Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

In the dark over troublesome Christmas lights

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Greg Peck
Monday, December 2, 2013

I was thinking that winter came too early this year and that the window of opportunity for decorating outdoors this Christmas season had vanished in the chill and early snow.

But this weekend was almost ideal for such decorating, and I joined lots of local folks taking advantage of it.

I actually got started a few weeks ago, drilling two holes in our newly repaired chimney to embed hooks for a lighted star that can be spotted a block away. I also figured out a way to brighten a dark hole in my front-yard decorating by embedding snap hooks along the wood trim of an arched attic window so I could string lights around it. (I've given up hope of finding a suitable outdoor electric candle to place in this window).

I continued the work Thanksgiving morning while the turkey was cooking and had the whole job more than half done by the time the Packers started laying that turkey in Detroit.

As expected, I ran into problems with some strands of lights. Two strings of icicle lights were half out, and checking the fuses was a waste of time. I was glad I had thought ahead and bought an extra box in an after-Christmas sale last year from the local hardware store where I had purchased the whole series of strands. Just as I was contemplating another trip to the store for a second replacement set, however, one troublesome string suddenly glowed completely. Go figure.

I had one other problem. The lights on the white wire Santa we place on our front porch were shot. I could see they looked burnt out, so I figured I'd stop at the hardware store and buy a new strand. Except the store didn't have any straight-line miniature lights with a white cord. Neither did the first big-box store I stopped at; or the second. Talk about frustrating. Finally, at the fourth store I stopped at—Farm & Fleet—I found what I needed. Just for caution's sake, I bought two boxes of 50 each. My wife and I wound a strand on and learned we only needed the one set. I'll keep the extra set for when the one we're using goes dark.

Meanwhile, Cheryl and I started setting up the tree indoors on Saturday evening after watching yet another game of gut-wrenching football (this one, in person at Camp Randall). Except that half a strand of lights wrapped to the bottom of our four-section artificial tree was out. So we sat down to watch a movie and Cheryl figured she'd fiddle with it sometime Sunday to see if she could get that strand to glow. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, the whole strand went on. It was as if the Grinch gave up the ghost of Christmas darkness.

Anyway, I finished the outdoor decorating Sunday, and Cheryl continued decorating the tree. Of course, the angel we put on top wouldn't light. Cheryl tried it in a separate outlet, and it glowed. We hooked it up to the extension cord snaked through the tree, and it was dark. I again plugged it directly into a socket, and it was dark. I wiggled the lights a bit, and they blinked on. We cautiously reattached the angel to the tree and the extension cord, and it's working—for now.

As she toiled, I asked Cheryl to step outside to admire the outdoor display that now features the illuminated arched window. Everything was glowing, it was nice to see. Then I realized that the new set of icicle lights I had purchased a year ago has a yellow cast of light, while the rest of the strands glow white. Argh! At least it hangs alone, west of the chimney, so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of all the other strands.

My guess is that if you do any decorating, you run into the same sorts of frustrations. Someday I'll skip this seasonal irritant, I'm sure. But not while I can still delight my grandkids with the display.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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