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Lights

12/10/05 12:00AM By Linda DuCharme
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(HOST) 'Tis the season for outdoor lighting displays, and every town has at least one house that seems to go all out - to the delight - and occasional consternation - of the neighbors. Commentator Linda DuCharme remembers one Christmas of the latter sort.


(DUCHARME) As we left our home for the fourteen-hour drive
to Thanksgiving in Cincinnati last month, I commented to my husband, "Just you wait. All the houses will be decorated
by the time we get back in a few days."

We were not disappointed. Houses were outlined in lights of all colors; whole teams of reindeer were done up in twinkling white bulbs. Santa Clauses waved from roof tops and larger than life-sized inflatable figures of snowmen, angels, and nativity scenes, swayed in the cold.

The blow-up figures collapse on the ground each evening when their hot air source is turned off. In the dark one can see the sad little blobs of vinyl as they apparently rest up in order to bounce to life in the morning.

Our tradition involves lights on a tree, deep in the woods, some distance from our house. A cord of several extensions links the lights to the house and an indoor switch lets us turn it on without trudging through the snow to make the connection.

Youngsters are told that only children can light the lights by saying, "Magic tree, go on!" I often wonder if the sudden burst of light scares the dickens out of some of the creatures who live in that particular patch of the woods.

Many years ago, when my family first moved into our new home in Hardwick, my brother and I discovered a treasure trove in the very back of the front hall closet. There, in a tangled mess and obvi-
ously forgotten by the former tenants, were strings and strings of outdoor Christmas lights.

Such lights were a rarity in the late 1940s; people like my parents sniffed that they were lacking in good taste. And in post-war America the cost of such frivolity was considered wasteful indeed.

But because a very large, perfectly formed spruce tree grew on our front lawn, our parents had to admit a higher power was involved in the decision to deck these particular halls.

The bulbs were large, nearly golf-ball sized, very colorful, and the type that if one went out, they all went out. But, as luck would have it, there in the heap of wires, was a box of replacements. It was just meant to be.

We were given permission to light up the tree. But it was to be a one-day only happening and that day would be Christmas Eve.

We draped the strings of lights from top to bottom, then went inside to admire the blazing beauty. Within moments the phone rang and it was our nearest neighbor, who lived a little over a half mile down the road.

"Are you people all right?" he said loudly. Puzzled, my father replied, "We're just fine," adding, "What makes you think there's a problem?"

"Well," the man said, still quite excited, "I just looked over your way and I could swear your house is on fire. I can see the flames from here."

This is Linda DuCharme in Brookline.

Linda DuCharme is a retired Assistant Managing Editor of the Brattleboro Reformer.
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