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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lights of the South

As a kid, I never understood why my mother got so disgusted with my father and us kids at Christmas. We would stand back admiring the twinkling, giant, multi-colored bulbs strung across the front porch eaves. My mother would grit her teeth and clench her jaw. My daddy, I think, got special joy out of that part.

Because we only almost fit in with our surrounding rural neighbors, my brothers and sister and I wanted to take it to the next level and outline all the windows and the air conditioning unit with Christmas lights. We wanted a long, extra strand, with nowhere to go, to hang off the side of the roof. We wanted our daddy to pull the boat to the front yard and string it with lights, too. But I think he refused us because he knew he could go just so far in crossing our mama; especially during the holidays.

Last night I came home to my otherwise undecorated house to find two columns with garland crudely twisted around them. The garland had lights knotted in it and a thousand pastel pink, blue, and green shiny bells hanging from it. Someone had even collected a couple of sprays of nandina berries and plugged those in along the winding route.

My children met me at the door, saying, "Did you see? Don't you love it?" I tried to relax my jaw and managed a weak smile at my proud husband standing behind my brood, all of whom said, in unison, "Let's show her, Daddy!" They dragged me by the hand out to the front yard, and, as my legs hardly worked at this point, turned me to face the house.

"Ready?" called my groom. "Ready!" our offspring shouted. Suddenly the left side of my house lit up with the brightest white lights man has ever made. But they didn't twinkle. They shuddered and jerked and flashed and chased and did a routine that looked like an emergency SOS signal to overhead aircraft. "There are 13 options for light patterns," my husband explained. "We'll have to tweak it some."

New neighbors moved in down the street last weekend. By Sunday night they had their tree up, decorated, and lit in the bay window. The Jones' have got perfection. I've got two columns on the left side of my house that, during the day, look like debris caught on them in a heavy wind and, during the night, send motorists into seizures. I've got slow moving traffic coming down my street to view authentic lights of the south. And I've got an expression on my face that looks just like my mother's once did. And I've got a husband who hopefully knows it would not be a good idea to cross me much further during the holidays.

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