Jim Furlong: Let There Be Lights

In my world it is never too early to put up the Christmas lights. The 25th of November was my day. It has been a part of Christmas for me for seven decades. 

When my brother John and I were growing up Christmas began, not with Advent or by any date on a December calendar. It was on the day when my dad went to the attic and brought down the lights for the Christmas tree. 

An evening then was spent taking everything out and watching as dad plugged in the individual sets of lights to see if they worked. Lights in those days were hooked up “in series.” If one of the bulbs went out the whole set went out. Switching out the bulbs and trying to get the set working again was the task of more than willing little boys.

Looking at the Lights

We didn’t have exterior Christmas lights on our house in those days. Nobody did really. That is a more modern thing. We had a wreath with a light in it in the front window of our home, but lighting up whole windows and houses is a more recent thing. 

There were lights at the Waterford Hospital and at the Sanitorium. At some time during the Christmas season we had a family outing of driving around “looking at the lights.” I guess we borrowed my aunt’s car because we never owned one. 

When my own children were young our house was lit up like Piccadily Circus. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was trying to recapture something. Every year there were more lights than the year before. The fact the dials in the electric meter were flying around at the speed of sound didn’t matter. It was Christmas.

Now with wife and I finally the classic “empty nesters,” that doesn’t slow me down. I’m having lots of lights. They are on the house and on my little shed but also out in several trees. The cost? I don’t care. I know that isn’t the politically correct answer in our increasingly environmentally conscious world, but I don’t care. 

Putting up the Lights

What I do find incredibly interesting, but something that shouldn’t really surprise me, is that putting up the lights is more difficult than it used to be and is approaching the limits of physical capability. I used to be able to easily extend the ladder fully and reach up to the very peak of the house to put in the highest light. Like one of the Flying Wallendas acrobatic aerial team I was filled with confidence as I stretched while holding on with one hand to the rungs of the ladder. 

This week as we put up the lights wife Judy announced that this was it and next year I wasn’t allowed to go climbing into the stratosphere in the weeks before Christmas. That made me sad because it speaks to the ultimate truth which is the clickety-clack of the sound coming from the tracks of time.

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