Christmas decor by an engineer

Posted on December 20th, 2012

There are a lot of things that make living in a small town special. But one of the most special things is the way that your neighbors celebrate the holidays.

For many years, my town had a home decorating contest. I don’t know what happened to it – maybe it still exists but is such a big secret that not even the mighty Google can find it. My absolute, hands-down, favorite house was one near the police station. We always saved it for last. I’m telling you, this was the most spectacular display ever. Lights. Reindeer. Swans-a-swimming. Even a partridge in a pear tree (and it’s the the Partridge Family Partridge). And all of it was timed to music. I’m kind of sad realizing I haven’t driven by there in a few years, so I don’t know if the display is still done, but it rocked.

Obviously, I’ve always had a serious case of holiday decorating envy from that house. And for years, I have begged my engineer husband to make something like that for me. Begged. Pleaded. Sulked. Trust me, I’ve tried every trick in the book to get Harry to create a Winter Wonderland for me.

So that’s pretty much why I’ve always had just a string of icicle lights.

But this year, I discovered this doo-hickey at the hardware store. It has music and you plug in lights and it times the lights to the music. And standing there in the store, looking at the display for the doo-hickey, I knew what I had to do.

Yes, I had to whip out my VISA and get that darned thing.

I mean, how hard could it be to set this up, right? All I had to do was toss some lights on the bushes in our miniscule front yard, plug them in the music doo hickey and voila! All my Christmas fantasies would come true. And since the doo hickey would do all the work for me, I figured it would take 20 minutes tops to set the thing up.

Sadly, I live with an engineer, so it would not be that simple. Immediately after seeing the doo-hickey, Harry took over. At that point, you know that we were not just tossing some net lights on a bush and calling it a day. No, Harry spent at least 4 hours creating detailed drawings of our front yard. Then he added lights to the drawings and determined the color.

Then he sent me out to shop for the lights. Now, an ordinary person would say, “get a couple strings of white and a couple multi-colored.” Engineers are not ordinary people. Instead, I got a detailed list that had the actual LED color-code for the specific string of lights. Seriously. I had to buy E8 white lights. Or maybe it was B8 white lights. Whatever. You know I didn’t get the right ones. So Harry then had to go to Target to get the proper lights, which in my opinion he should have done in the first place.

Then he carefully placed strings of lights all over the yard. This took another 4 or 5 hours because apparently engineers don’t just toss lights on a tree like normal people do. Each light string was carefully draped over each branch to obtain the maximum effect.  Once that was done, he hung lights on the door and windows. And the lights promptly fell off the door and windows, necessitating some research into sticky tape and another trip to the hardware store.

By then, we were living in a sea of extension cords. You couldn’t walk up the walkway without tripping, which would then disturb the careful light placement. At this point, copious amounts of duct tape were applied to our walkway and many, many bad words were muttered. Harry muttered most of them.

Then came the testing phase. Music was turned on. Lights were rearranged. Stuff got duct taped to other stuff. More swearing was muttered. I was beginning to have some serious buyer’s remorse. But after two days, the lights and music were working and Harry was satisfied. Or possibly he gave up. Hard to tell.

But that night, the kids in the neighborhood watched and danced in front of our house. And you know what? It might not be the incredibly cool extravaganza from the house by the police station. But it is really, really awesome.

Take a peek:

Christmas Lights

Um, yeah. I don’t know how to post a video here. And, yes, the lights are falling down again…

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