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Deck the halls Conradt style

I had to empty most of the closet before I finally found what I was looking for.

By that time, the floor was covered with Christmas: the wreath that hangs on the front porch, its red ribbon faded to pink by years of winter sun; a plush snowman that sings "Deck The Halls" a little too loudly; 100 feet of garish silver garland.

Deep in the corner of the closet was the box I’d been looking for. "Christmas Lights" was scrawled across the side, and I reminded myself to make it the last box into the closet in January so it could be the first one out next November.

The artificial Christmas tree already had been set up, but time had not been good to it. Fifteen years of hauling it out of a refrigerator-sized box around Thanksgiving and cramming it back in two months later had taken its toll, and several years ago … one strand at a time … the lights built into the tree had started to fail.



While an artificial tree lacks the great smell of the real thing, they are more forgiving, and we’ve been able to fill in the dark spots by reshaping the wire branches with the lights that still worked.


The tree no longer lighted an entire room the way it once did, there were still enough working lights to create a warm holiday glow.


Until this year.


Light the tree

The branches had been installed and the cords connected, and it was time to officially kick off the holiday season with the lighting of the Conradt Family Tree.



"Cross your fingers," I said.


I inserted the cord into the outlet and … nothing.


I moved the cord to a different outlet. Still nothing.


On a tree of 800 lights, not one of them worked.



I made a somber announcement to my family: "Our tree is dead." But maybe it wasn’t …


I dug through a closet packed to the ceiling with holiday decorations until I found the box with "Christmas Lights" scrawled across the side.


"I have an idea!" I said excitedly. "Maybe we can use these lights! It will give the tree a whole new look!"


Job available


I wasn’t prepared for what I found in the box -- a tangled mess the size of a basketball, with tiny multicolored bulbs sticking out from all sides.


The ball came out of the box in one solid clump and untangling it could take a while.


So I did what I often do when faced with a daunting task -- I delegated.


"Hey Steven! I’ve got a job for you!"



He looked at the mess and offered to take a bath.


We sat on the floor with the tangle of lights between us and started searching for ends.


Steven questioned my parenting skills for denying him a bath, but eventually, the light strings came apart.


It was an eclectic collection of after-Christmas specials, garage sale bargains and family hand-me-downs.



One by one we tested the strings of lights while they were still stretched across the floor, then gently wrapped them around the tree. But despite having 100 yards of lights, the last string ended halfway up the tree.


I was quickly losing the holiday spirit.


To the top of the tree

We unwound the lights and started over, spacing the strings farther apart.


On the second attempt the last of the lights ended at the very top of the tree.


"We’d better test them," I suggested. "Cross your fingers."


The room blazed with color, and my Christmas spirit was back.


"Can I put the ornaments on now?" Steven asked. I said "Yes", unplugged the lights and slid a Christmas CD into the player.


An hour later Steven announced "The ornaments are all on! Come see!"


It might have been the best tree ever.


"Let’s see how it looks with the lights on," I said.


I plugged the cord into the wall, but something was missing.


One string of lights had failed. The string right in the middle of the tree.


"Should we start over?" Steven asked.


"No" I said. "Jut put more ornaments where it’s dark."


It definitely gave the tree a whole new look.


I think I’ll get up early on Dec. 26 and see if I can get a good price on a new Christmas tree for next year.

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