Monday, December 28, 2009


I wasn't going to decorate for Christmas this year, mainly because I couldn't find my Christmas decorations. They're packed away in one of the 750 boxes I brought down to the basement when I emptied our storage units.

I'll probably have to rent a decoration-sniffing dog if I ever want to see them again.

However, while I was searching through a few of the boxes for something else (my festive holiday placemats, also among the long missing), I happened to discover a sealed box that contained six new packages of solar Christmas lights.

The package said to string them up outside just like regular lights, aim their solar panels toward the sun, and then every night, watch them automatically pop on for eight hours. No extensions cords, no electric bills, no batteries. Sounded good to me. So I decided to add a bit of festivity to the house and wrap the porch posts with the lights.

Unfortunately, I made this decision at one o'clock in the morning when it was only 18 degrees out.

First of all, I thought I'd better test each string of lights. Years of having icicles hanging from my nostrils while spending hours putting up lights that turned out to look like Morse code when I lit them had taught me to be prepared.

I held a strong flashlight beam against each solar panel, then shoved the lights into a dark room. To my delight, all of them worked, if only for a few seconds, twinkling in even brighter colors than I'd anticipated.

I grabbed my stepstool and a string of lights and headed out to the porch…where I spent the next two hours wrapping and untangling lights, wrapping and untangling lights, and making mad dashes back into the house to run my hands under warm water to thaw them out.

I could hardly wait for the next night to see all of my hard work come to life at dusk.

Sure enough, right on schedule, all of the posts lit up. I was thrilled.

"You have to come see the lights I put up!" I said to my husband. "They look really sharp!"

I could tell he was as excited about seeing the lights as he was about getting his flu shot, but he unfolded himself from his recliner and walked to the front door.

The porch was in total darkness.

"Yep, they're really sharp," he said. "What color lights did you buy? Black?"

"But they were all lit a minute ago!" I said, confused. "They barely lasted 10 minutes."

"That's because you put them in the shade," he said. "All of the sunlight is at the back of the house. You should have put the lights on the back porch."

"The back porch faces eight acres of woods. Who's going to see the lights? Squirrels?"

"Well," he said, "your only other option is to swap them for electric lights."

I reminded him that I couldn't find the electric ones…and that I wasn't about to go buy new ones, not when I had some perfectly good ones packed away somewhere in one of the 750 boxes in the basement.

So I kept the solar lights on the posts. And every day, the minute the sun went down, I'd run outside and admire them for the entire 8 minutes they stayed lit.

I can't even begin to imagine what the neighbors must have thought.