Issue 35

Wash Me


                It’s March 9 and Christmas is finally over.

                I’ve always been a slow-starter when it comes to Christmas.  When the Christmas jingles start in October, I just turn my brain off to them.  As a consequence, I usually find myself suddenly realizing that Christmas is coming sometime around December 23rd.  Then it’s a mad dash to get all the presents ready – thank goodness Rebecca’s been buying the perfect presents since last April – and put the tree up.

                One of my new duties this past year, in celebration of my son Skylar’s arrival, was to put lights up on the house.  The local hardware store had five-foot strands of icicle lights for $4 each.  It was like buying candy when you’re hungry.  The lights arrived, and as I unloaded them off the pallet, I surveyed my house.  What a view.  Everyone on the road would be able to see my house.  Especially, I laughed under my breath, once I got all these great lights up. I was going to use nails to hold the lights up, but Rebecca found these nifty plastic holders to use on the gutter rail.  I examined the holders with respect for their clever design; there was no way these were going to fall off, come rain, snow, tornado, or even earthquake.

                The first month we both really enjoyed the lights.  I hooked them up to our porch light so every night when we went out, our house blazed.  Each time I drove up, I was so proud I was bursting.  It took every restraint on my part not to stand out on the sidewalk and point my house out to passersby.

                The second month the lights became to feel like they were part of the house.  I would see them shining four blocks away and smile, knowing that I was nearing home.  Rebecca liked them because she discovered she could garden at night, they gave off so much light.  Some of my friends suggested that I was lazy since I left them up into late January.  I just wanted to make it have been worth the effort.

                The third month the lights became like an itch I couldn’t reach.  My house seemed to stick out, like it was the only one on the block with any character.  As I would pull up to the house, I would look for notes or graffiti, like the dirty car that someone writes “Wash me” in the grime.  But who has time to wash a car, let alone take down Christmas lights?

                The fourth month things had gone too far.  Instinctively, I knew they already had but this was made painfully clear when I went to vote.  As I walked into my polling place, everyone stopped talking and looked at me.  I heard a small child whisper to her mother, “Is that the man who won’t take down his Christmas lights?”

                Sufficiently driven by social guilt, I attacked the lights the very next day.  As I looked at the myriad of lights I had hanging on my house, I suddenly realized why the electric bill had been so high the last few months.  As I removed the lines of lights off the handrail, I wondered what I had been so worried about.  This was quick and easy.  Then I pulled a line going up to the gutters.  I watched as the little plastic holders hung on like I had used super glue to permanently attach them.  Another tug and the whole gutter threatened to come down.  Being far too clever for myself – and too lazy to drag the ladder out – I got a shovel out of the garage, one just the right length to reach the gutters.  Holding the long tool over my head, I delicately directed the shovel under each clip, working it up the gutter.  The first one came off without wearing me out too much.  It was all the other clips, spaced three inches apart so that there would be absolutely no chance the lights would fall down, that promised to almost kill me.

                It was cold outside.  I felt the shovel had frozen to my hands.  Eventually I worked my way to where the lights hooked up to the porch light in the bushes.  (So that’s where the 100’ extension cord has been hiding.)  I looked over the house.  Somehow it looked plain, almost naked.  With a touch of sadness, I collected up all of the lights in a tangled bunch and decided it was simply too cold to carefully wrap each strand and twist tie them.

                I stuffed them into a couple of boxes, feeling sorry for the poor guy who would have to unravel them next year.


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