One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about my retirement situation is the time it affords for things that used to feel like a chore, but are now actually fun. Case in point – holiday decorations. I have a long-standing hatred for decorating the house and I’ve finally clued into why. It has always been an exercise that has taken away evening or weekend time. That left me feeling as if I was having time stolen from me, even if that time was just going to be used to sit on the couch and surf the internet. But this year is different. I have the luxury of time combined with a decided lack of pressure. I’ve also been fully in-charge of what goes where as THE WIFE has been far too busy at work to do much more than come home and say “good job, honey!”
So I set about decorating. I found a 100 foot roll of C9 LED lights (think old big colored lights from the 70’s, but with LEDs so they don’t use $200 of power in a month) in the garage and set about lining the front porch. Once that was complete, I stepped back and looked at the house and knew what I had to do. For the first time in my life, It was time to put lights on the roof.
Our house is pretty much tailor made for Christmas lights. It has a wide front porch and a great roof line just begging for decorating. I went outside and surveyed the house, then broke out the high school geometry and attempted to figure out how many feet of lights I would need. (Anyone who ever tells you he’ll never use the Pythagorean theorem or the word “hypotenuse” after tenth grade is delusional – they came in quite handy.) THE WIFE and I both measured and calculated our own way and came up with roughly the same lengths, so I was reasonably confident that I could buy the right amount of lighting. After that, I reviewed the clips and saw that they very easily attached to the end of the shingles. This was going to be easy!
At this point, those of you who know me well are probably holding your collective breaths, but everything worked out fine! I put the clips and lights in place and successfully climbed down from the roof thanks to my ARCH RIVAL (aka, husband of THE NEIGHBOR) and his extension ladder. I then ran one more line of lights back across the front of the house (completing the triangle) and had just enough lighting left to reach the ground. My math had been right within a couple of feet!
When THE WIFE and I stepped out to the curb that night, she was excited. It was then that I realized that she had never had Christmas lights on the house like this in her entire life, and it was something she had always wanted. Aside from a few icicle lights on the front of the house in the 90s (remember when everyone had icicle lights?), and a couple of other half-hearted lighting attempts, we’d never successfully done much more than put a tree on the front porch, and she certainly hadn’t grown up in a house covered in lights. It made me happy to realize how excited this made her.
Once the house was lit up, I decided to start working on my snowman. Last year I made some balls and a few other shapes in the yard out of chicken wire covered in lights. They were interesting and fun, so I decided to raise things to the next level and build a snowman. I found an old tomato cage and roughed in a blob of sorts out of wire, eventually rounding him out a bit until he looked a little like a snowman. From there I added four long strings of extremely bright white LEDs and an old scarf to make him look a little more snowman-like. Eventually THE NEIGHBOR came over with a hat for him and we added a carrot for the nose. And suddenly there was a snowman.
The next day I decided to jazz things up a little and added a string of blue lights to accent the scarf and a string of red lights to show off the hat. This did two things: it made the scarf look great, and it made it look like either the snowman was actually an ice cream sundae, or he was wearing a beret. I knew what I really needed – a top hat.
I ran out to the party store the next day and found a top hat, which was much bigger than the previous bowler hat Frosty had been wearing. Then inspiration hit me – I didn’t need to wrap the hat in lights; I needed to fill the hat with lights. That meant poking 70-odd holes in a brand new hat that cost more than all of the other materials in the snowman combined. So I got to poking. And poking. And poking. First with an ice pick, then a screwdriver. Then, when the holes still weren’t quite right, a bigger screwdriver. Ultimately, it took me about two hours to get the holes and then the lights into the hat, but once I did, it looked right.
From there, I realized that 1) the carrot wasn’t visible in the night, and 2) I was going to have to replace it every 3-4 days. Luckily, my local Target has some ornaments on sale. I had already created a garland-like string of ornaments to hang across the railings on the porch, so I figured I could to the same in miniature for eyes, nose, and a mouth. I tied everything in place, and then I waited for dark. And… it worked! Frosty looked great, and thanks to the bright white lights, he’s visible from the street. And possibly from space.
So here we are, at roughly 1000 words in, and this is the place where I try to come up with some sort of lesson or moral to wrap things up. Do I have something? Yes. Yes I do.
I found great satisfaction in something I used to find to be a chore, and I had a lot of fun working on the decorations across a number of days. Did it feel like work? No. Was it? Well… it was a lot of effort, but it was also a lot of fun. So why the change? First off, I didn’t feel like my weekend/evening time was being stolen by an activity. This was something I had time for. Secondly, it made THE WIFE very happy. She could see how much fun I was having and she was able to get the decorations she wanted without having to do the bulk of the work on her own.
So does this mean anything for me going forward? Is it something I should consider or try to change about myself? I’m not sure, but it makes me think about how we all approach work and time. When the job felt like additional work on my time, I didn’t like it. When it was a significantly greater effort, but I controlled how and when I could do it, it was fun. And that’s probably a takeaway.
Oh my – 80’s jumpsuits!