RECENTLY I WAS struck by a seasonal malady. A sudden urge to put outrageous, tacky outdoor Christmas decorations on my home swept over me.
In my eyes, the decorations would be tasteful and distinctive. But the neighbors, the folks who have to look at them, would probably characterize my efforts as tacky and outrageous.
What I had in mind was ringing our rowhouse with lights. Then I would put a big wreath in each window. Then I would add a few more lights inside the windows. Then I might drape some garlands over the roof edges. Then maybe I could put a little speaker on the roof and play Christmas tunes to the passers-by.
That, I am told, is what happens when you get the decorating disease. You start small, but before you can stop yourself,
you've got more geegaws than a used-car lot.
I called my wife out to the sidewalk in front of our house and told her some -- but not all -- of my decorating desires. Her response was less than enthusiastic.
She didn't say "no." She just said, "We'll see."
This is the same response she gives our kids when one of them announces he wants to buy a motorcycle. It is a polite way of saying, "This too will pass." She knew there was little chance that I could find the materials or the time needed to pull this decorating scheme off this year.
I turned to the teen-ager for support. He backed the concept: "Yeah, we should decorate." And he had advice: "We" should use white lights rather than colored lights. These insights pretty much wrapped up his contribution to "our" outdoor decorating effort.
While the teen-ager and his 12-year-old brother have strong opinions about how our household should be run, they tend to behave like they are the executives of the place. They issue broad policy directives such as "decorate the house," and leave the details, and most of the work, to the minions. In many cases, I am the main minion.
Moreover, just like corporate executives, kids always seem to have another obligation that keeps them from spending too much time in the trenches. When the domestic scut-work starts, they go bouncing out the door to a wrestling match, a basketball game, a ski trip, or to a rendezvous with friends.
So the other day when I looked around the home front for someone who might help me hang garlands from the gutters, I found that the house was empty.
What I needed was a support group, an outfit that might be called "Guys who want to deck the halls, and the front porch, and the rooftop, but need help." If I could find such a group, there would be a lot of questions I could get answered. One would be, should you rely on a decorating plan or should you just get up on the ladder and let the mood move you?
When I appraise some local outdoor decorating efforts, it is not always clear to me whether intricate plans or wild artistic impulses are responsible for the final look.
I also would like to know how you get those electric candles to sit right in the middle of each household window. I have heard rumors that there is a wire contraption that fits on the windowsill and holds the candle. But I have never seen any of these devices. Every time I have gone to a hardware store to buy one, the clerk has shaken his head and said, "Sorry, just sold the last one."
Finally, I would ask the guys who deck the halls, and the front porch, and the rooftop, how they handle thieves. Scanning through crime stories from past years, I found reports of Christmas lights being stolen from outside a West Baltimore funeral home, of lights being lifted from a once bright-and-shining Edgemere home, and of a foot-long wooden doll representing the baby Jesus being stolen from a front-yard Nativity scene in Savage. In sum, the crime of stealing someone's Christmas decorations seems to br practiced in all parts of our community.
If I ever caught someone stealing my outdoor decorations -- presuming I ever get them up -- I would administer a series of punishments to the thief. For the first offense, the thief would have to stick his thumbs in the empty light sockets and get zapped with a jolt of electricity. For a second offense of stealing ,, Christmas decorations, the thief would suffer a much harsher form of retribution. Namely, he would have to come back in the cold of January, climb up a ladder and take all the outdoor decorations down. Some people might call this cruel and unusual punishment, and judging by what I have heard from the guys who have done the job, that sounds about right.
Pub Date: 12/20/97