Saturday, December 12, 2015


We came home, my parents and I, from somewhere one December day to find that Gary had put Christmas lights on the house. Not just a string of lights, but a maze of lights, a shimmering web that extended from the peak of the roof to the windows and doors and thence to the walkway and bushes and to the stairs right down to the sidewalk. It was evening when we arrived and cold and the shoulders of my brothers jacket were flecked with tiny ice pellets. His hands were as red faced as crying babies. He was just finishing with the last string of lights on the iron patio railing.

"How wonderful," my mother exclaimed, cherry cheeked, teary eyed because of the wind.

"Where the hell did you get all of these lights?" my father said.

No one could understand where Gary got all the lights. He did not have a job, but he had lights. Colored lights, twinkle lights, tiny lights and larger lights.

"Have you been on the roof?" my mother asked. "My God, have you been up on the top of the roof?"

"Only way to get the lights there," Gary said.

"But how did you get them to stay there?" my father asked (not really wanting to know, I think, but having to, nonetheless).

"Nails," Gary said.



"For Christ's sake, Gary."


"Do you mean you pounded nails into the wood?"


"For Christ's sake."


We all stood back looking up at the house. The lights made dancing colors on the wet patio and walkway. They danced in the barren branches of the bushes and trees and raced around the wreath on the bottom door. They twinkled with satisfaction in my brother's eyes and glimmered on the icy salting of my mother's cheeks and glowered unhappily in the lenses of my father's glasses.

"The electric bill is going to cost me an arm and a leg," he said.

"Yup," Gary said. "I love you, too."

That was the last Christmas I really remember very well. They've never been quite as colorful since.

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