Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Humor Me: One light goes out, they all go out

By MATT WIXON

A couple of years ago, I watched Frisco resident Jeff Trykoski stretch Christmas lights across his lawn, drape them over trees, tack them around windows and arrange them in giant snowflakes on his roof. Fifty thousand lights in all, which led me to this thought:

"So, if one light goes out, do they all go out?"

I decided not to ask because Trykoski was working hard and probably not in a joking mood. Also, he was holding a staple gun.

But anyone who put up Christmas lights in the '70s or '80s remembers when lights strings were plagued by "one light goes out, they all go out."

I actually saw my dad yelling at strings of lights several times. Sometimes he combined that with shaking the lights violently, and I think he intimidated a few sets into working.

The world was simpler back then and so were Christmas displays. Today, inspired homeowners can turn dozens of extension cords and thousands of lights into a dazzling holiday moment that is forever burned into people's memories – and retinas.

"Some people think we're crazy," said Trykoski, whose lights are synchronized to music broadcast over a low-power FM transmitter. "We think it's worth the effort considering the people who've been coming by for years who we create memories for."

I certainly appreciate the effort behind the ambitious Christmas displays. Because by the time I've untangled a dozen or so lights sets each year, and attempted to keep my kids from stepping on them, I've pretty much had it.

A few strings on the bushes, a few wrapped around a tree trunk, and I'm done. If one light goes out, even if they all go out, I am done.

And then I'm ready to see the people who really know how to decorate. The people who buy Christmas lights in crates, lug extension cords around in wheelbarrows and begin decorating a few days after Halloween. The people who put a huge, inflatable snowman in the yard and flank it with eight glowing reindeer and a 6-foot plywood cowboy that says, "Merry Christmas, y'all!" The people who are willing to reach high on a wobbly ladder and walk on the roof, which is nearly as dangerous as prolonged exposure to Madonna's version of "Santa Baby."

The displays are awe-inspiring. But can they also obscure the true meaning of Christmas?

Some people would say so. And when a display is so crowded that Rudolph's red nose appears to light the way for the wise men to find the baby Jesus, who is in a stable that includes Kermit the Frog playing a guitar, they're probably right.

But Christmas lights are one of the great highlights of the holiday season. So, for those willing to make the effort to create elaborate displays, you have my admiration and appreciation.

You can also have the string of lights in my yard that just stopped working.

Who knows? Maybe it just needs one new bulb.

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