underneath the eavestrough you get a sense just how far up you will have to climb.
“Jan can you get me my iPhone please? I want to share a selfie.”
Staring up I realized that once I climb that high it is unlikely that when I come down that I will ever go back up! I grabbed my flask and iPhone and began climbing up the ladder. Halfway up I remembered I forgot something: the lights.
At last. I am clinging onto the ladder underneath the eavestrough. It is amazing the effect frostbit fingers and scotch has on your fine motor skills. Just saying.
Eventually, I am back down on the ground. It is time to plug the lights in to see all the lights that are not blinking.
I am back up on the ladder. This is when I realized I left the replacement bulbs down on the ground.
“Gary, half the lights are not blinking.”
“Jan, I think I will leave them that way for ‘creative effect.’”
So, what have we learned?
Christmas lights are meant to be installed by people smarter than a fifth grader – which eliminates 90% of adult males. The other 10% fell off the ladder and are in the hospital ‘in traction’—which is a medical term meaning ‘the art of yanking patients’ arms and bones to promote healing.’ In other words, ‘hurts like hell!’