Monday, November 28, 2011

Shall the Circle be Unbroken?

So much for the first Monday of Advent this year.

I had hung our usual Christmas wreaths on our house last Friday.  One on the front door, one on the brick post between the garage doors, and a big one - about five feet wide - between two front windows.  The big one has about 400 white lights on it that look elegant at night.

Except that as I drove away to a dinner party Saturday evening, I noticed that one section of the lights on the big wreath were off.  Creating a black, gaping chunk in the circle of elegant white dots, like an incomplete "G".


So this morning, assuming the fix would be as easy as replacing a burned-out bulb, I went out with some spares and found what I believed to be the miscreant bulb.  And replaced it.

No good.  Half of the strand still wouldn't light.

Two hours later, and about a dozen of those itty-bitty fuses that I'd popped in the process, I managed to get the lights working... as much as they had been before I started my little project.  Along the way, I'd managed to short out half of the wreath, and had to figure out what fuses I'd blown where to get back to the functionality I had two hours earlier.

I'd also cut wires around what I refused to admit might not even be the miscreant bulb - could some other short somewhere be the culprit? - and spliced together the wires in several combinations before managing to find something that wouldn't pop even more fuses.  In retrospect, I suppose I should be grateful that along the way, I didn't take my neighborhood off the grid for a little while, although I did touch live wires more often than was probably good for me.

But hey - they were only little jolts.

So after two hours and only just managing to salvage the project to the point where I'd begun, with only the short section not working, I figured that my only available option would be to unwind the section of lights from the wreath, buy a new strand at the hardware store, and replace the lights.

Except that when I started unwinding the existing strand, I discovered that little green clips were holding each light in place.  Did I mention that this wreath was pre-lit, or pre-strung, or whatever they call it?  Back when I'd been employed, several years ago, I'd paid about $100 for this pre-lit wreath, figuring it would save all the hassle of trying to string lights on a large wreath by hand.  Considering how planned obsolescence is built into everything these days, maybe the several years we've enjoyed this wreath has been longer than its manufacturers had hoped it would last anyway.

But getting back to those little green clips.  Each one was doing its noble job exceptionally well - keeping the wires for each light tightly bound to its fake evergreen branch.  Even though they were plastic, they were surprisingly sturdy, and before long, I realized I was stripping most of the flimsy, fire-retardant evergreen leaves off of the branches as I wrestled with removing the clips.

Who'd have thought de-lighting a wreath would be so destructive a process?

I ended up getting my clippers and snipping the electric wires around those lights I'd been working on, so as to minimize the overall damage to the wreath.  Forget the lights, I figured; we'll save money on electricity, and the wreath can still look nice for anybody who sees it during the day.

Plus, my father has never liked Christmas lights on houses.  Reminds him too much of tacky Coney Island, he says.  And quite frankly, from my many memories of Christmases spent in Brooklyn, I know what he's referring to.  Row houses boasting garish displays of blinking lights and cheap plastic illuminated ornaments in each window would line the streets, assaulting passers-by with a dizzying spectacle reminiscent of the midway at Coney Island or even Times Square.

Not that my one large wreath could mimic those gaudy Brooklyn displays.  In fact, compared with the light displays some people here in Arlington pay professionals to install each Christmas, it could almost be considered insignificant.  So, I guess this year, when darkness falls each evening, and my three wreaths become shrouded by night, passersby won't have a clue that they even exist.

That's not the worst thing in the world, is it? At least, with all the lights off, the circle is unbroken.

I was never interested in giving the legendary Clark Griswold any competition anyway.

Tuesday Update: A neighbor with whom I shared my plight took it upon herself to purchase some new strands of white lights for me when she was at a hardware store last night! So yes, the circle will be unbroken yet again.

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