Twenty-five trees and counting

By TIM BEELAND,

How many Christmas Trees y’all got up this year,” my dad asked Sunday evening as I strung the lights on his and my mom’s tree at their house in Newton, and my wife, Danny, and daughter, Rachel-Johanna, prepared the hooks and balls for hanging.

I wasn’t sure and started trying to count them up in my head while behind me Danny started counting them off out loud. “I’m guessing about 20,” I said as Danny continued counting.

Twenty sounds like a lot, but that is between two houses — the one in Sebastopol and the lake house at the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Still sounds like a lot, right?

We’ve always gone overboard on decorating, but Thanksgiving weekend while stringing lights — or perhaps I should say flinging lights — on the big tree at the lake we became frustrated to the point of swearing to begin a new tradition this year of throwing away all the old lights after Christmas and hitting a clearance sale for new strands for next year. There may have been some of the other kind of swearing too!

We have one of those pre-lit trees that stayed pre-lit for about a year before it became partially pre-lit and eventually not pre-lit at all, thus the flinging.

I long for the good ole days when the tree lights were those big bulbs and if one went out it was the only one that went out, and the process of replacing it didn’t mean checking each and every light on the strand. Our lights this year, left over from last year, and probably the year before and the year before, seemed to be rolled neatly into a ball, but, of course, I had rolled them neatly backwards last year in January. The plug end was tucked into the inside of the ball so Danny kindly unrolled them and re-rolled them as I climbed the ladder and commenced to flinging.

At one point I sensed her frustration, and when I turned to verify that, saw with my own two eyes the mass of wire and bulbs that was the source of the frustration. “Just throw that one away,” I said, glaring at the mess caused by all those little green wires having come unwoven and tangling themselves around every bulb except the one to which they were attached at the time of purchase.

We did pause and take a photograph of the 200-light string being flung into the garbage to send to my dad who prides himself on never throwing away a good strand of Christmas lights when you can, instead, spend hours of an otherwise perfectly good life untangling and checking it bulb by bulb.

Back into the attic I climbed to retrieve a few fresh rolls of improperly rolled lights that I knew existed up there somewhere, because somewhat like my dad, I pride myself in never throwing away anything one can spend hours of an otherwise perfectly good life in search of.

Sure enough they were there and sure enough they were rolled up backwards as I expected. They were not, however, tangled up in one of those tangled up knots like the others and sooner, rather than later, the tree was all aglow.

We’re sticking with that new tradition, though, and I’m almost giddy thinking about taking the wire snips to that pre-lit tree that long since released its pre-littedness and filling up a dumpster with gently used lights.

Now to get back to the subject that caused this angry rant on Christmas Tree lights of all things, “how many trees did we actually put up this year?” I was pretty close with my original guess.

If you count the four little ones on the kitchen counter and the one the big Santa Claus is holding in the dining room, the answer would be 24. Five at one house and 19 at the other. Throw in Mom and Dad’s one tree and that brings the count up to 25. That’s a lot of trees. But, of course, now we are talking about three houses rather than two!