Monday, December 5, 2011


Sometimes I get what I think are brilliant ideas, and I put a lot of time and effort into executing them...only to have them fail. Such was the case last week.

The front of our house sits on level land, but out back, the land, which is all forest, steeply slopes down to Deerfield Road (also known as Bear Brook Road). Up until about a year ago, our house wasn’t visible from the road. But one day a convoy of heavy equipment rolled in and cut down acres of trees in what seemed like minutes. So now we are visible...and I can’t go outside in my pajamas to feed the birds any more.

A few nights ago, as I was heading home up Deerfield Road, I happened to notice that on my left, directly behind a pale-green house with a gate across the driveway, a solitary light was shining in the dark, way up on a hill, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It took me a couple seconds to realize it was our back-porch light.

That’s when the wheels started turning in my pointed little head. What if, I thought, I bought a giant lighted star and hung it on the back of our house, so when cars came up Deerfield Road and the passengers looked to their left, they would see a lone, bright star shining in the darkness? Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas decoration?

The minute I got home, I dashed to my computer and started searching for giant Christmas stars. A half-hour later, I turned off the computer, discouraged. Before I could afford to buy a giant star, I’d have to cash in my life insurance and probably sell one of my kidneys.

Still, I wasn’t ready to give up on the star idea, so I checked Ebay. There, I found a wire-framed 52-inch star with 140 lights, at a really affordable price. So I ordered the star and then camped out on the front steps, waiting for it to arrive.

The box that was delivered a few days later was about the size of a briefcase. I had imagined it would be about the size of big-screen TV, so I was puzzled. My star, I soon learned, had to be assembled....from a stack of small V-shaped wire segments and another stack of plastic twist-ties.

It took me three hours to put the star together. Proud of my work, I lifted it by the hook on the top of it to admire it...and ended up with just the hook in my hand. So out came my trusty roll of duct tape. To heck with the plastic ties, I thought. I wanted my star to hold together through blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and hail. And I could think of nothing that would do the job better than duct tape.

The lights on the star were the tiny, blinking variety, definitely not bright enough to be seen from miles away. So I bought several strings of huge white lights and wrapped them around the wire frame of the star. Then out came the roll of duct tape again for added security.

Our garage, which is attached to the house, has two front overhead doors and one rear overhead door, so my plan was to hang the star on the rear door. The only problem was the door is white. I’m no Christmas-lights expert, but I was pretty sure white lights against a white door wouldn’t give me the desired “star in the darkness” effect I wanted.

So I came up with another plan...get a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood, paint it flat black and lean it against the garage door, then attach the star to it. I got on the phone to Uncle Lenny, seeing he has a truck, and asked him if he could pick up the plywood for me.

All I can say is when Uncle Lenny arrived with the plywood and got his first glimpse of my monstrosity of a duct-taped star, he gave me a look that clearly told me he thought I’d finally lost my last few remaining brain cells.

“You hang up that thing and you’ll have people climbing the hill out back here, looking for a manger!” he said.

“Do you think they’ll be able to see it from Deerfield Road?” I asked.

“I think they’ll be able to see it from Manchester!” he said.

I grabbed the black spray-paint and began to spray the plywood. When it dried, Uncle Lenny wedged it into the frame of the garage door, then put a screw into the top of the board to hold the star. We finally hung my masterpiece, but instead of being pleased, I was instantly traumatized.

“The plywood is only 4 feet high!” I said. “The star is 52 inches high! Look! Four inches of my star aren’t even against the black background!”

Uncle Lenny rolled his eyes. “No one will be able to tell the difference from that distance. You’re too much of a perfectionist!”

“But the tips of the star are very important!” I complained. “They have to be against the black background!”

“It will look just fine,” Uncle Lenny said.

“But -!”

“You know,” he interrupted me. “You can be a real pain in the neck sometimes!”

When I later went inside, my husband asked me how things were going.

“Uncle Lenny says I’m a pain in the neck!”

He started to laugh. “Thank him for me.”

That night, I finally lit my precious star, then drove down to Deerfield Road to gaze at the results of all my efforts.

When I reached the pale-green house with the gated driveway and looked up at the hill behind it, my smile of anticipation faded. Uncle Lenny had been right. Not only didn’t the four inches of the star that weren’t against the black background matter, the entire star ended up looking like nothing more than a car’s headlight. No shape, no star-like quality at all – just a bright white blob. The star was too small and too far away to look like much of anything. I figured I’d need at least a 10-foot star to produce the effect I wanted.

I was crushed.

So I bought some big colored bulbs and replaced the white ones on the star.

At least now, it looks like a multi-colored headlight.

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