This is a tale of a marriage and holiday lights.
Year after year, he put them up and she admired them. Particularly good was the year when he designed the lower half of a Santa Claus dummy to be “caught” in the chimney, with his legs sticking out at 45-degree angles. It might have given some of the little neighborhood children nightmares to think that Santa was incapacitated and immobilized, but you know how it is. The holidays can be tough on illusions. Better grow up quick in this cruel world.
The years came and went and so did the lights. Until the year she happened to look up — it was probably March or April, so the trees would have been budding and the breezes warm — and noticed the holiday lights were still draped on the roof. “Isn’t it time to take them down?” she asked him. He complied reluctantly.
But the next year and the next, the holiday lights lingered into the spring, then the summer. One year, she looked up (it was probably around the Fourth of July, a time when she looked up a lot, since he was always shooting off handmade fireworks and she didn’t want to become a human torch, since she had no idea how she really felt about cremation) and realized the holiday lights were still there.
She started screaming about how he should take them down. He was probably in the middle of exploding something, though, and it’s hard to talk to someone who’s about to incinerate the whole neighborhood, while the police circle the house (they had been alerted by a newspaper column she’d written about his pyromaniac tendencies. The column had been, one of her friends had opined, a “cry for help”).
When the last explosion went off and the whole yard smelled like gunpowder, he said something about how inefficient it was to pull down the lights in July. Why, the holidays were going to be back in just a few short months! Why mess with the status quo? Why create more work? Being as lazy as he was, with standards that were just about as low, she had to admit he had a point. Not a good point, but a point. She gave in. She raised the white flag. She surrendered to the inevitable. Ho, ho, ho, he said.
So, years passed and they moved to another house, where the holiday lights went up and stayed up year around. After a while, she didn’t even think about it. Why dwell on marital defeats? Why not celebrate the occasional victory, instead? Hey, why keep score, anyway?
Until this year. She kept wondering when he was going to notice. They had finally had their house painted in the summer (it was either that or face a lynch mob of neighbors ranting about peeling paint and diminished property values). The painters, being thorough, had taken down the holiday lights.
“Well,” he said, a few days after Thanksgiving, “I think it’s time to turn on the lights.”
“What lights?” she asked.
“The Christmas lights,” he said, pointing to the house.
“Oh!” she said. “You mean the lights the painters took down?”
Two weeks later, he’s still threatening to put the lights back up (he loves getting up on the roof and giving her the vapors, for one thing). He continues to talk about coming up with “a new concept” for the lights this year. Maybe something even more extravagant and dazzling and more original?
She listens to him talk and nods her head. Maybe he’ll just forget about it, she thinks. Maybe, this year, she and the house will both be de-lighted. Ho, ho, ho!
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)