Monday, November 21, 2005

Dead Santa, Double-D Lights and Random Acts of Illumination



Right now, Santa is lying across my grass, presumably dead.

Okay, maybe not dead. Maybe just drunk, or sleepy, or slipping into something more comfortable to get in the mood. In this case, the lawn.

Nevertheless, there he is - flat on his back, body balancing on thousands of grass blades. Worse, the light has left him.

And I killed him -- coolly, with the stunning carelessness befitting an annual murderer.

Seemed like such a good idea at the time, too. He needed to be puffed-up. I needed something festive, myself. We made a deal: I'd hook him up if he promised to hang around until the new year.

Oh, I hooked him up, alright -straight to the porch light socket.

Problem is, it's motion sensor activated. At first our relationship worked out perfectly; I'd pull in the driveway, Santa would jump to attention and the whole front of the house would light-up.

Five minutes later the sensor deactivates, all the lights go out and Mr. Claus keels over like your co-worker after one too many stops at the Christmas party eggnog punch.

For awhile, we tried to work our relationship out the easy way. When he'd get deflated, I'd just send one of the kids out to jump up and down in front of the motion sensor device.

Flailing their arms madly and waving about like miniature Joe Cockers without a backbeat, they provide Kris Kringle's much-needed temporary life support for another brief interlude.

But the neighbors seem worried; they brought over an envelope with fifty dollars and some pamphlets on ADHD.

Also, it's getting cold and there's still school; the kids are fighting over who's stuck with the 3 and 4 a.m. illumination shifts. Ingrates shouldn't be surprised when they find the coal this year. Better yet, maybe some toys powered by all nearly-dead batteries. For Santa, revenge is a dish best served with very little juice.

Maybe it's not the motion sensory overload that has Santa doing the dirt nap. Maybe he just doesn't like the holiday lights surrounding him.

Going for the whole expediency thing, we bought those "net" lights for the shrubs. You know, with the picture on the box of a woman neatly laying said net across bushes, wearing a beatific smile, not a hair out of place?

Extremely false advertising.

The lights looked nothing like the picture on that box. Unless they hid the photos of her spouting expletives as she chainsawed the bushes down to size, I was nothing like the mini Mother Theresa shown on the package, either.

Worst of all, the lights aren't all merry, sparkly and perfect.

They fit snugly across the front of the bushes, looking like Victoria's Secret holiday bras for squat evergreens. Like Anna Nicole Smith in her E! Christmas special, drunk and decked-out in a garish electric bustier.

From the street, the effect is one of scratchy green cleavage being barely restrained by a festive 18-hour multicolored twinkling Playtex.

When they can be bothered to remain lit, that is.

Can it be any wonder that Santa keeps taking a powder? If he has an ounce of self-respect, he's likely wiggling over to the outlet and pulling the plug himself.

Atop all of this sits the massive firehazard that underscores our magical holiday tableaux. We have to wait for rain and snow for that. The lights are fed through one of those indoor electric-socket lightbulb replacement screw-in doohickies.

By mid-December, along with jumping up and down every ten minutes to activate the motion sensor, we'll then have to wiggle the cord to see if ice and snow have managed to short it out. Sometimes we find a nice Russian dance is the only thing to wake-up the sensors --unless we hear the usual popping sound that reminds us to renew the State Farm Casualty and Fire policy.

But as long as we don't get electrocuted, what's the harm?

When they're actually working and Santa's standing tall and sober, it all looks vaguely Christmasy. And even when they go out, there's always some stray dog marking the bushes who inadvertantly resuscitates the whole Currier and Ives by way of Tim Burton winter spectacle.

You should see them jump when they're interrupted, suddenly bathed in red and green floodlight! Even better, it works much the same way on solicitors.

Santa gets the last laugh, after all.
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