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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Devil's In The Details

I decided this year to put an electric candle in every window for Christmas in addition to the strings of white lights I usually tack to the eaves of my porches. As I may have mentioned, I live in a sort of rambling Victorian that has many windows. Many, many windows. Fifty to be exact (not counting those in the basement that I pretty much ignore in terms of cleaning, opening, or decorating). Electrifying 50 windows is no small task, one that requires the electric candles themselves, working bulbs, tape, miles of extension cords, and properly functioning tiny tiny fuses that I didn't even know existed until this week.

There are other project ingredients that are also important: perseverance. And patience.

I started out ahead of the game. I happen to own a huge plastic bin full of window candles (collected no doubt in my hoarding phase), most electrified, some light-sensitive, quite a few battery-operated, and two that flicker in real candle simulation. Preferring not to have to mess with batteries I opted for the electrified units, whose cords are mysteriously short. What's the point of this? Why don't the electrified candle people put a cord on these things longer than a chopstick? Are they in cahoots with the extension cord people? Not to mention the candlestick is made out of thin plastic, so when you put it on a window sill the short though heavier cord causes the cheap taper to topple to the floor unless you use tape, tape that pulls the paint off the wood when you discover you need to reposition the candlestick. This was only the beginning.

For three days I battled this project. I hunted through every drawer and cabinet in the house to find enough extension cords -- green ones, white ones, brown ones, and the heavy-duty orange and yellow kind -- stringing them together like so many train cars. I taped plastic bottoms to window sills, and in some cases to the windows themselves. I changed burned-out bulbs, pirating from ancient light strings so all would be white. I illuminated the upstairs windows the first day, crawling over furniture and moving bureaus, and on the second day did the same downstairs. Day three was reserved for the attic, where I have four windows and no electricity. I now have a curling snake of connecting cords running from the front of the house, through the dark third floor, down the attic stairs and around the corner to an outlet in my office that will undoubtedly cause me to go lurching face-first before this silly season is done. The spaghetti-knotting of wire draped all over my house is enough to make the fire marshall keel over in a dead faint. At the end of day three, however,  the undertaking was complete. Every window had a candlelight. Every window except one. 

I...was...one...candlestick...short.

If I'd been short three, or even two, I might have let it go, might have said "Oh hey, I don't need one in the laundry room window." But one short was too much to take. I was on a mission. Every single window, I told a clearly puzzled Harry, is going to be glowing with a candle this year, dammit!

So I trekked to the store, bought one electric candle, and no sooner did I string the extension cords in the dusty gloomy attic to put a light in the north window than a bulb blew in one of the bedrooms. Now I was out of white bulbs. I went back to the store, bought a three-pack, and replaced the bedroom bulb. Then I looked in the dining room. A bulb had popped off there. Swearing, I replaced that one, then made a full-house inspection, General Patton in a Santa hat marching upstairs and down, daring a lightbulb to blow. All was as it should be. I took a deep, satisfied breath and ventured to the front lawn to take a picture, delighted that my hard albeit frustrating work had paid off. Outside, while aiming my camera at this holiday masterpiece, the white-lighted wreath on my front door blinked out. 

Running NORAD is easier than this. 

The last thing I did on my illumination project was to replace the string of white lights on the door wreath. Then I took a picture, went inside, and poured myself a big glass of wine. For all I care every window candle can burn out, as can the hundreds of lights on the porches. With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom (eventually) comes the knowledge that it's pointless to sweat the small stuff. There are some things you just can't control.

As Harry snored on the sofa nearby, I glanced out the family room window and noticed half the lights on the back porch string were dark. I sat down, put my feet up, patted Harry's sleeping head, sipped my wine, and muttered "Whatever."

2 comments:

Of course you know who said...

1. Do not connect multiple extension cords.
1b. Test all smoke detectors.
2. Press your hand to the door. If it's hot...DO
NOT OPEN IT!
3. Drop to the floor and crawl in a smoke situation.
4. Decide in advance what tool you will use to
break a window and escape, should that become
necessary.

Of course you know who back said...

Fireplace is crackling, no screen, oh dear

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum