Dad’s Christmas Lights on the House: The Beginning

Seeing all the houses decked out in lights made me think about the lights my Dad put on his house and back to the first time he did so.  To understand why this was a big deal to us kids, you have to know my Dad rarely bought things when they first came out.  He always waited a couple years to make sure the manufacturers worked out the kinks in their products and that the prices would come down, plus he did not like to follow fly-by-might fads. We kids realized it was the start of the Christmas season when my Dad brought out his big ball of tangled lights and begin to unwind it to test that the string still worked and replaced any burnt out night-light style bulbs. 

I remember when I was very young; a few of our neighbors had decorated the outside of their houses in the years preceding us.  Dad took us down the street to look at them, where of course his many children oohed over houses that seemed to us as bright and colorful than a store display.

One year, my Dad did his annual untangle and test of the lights in the living room.  I’m not sure when or how, but those large lights disappeared from the living room floor.  Mom brought out the new twinkle lights, Dad did something to some of the bulbs, and then he and Mom wrapped them around our tree.  When they finished, all the children were called in to watch as the lights were plugged in.  We were so enraptured by the blinking lights that we did not notice Dad sneak out while Mom put ornaments on the tree.  She let us children add tinsel icicles to the branches we could reach.   While we were decorating, we heard noises outside the curtained picture window behind the tree and were a little concerned.  Mom told us it was nothing to worry about.  Sometime later, Dad comes in the front door and loudly proclaims “Kids, come and see!” 

Outside we saw Dad had put our old-fashioned multi-color lights all around the big picture window!  Mom had left one of the windows opened a crack behind the curtains and Dad had feed the plug end of the string through the window.  Mom plugged in the lights and then came outside to join us.  We kids were thrilled to have lights on our house too.  We thought that big rectangle of bright lights was beautiful.

The first time my Dad put up lights outside was the year we switched the tree lights from the colored night-light style bulb to the twinkle lights.  From that year on, I remember there being Christmas lights around that window as long as my parents lived in that house.  For many years after, before the lights came out my brothers and I would ask, “When are you going to put up the lights Daddy?”  When the ball of lights came out and began to be untangled, the boy’s question would change to “Daddy, can I help you put up the lights?”  The first time they asked, Mom said “No, you might get electrocuted.”  Dad pointed out that electrocution could not happen as the lights were not plugged in until they were all up. However, we were only allowed to watch him put them up until my older brothers were in their teens, and then they could help. 

I only remember one year in which my Mom worried that my Dad would get electrocuted by putting up lights.  That was because it was a very rainy night with lightning when he did it.  He was going hunting that weekend and told Mom, “I need to get the lights up for the kids before I go.”  It was pouring while he hung the string of lights, and they were plugged in as the porch light did not illuminate well enough in the pouring rain.  We kids were not allowed to go outside and watch because of the rain, so Mom opened the curtain over the big picture window so we could see Dad working.  (I think she was actually waiting to see if he got hit by lightning so she could quickly call an ambulance but she did not tell the children that.) When Dad was done, he came in drenched with a big beaming grin and an “I told you it would be okay.” directed at my Mom.  It may seem like a little thing, but to the children Dad seemed like a big holiday hero that year.

Do you want to know what happened in much later years?  Go to The Story Continues.

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