November 25th, 2012
10:42 AM ET

Letters to the President #1406: 'The return of the Christmas lights'

Reporter's Note: President Obama does not have to decorate the White House. So you’d think he might be a little more willing to come lend a hand to a neighbor…especially one who writes to him every single day. Hint.

Dear Mr. President,

How many times already have I told you about my yearly battle of the bulbs? Surely you know what I am talking about.

Once again it is that time of year for me to drag vast quantities of tangled Christmas lights from the basement, spend hours yanking them apart, and then testing them one strand at a time before diving into a process of decoration which can only end in heartbreak. Over the years I have realized that there are a few immutable rules involved in this yearly Bataan of festivities.

1) No matter how perfectly a strand was working when you took it down last year, the chances of all…or even most…of the bulbs lighting when you give them the juice this year, are about 50-50. And that is being generous.

2) It makes no difference how many replacement strands you buy you will still be one short. This is how the Chinese are taking over the economy.

3) Extension cords, while considerably more reliable than light strands, are like Giant Pandas…they are a vanishing species; at least in the sense that each year when you go to the box where you put the extension cords last year you will find that there are miraculously fewer. Go ahead and put them on your Home Depot list now. You’ll need them.

4) If you think you have finally worked out a system to get all the lights up in a reasonable period of time and with a minimum amount of holly-laced cussing, you are wrong. The experience is going to be as hellish as ever, and no, you will not be done in time to join your wife at the California Pizza Kitchen for lunch. Go ahead and tell her. She knows anyway.

5) Any animated lawn figurines, regardless of how smoothly they functioned last year, will have developed a series of unexplainable twitches and jerks during the off season. Those illuminated reindeer that placidly dipped their heads to nibble on the arborvitae last December, will spend this season lurching around as if their oats were laced with methamphetamines.

6) No matter how carefully you dedicate yourself to overcoming all these problems, to patiently fixing or replacing the sputtering lights, to stringing miles of extension cords, to coaxing those balky lawn sculptures into a semblance of fluid motion, once you throw away all the boxes, drag the ladder back into the garage and prop it next to the bicycles, and stand out front in the rapidly chilling twilight, and throw the switch…you’ll notice something is wrong. It just works that way.

Anyway, I have work to do. Hope all is well.


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