Thursday, January 10, 2013


"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Clause lied,
"There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side.
"So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
"I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here."
("How The Grinch Stole Christmas", by Dr. Suess, 1957.)

What lessons can we learn from that mean ol' Grinch? I can think of a few:
  • That the "War on Christmas" was already well underway the first time Bill O'Reilly was in diapers.
  • That my protruding gut and disproportionately spindly legs may be indicative of a congenital heart defect.
  • There's something about Christmas tree lights that can make even the most sociopathic bah-humbugger obsessively anal retentive.

It was bound to happen. Just as our six-year-old artificial Christmas tree was nearing break-even on its return on investment, shit hits the fan.

I knew we were taking a risk buying a Christmas tree with the lights built into it. I remember learning my first non-repeatable words at the foot of my father as he struggled to figure out why the Christmas lights that worked fine when he carefully packed them away last January came of of the attic in November tangled and dead. Just as he learned to cuss from his father.

Once again this year, the tree went up okay. As per tradition, I handle tree assembly, limb fluffing and dead bulb replacement, then hand it off to JB for trimming. But this year I finally exhausted the included supply of spare bulbs.

I tried to find a local supply of replacement bulbs to no avail. It seems that during the past six years Christmas technology has ascended beyond quaint incandescence. It's all about cold, energy-efficient, semi-conducting LED lights now. Our once-state-of-the-art General Electric faux-fraiser has been suddenly rendered Dickensian.

Even though a casual observer would hardly have noticed the handful of burnt out bulbs out of the 750 total hard-wired tree lights, I knew they were there and they bothered the shit out of me. And not just because the instructions clearly warn that burnt-out bulbs must be promptly replaced. It seems that when one bulb burns out, the remaining bulbs in the string have to pick up the electrical slack. As more and more soldiers fall, the entire line risks collapse.

And just before Christmas Eve that's exactly what happened. Great swaths of tree went dark as entire strings of lights fizzled out. It went down exactly as the Mayans predicted.

"I guess it's time for a new tree," JB said mournfully yet matter-of-factly as he packed away the holiday decorations earlier this week. I reminisced about buying that $300 tree six years ago. And how my 401(k) has barely recovered from where it was then. And how, while the past six years haven't been the easiest, this tree has been the center of some mighty fine holiday cheer.

"Not yet," I said.

I spent these past two days with a pair of wire snips de-lighting our pre-lit tree. It'll be back in our living room in 46 short weeks with new lights. Incandescent, if I can find them. And if the lights don't work the following year, I'm not going to to swear. I'll just buy more.

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