Lights have been the holiday prize for me, from age five to now. I remember the oldest light sets we had as a kid and which continued through college: the wires wrapped in smooth, tightly woven fiber, each as thick as a fettuccine noodle, a red and green one dangling unjoined between thick Bakerlite sockets as big as the C7 bulbs they held. I loved how full those bigger lights were, actual bulbs of diffuse color. The little mini-lights were more prevalent, used less juice, and had their own pixie charm, but the big bulbs had something.
The national love of lights goes through phases, with some Decembers dripping with glowing strings and spinning, wheezing, flashing plastic monstrosities and others with maybe every twentieth house unconvincingly lit with a few strings tossed over bushes. Fuller years seem better, people more ready to smile, neighborhood nights lit also with kids playing noise. Everyone is ready to smile then, walking hands in pockets to see.
Eight bucks for lights isn’t much, not for the groovy LED kind. Their pure light is fascinating: depthless, like something out of distant space in science fiction colors. They add a buoyancy to the room as they simultaneously make it seem like the house is underwater. I’m reminded of all the weird 1980s animated shorts late night PBS would show, or animated features out of Canada, everything going back to Sixties psychedelia. We all live in a Christmas submarine….
Today the lights come down. All the time living with my parents the drowsy, unfocused day of New Year’s was spent hauling out boxes, putting ornaments back in their dog-eared tissue paper, reducing the tree to its plastic and metal fragments, pushing all the boxes up the fold-out attic stairs to where they would rest in insect dust for another eleven months. It wasn’t quick work, but it was far faster than putting it up. Matt would write notes to himself, saying hello to his eleven-month older self before putting the boxes away. Everything seemed naked afterward, so light it could float away. As kids we stood around waiting for the other shoe to drop, I think welcoming it as we got older.
My lights will come down today, be put in the back of a cabinet. A note isn’t a bad idea. Hello. These are the lights you bought for Christmas in the new place. You didn’t find any others on clearance–there aren’t any other strings, so don’t waste time looking. Put these back in the window and go down into the depths with them. You don’t have to hold your breath. It’ll be fun.