As I drove home through the explosions of Christmas lights the other night, I was struck that there seems to be a quantity like never before. Along Route 30 there are more lights displayed than for the landing patterns of most international airports. I noticed, too, that multi-color is back. Tiny white lights swarming around every shrub in the land have been replaced by vibrant deep colors more often seen in your neighborhood saloon. I like the color.

The rituals of the Christmas season are stuffed with memories of trimming the tree. In our house it was always a major drama, starting with getting out the lights which had been kept in a cardboard box in the closet under the front hall stairs. No one even knew they were there for 11 months of the year.

They were always more beautiful than I had remembered. There were big fat bulbs in an impossible tangle of wires and cords and the first order of business was to test the lights.

There were “indoor” lights and “outdoor lights.” The outdoor lights were sturdy and rubber coated: no problem. The indoor lights were another matter. We would spread them on the living room floor and plug them into a wall socket. Now, the indoor lights had cords that were wrapped in some kind of fabric. During the months when they hibernated in the stairwell, little creatures liked to get in there and gnaw at those cords. As a result, the wires burst into flame at the first hint of electricity. Following the fireworks, a frantic search for electrician’s tape ensued, with my father yelling “why doesn’t anybody ever put things back where they belong?” But, repairs were made, wires were patched and the lights looked beautiful on the living room floor. Except that only half of them were lit. The dark strings were then examined bulb by bulb in order to find out which was the lazy culprit. If one goes out, they all go out, was the Christmas rule. It’s like a union thing. The last bulb to be examined turned out to be just a little loose. It was tightened a bit and there was light.

Then it was time to put up the tree, which usually turned out to be too tall and had to have its trunk shortened several time. We looked for the saw as my father repeated his mantra of “why doesn’t anybody ever put things back where they belong?” Finally it fit and was ready to be hoisted into place. But as always, one of the legs of the tree stand was missing. And then found under the stairwell where someone forgot to look. The tree was hauled into place and wired to a curtain rod for extra support. Years worth of homemade ornaments were hung with little hooks, which had been found in the desk. There were never enough so we rearranged paper clips to make more.

My mother didn’t like icicles; my father didn’t like tinsel. I wanted all blue lights. I thought the paper chain made from construction paper looked too homemade. ( it was homemade). I wanted cotton balls made to look like snow in the branches. My mother said they looked tacky. The dog wagged his tail in approval, wiping out all the ornaments of the bottom third of the tree. The cat hissed.

Such a beautiful tree!!

Merry Christmas to all.

But what a beautiful tree itSomehow, the tree got trimmed and pronounced the prettiest one we ever had.

Merry Christmas to all!