Dad Strings the Outside Lights

My sisters and I stood, just inside the front door of the house, watching our father as he hung the decorations on the front porch.

The wind gusted and tried to snatch away the aluminum garland Dad was trying to affix to the eaves of the porch. The storm door shook from the force of the wind. We shivered. Even though the storm door was closed, cold air still found its way around the edges of the door and into the house, something that wouldn’t happen once Dad finished his work outside and closed both the main door and the storm door.

The three of us huddled closer to the front hall radiator which had just started its knock knock knocking, our clue that the furnace had come on and hot water would be circulating through the pipes.

With the aluminum garland finally in place, its silver and green leaves rustling in the wind, we watched as Dad reached for the lights. The bulbs were huge! Nowhere near as big as a regular light bulb, but much bigger than the bulbs on the tree or the yellow bulbs of the electric candelabra in the windows. We watched in excitement as Dad replaced the bulb in the front porch light with a device that converted the screw socket to a plug socket. He plugged the strand of lights into the socket and… nothing.

Dad grunted.

“A bulb is burned out!” he called to us. “I’ll have to figure out which one it is!”

“Hurry!” we called back. “We can’t wait!” My younger sister hopped back and forth from one foot to another in her excitement.

Dad selected a new bulb from the box and replaced the first bulb. Still nothing. He continued on down the strand of lights until, finally, the whole string lit up with reds and greens and blues and yellows.

“Hooray!” we shouted, almost giddy with holiday excitement.

Dad pulled the ladder over to the corner of the porch closest to the electric socket and began securing lights to the hooks already holding the garland in place. As he continued around the three sides of the porch, the sun began to set, making the lights seem to burn even more brightly. The aluminum leaves of the garland reflected the light and made it seem as if many more bulbs were in place than really were. The wind blew through the garland, making a rustling noise and causing glints of reflected light to dance across the floor of the porch like winter fireflies.

Dad finished his job just as the sun set completely. The garland was in place and all the lights were burning brightly. He picked up the extra bulbs and the empty box that had once held the strings of lights. He opened the storm door. The wind blew in.

“Brrrr!” We all shivered, and Dad closed the storm door firmly behind him. “Now, let’s see if it all works.”

He flicked the switch to the front porch light and the lights went out. Another flick and the lights came back on. I thought my Dad was a genius for connecting the lights so we could turn them on and off with a switch from inside the house.

“Boy, Daddy! You sure know how to do everything!” I exclaimed.

“OK! I’m going to take the ladder around back and put it in the cellar. You kids close the doors behind me and I’ll meet you in the kitchen. I think I’m ready for a nice hot cuppa coffee!” he said in reply.

Dad opened the storm door once again, picked up the ladder, and headed around the house to the south. My sisters and I closed and latched the storm door, and then we closed the heavy front door. The cover to the mail slot in the door rattled as we pushed the door closed.

I peeked through the front blinds at the lights, and then I flicked the light switch off. Then on. Then off again. Then on again.

“Just leave them on, Stephen!” my older sister demanded, exasperated. With that, both of my sisters turned and headed to the kitchen.

Flick – Off. Flick – On. Flick – Off. Flick – On.


I ran to catch up with my sisters.

Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 5.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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8 Responses to Dad Strings the Outside Lights

  1. Miriam says:

    Steve, I’ve really enjoyed the posts you’ve written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, and I love the way you’ve decorated the blog for Christmas! However, ever since you changed your “look,” your feed doesn’t work and your new posts don’t show up in Google Reader. :-( Thought I’d give you a heads up, so your other fans don’t miss your posts.

  2. I really admire your writing style especially in this post. You took a mundane act of hanging outdoor lights and really gave life to it.

  3. Jasia says:

    I think your feeds stopped coming through in Google reader before you decorated your blog for the holiday, Steve, so I’m not sure it had anything to do with that. I’ve only gotten intermittent feeds since you came back from Lithuania.

  4. Jasia says:

    Ooops! I forgot to mention that I really enjoyed your blog post today!

  5. Miriam, Thomas, and Jasia, thanks for your comments on today’s post.

    Most of the time, I just write about documents with which I’m currently working. The documents are a great resource for others researching the same family lines, but they’re not particularly interesting to read.

    With some of these essays for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, I thought I’d try to emulate G of How to Survive Suburban Life. I tried this style of writing once before for my Halloween submission to the Carnival of Genealogy. I really enjoyed writing that post and I’m also enjoying writing these.

    As for the feed, thanks for letting me know that the feeds have stopped. I’m trying to fix the problem. Sorry about that :-(

  6. Deb says:

    Wow, what a great example of “life story writing”! It’s more difficult than it looks to take an oral interview with a family member or one of our own memories as you just did – then turn it into something interesting to read! Drama. Dialogue. Sights. Sounds. And in this case, warmth and humor too. Again .. “wow” .. thanks for the nice read this afternoon. :)
    PS – also like your other stories – and yes, the way you’re sharing your research too. In a way, seeing latest “finds” inspires the rest of us to “keep going”. Happy holidays! :)

  7. suburbanlife says:

    Steve – these christmas posts of yours are great. In this one the description of the tinsel garland is beautiful. How could not many people relate to this story – it is a common one to most of us living in North America. Think of the many times you have witnessed your Dad doing the eletric decorations, then you took over when you had your family. Rumpole is wild about Christmas lights – I look forward to this weekend’s worth of cursing and gritting of teeth as he tackles the lights this year! G

  8. Lee says:

    I love that story! I can picture you flicking the switch off and on, off and on…

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