A Trailer Load of Decorations

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This is the first Christmas that my Beautiful Mystery Companion, our daughter Abbie and I have spent under a single roof. And it is the first time my BMC has unpacked her impressive array of Christmas decorations — collected over many years in post-Christmas sales both here and abroad, primarily in Japan and England. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I cheerfully hooked up the trailer and headed to the storage unit to load up the decorations, all packed away in plastic tubs. I came back with the 5×10-foot trailer loaded, plus my small SUV filled to the roof.

I had already made a trip to the Big Box Store to buy Christmas lights, enough to outline the edge of the roof without going Chevy Chase “Christmas Vacation” crazy. I parked the trailer in the driveway near the front door, hauled the ladder up to the roof and began stringing lights. At least it was sweatshirt weather. Some years in East Texas I’m stringing lights in a T-shirt and shorts, sweat pouring down my face, swatting away mosquitoes and red wasps. That hardly puts one in the Yule spirit.

A number of landscaping crews came by before Thanksgiving and offered to install lights for us. I got quotes from a couple of them out of curiosity. They offer convenience, certainly. The crews provide the lights, put them up and take them down, certainly in a fraction of the time it was going to take me working solo to do so. But when the estimates arrived via email, including a clever photo of our house with the lights drawn in by someone adept at Photoshop, I knew it was time to go buy lights. We could buy a pair of plane tickets to New York, if we caught them on sale, for what it would cost to pay these folks to string lights. As long as I didn’t fall off the roof, doing it myself would save a chunk of money.

I like the view from up on the roof. The leaves carpeted the backyard deck, even though I had filled a couple dozen bags a few days earlier. The swimming pool cover is sagging under the weight. Thank goodness there is a cover; otherwise I would be emptying the skimmer every hour or so. As it is, the pool pump is off until early spring. Every once in a while I whistle at Mister Sam, our newest dog, who is lounging on the deck. He looks around, confused for a second, wondering where I am calling him from. I enjoy messing with that dog.

Best to get back to work.

I methodically slide the plastic clips under the shingles, string the lights, getting them as tight as possible. I used to be lackadaisical about that, but now live in a neighborhood where Christmas lights are strung with military precision. I am determined to do the same. So I fiddle with the clips and lights until the bulbs are standing at attention, awaiting further orders. I then pull the extension cords and get ready to plug everything in, having wired everything so that one side plugs in on one half of the house, and one side on the other.

That is when I realize I have strung half the lights — 75 feet worth — with the plugs on the wrong end. I can either restring them or go buy several extension cords. So, of course, I restring them since the last thing I need to do is buy more extension cords. Once Christmas is over, we end up with a 20-gallon plastic tub filled with extension cords used to power the existing decorations. Being the Christmas season, I refrain from any purple phrases, keep a song of joy in my heart, and restring half of the lights, again lining them up as if they were privates in a Prussian army.

I plug the lights in, holding my breath. Everything works as planned.  I step inside only to realize my BMC is but a fraction of the way through the load of Christmas decorations I brought in the trailer, though she and Abbie have been working diligently. I thought for sure that if I stayed on the roof long enough I might entirely avoid inside duty, but no luck. There are at least a dozen plastic tubs worth of decorations left to unpack.

Deck the halls. And the walls.

When all the decorating is at last finished a few days later, largely without my help because I had to go out of town, it is indeed eclectically beautiful. I return home late after everyone has gone to bed, with only Rosie the Wonder Dog to greet me. She and I survey the scene — a bevy of Santas crowding the mantle, crèches on the coffee tables, nutcracker sentries guarding the foyer, Christmas trees scattered throughout our rambling house.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even if warm weather has returned, and red wasps once again congregate beneath the front porch.

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