The exquisite pain of holiday lights

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

The snows came early and mercifully have covered the crop circles I created on my front lawn with pesticides last summer. I've been staring at those brown orbs since July, when my obsession with the evil clover and my unwillingness to follow package directions combined in a slight over-application of Agent Orange.

I tried through the summer and fall to focus on the lovely garden at the edge of the brown lawn but I couldn't push my eyes past the brown, lifeless foreground. One day this fall I was raking the straw when a fellow I sort of know — he lives somewhere in the neighborhood — walked up, said he'd seen me out in the yard and "had to come by" to see just how bad my lawn looked. Pretty bad was his obvious, snickering conclusion. But like most people who look at my lawn, he opined that it would come back just great in the spring.

"Really," I say? "Doesn't grass need roots? Looks to me like I just raked up another batch of follicles. My rake looks like my comb did 30 years ago when my hair fell out."

No, they say. Your lawn needs to enter its dormancy. A long, cold nap. And come the spring, as the daffodils awake, so will your lawn. Refreshed and lush.

I will believe this when I see it. In the meantime, I am counting on one of those winters when the first snow beckons the second, the cold snaps, and I don't see my lawn until March.

There's a guy here at the office, and yes, he believes my lawn will be resurrected come Easter, who inquires about my holiday lighting progress. He thought the long, brown spotted fall would have given me ample time to hang the garland and weave the festive lights across my front porch in temperatures where my fingers wouldn't fall off. Now as a person who had part of a finger fall off a few years ago, I can tell you that Mr. Stubby (index finger, right hand) gets mighty chilly with the first frost.

But come on, hanging the holiday lights is supposed to involve some pain. Twisting the wire strand around the garland to hang it when it's 50 degrees would not provide the excruciating pleasure I believe the nuns told me was essential to the Baltimore catechism. And bitter cold is only part of the teaching process. All forms of adversity are good for learning that death is a reward.

So Sunday after the Bears game, I took to the porch. I hung the garland — till I ran out with one side of the porch un-decked. That never happened before. Went to the basement, brought up the lights, and these, friends, are the best garland wrapping lights ever. Found them last year at Home Depot. Hung the first strand. Perfect. Sparkly and fine. The remaining six strands? Busts. Duds. Not a spark of light on my dark night.

So now it is Tuesday. I've purchased more garland. I tried to buy more of the same lights, but this year Home Depot is carrying Martha Stewart holiday lights. Jiminy. And the temps have dropped another 15 degrees.

Tonight on my porch, another teaching experience. Another chance to learn to be humble. But whatever goes haywire, I will be comforted knowing that just in front of me, under 4 inches of snow, in the bitter early December temperatures, my lawn is resting, dreaming perchance of sprouting come spring.

Email: Twitter: @OPEditor

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john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: December 18th, 2010 4:13 PM

I could not find the article about the WJs seeking recommendations on 2010 Person of the Year Award. I am leaving my recommendation on Dans blog. I assume he reads his own stuff and is taking part in choosing person of the year. My recommendation is for the joint selection of Lynn Adams Whittaker and John Hubbuch. Both wrote articles in the WJ on Race in OP that reignited a conversation that we frequently ignore. Both honestly and objectively gave us food for thought for 2011 and on.

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