My daughter and I put up our Christmas lights this past weekend. Or am I supposed to refer to them as “holiday lights” in order to avoid offending people?
Either way, I'm sure the thousands of little bulbs illuminating my front yard — and those of my fellow Glendalians — are a miraculous sight for Glendale Water & Power to behold. I can only imagine how they must love seeing rows of homes decorated with lights, inflatable snow globes and mechanical reindeer. Those little smart meters must be transmitting quite the happy tune for those in charge of doling out power between December and January.
Regardless of the ransom I'll pay sometime in January for my ritualistic desire to make my trees and shrubs twinkle for a few hours every night, I really do love the whole process. C'mon. What's not to enjoy?
I get to lug gargantuan plastic containers out of storage, untangle miles of light strands and then curse at the light strands because only half of them work, even though they all worked fine when they were put in storage.
What is it with Christmas lights? Uh, I mean holiday lights? Why do they always go into storage working perfectly, but come out of hibernation as damaged goods?
I run plugs and extension cords in an outdoor schematic so complicated even rocket scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory would admire it. I risk life and limb climbing ladders precariously leaned against tree trunks in order to get our lights a foot higher than my neighbor.
And four hours later, after everything is working, I get to hobble back into my house feeling as sore as I did 30 years ago during football hell week. My bliss lasts only until the first rain, when everything shorts out and I have to figure out where the water has turned all my hard work into a small-scale blackout.
It really is a magical time of year.
Yes. I have prevailed over the lights once again. And just in time to go get the Christmas tree — or holiday shrubbery? Either way, I'm committed to finding the biggest tree my meager credit rating can afford to proudly display in the front window for all to behold.
And just like the lights, I'm going to enjoy the process. And why not? We get to drive around with a part of the forest strapped to my car. When I get home, I'm pleased to shove it through the front door. I spend a few precarious moments trying to make sure it's in the plastic tree stand without falling over and crushing one of the dogs.
I wrap it in more sets of lights, much to the further amusement of Glendale Water & Power. My daughter and I decorate the tree, only breaking a few glass ornaments along the way. And when the tree topper is in place, I kick off the daily ritual of cleaning pine needles, which fall from my slowly decaying tree.
Ah, I love the smell of pine in the morning. It smells like victory. At least until it's time to make Christmas cookies — or non-secular treats? Either way, we quickly focus our attention on pre-heating the oven and having a grand time in the kitchen. And, oh, what fun it is. We go through dozens of bowls, wooden spoons, whisks and assorted utensils. Double boilers are soiled. Flour is sifted. Nuts are pulverized. Eggs are separated, then beaten.
And three hours later the kitchen is demolished. But there's that smell coming from the oven — the aroma that makes the seven hours of cleanup worth it.
So while the cookies are cooling we go into the living room. The sun begins to set and we wait patiently, knowing that in a few minutes the 35 timers we have synchronized around the house are going to turn our dark home into a winter wonderland. Or should I refer to it as the new outer marker for Bob Hope Airport?
The yard comes to life. The Christmas tree lights up. The folks at Glendale Water & Power sing carols of joy. And through all the complaining, I see the smile on my daughter's face.
Suddenly, all those sore muscles feel a little less achy. And I think to myself, “It really is a magical time of year!”
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GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.