It’s time to abandon the Annual Light String Ritual


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“So, are your Christmas lights up really early or are you really late taking them down?” asks Joe the Butcher, who I’ve re-nicknamed Joe the Jokester — Joekester for short.

Before you hurtle down the wrong mental trail, no, Joe the Butcher is not a sketchy mobster-type Guido relative or affiliate on my Italian side. (And while we’re at it, let’s get over that sad, tired stereotype. All Italians do not have ties to the Mafia. The best in food, art, wine, fashion and culture, yes. Mafia, no. We’re getting woke about everything else, so let’s get woke about Italians too.)

Joe the Butcher actually is a butcher, specifically for the world-famous Buckhorn restaurant, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a delicious filet or slab of prime rib, you’ve tasted his work. Here in town, you may also know him as Joe the Paperboy, walking down the sidewalk every Wednesday morning, tossing the Winters Express to this front porch and that. (And the ones that aren’t getting an Express tossed there… you’re dead to me… subscribe today unless you think getting all your local news from social media will turn out well. Here’s a short story about that: No.)

My house happens to be on JTB’s walking route, and yes, obviously I don’t really need an Express delivered to me, and could easily get one at the office, and yes, I already know every single piece of news in it because I either put it there or supervised the person who did, but I just like getting the newspaper at my home. It’s a comforting little reminder of days gone by, and the older I get, the more that matters.

Before I wander too far into the weeds, having established the setting of this story, let’s return to the plot: JTB is ribbing me because our house is the last one on the street with cheery Christmas lights still dangling from the roof. The annual ritual of putting up and taking down the Christmas lights has been delegated to my husband because I’ve tried to do it myself on numerous occasions and just can’t get those little plastic clips to stay on the lip of the gutters and also because I get mild vertigo if I go too far up on a ladder. After the second step, the world begins to sway and swirl.

As for taking them down, I’m only slightly better getting them off than putting them on, but I’ve developed my own system if Joe (my husband Joe, not JTB… so many Joes) just can’t seem to get around to it: From the ground, I hook the light strings with a rake and rip ’em off by the roots. The clips break, sometimes the lights do too, but come April or May, right about the time I become obsessed with cleaning up the yard, I no longer care about the collateral damage that may result. I’m an intrinsically impatient person (ok, that Italian stereotype may stand) and I want them down NOW. But it’s not April yet. The Christmas lights are safe, for now.

I responded to JTB’s ribbing with a sarcastic smile, and said, “Take your pick,” but simultaneously had an epiphany: We’re going about this light string thing all wrong. Why put the light strings up and take them down at all? Brilliant solutions immediately flashed into my head, and now all I need is some brilliant engineering-type person to make it happen, or at the other end of the spectrum, someone looking for a nice little side business, because come on — the Annual Light String Ritual is just dumb.

First brilliant idea: Light strings pre-programmed to suit more than one holiday. Why should Christmas get all the bling?

So, beginning with Christmas, we get classic multi-colored lights. Like the newspaper in my driveway, they’re nostalgic and comforting. For New Year’s Eve, all white twinkle-lights, like champagne bubbles. Next, the lights change to pink and red for Valentine’s Day, then green for St. Patrick’s Day, and pastels for Easter.

Between Easter pastels and the red, white and blue lights of Independence Day, we need summer colors, and in these parts, the colors of summer are azure blue like the sky and gold like our beautiful hills that are transforming into fuel for fire season, which hits its peak in August. After the Fourth of July, the lights turn gray and red — gray for the smoke that fills the air and red for lights on all the fire trucks and emergency vehicles endlessly screaming by.

In October, the lights then transform to orange, black and purple for Halloween, then orange, brown and yellow for Thanksgiving, and then there we are — back to multi-colored Christmas lights again, and not a single plastic clip was harmed in the process.

Awesome sauce, right?

But wait… the brilliance doesn’t stop there!

Second brilliant idea: Let’s get innovative and environmentally friendly, and keep the seasonally appropriate color-changing lights, but ditch the light strings themselves. We need roof gutters that have built-in color-controlled lights. Maybe we can initiate that concept by adding holiday lights to those rain gutter guards that keep out autumn leaves, with the lights built right into the edges!

Some smartypants tech company should hire me just to sit and come up with this stuff.

Until that happens, we’re stuck with brilliant idea number three: light string maintenance businesses. The first service tier is to put your own lights up and take them down. The second tier of service includes rolling up and storing those lights for you. The third tier, the gold standard, is that each year, Light Strings R Us arrives at your home and puts up brand spanking new light strings that they own and maintain themselves.

There’s money to be made here, people! I’d do it myself, but there’s that pesky ladder issue.

OR: We can just leave the dang lights up there and deal with a little ribbing.

Well, until April, anyway.


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