Here's the Scoop: December 25, 2013

Another lights out holiday
This year was going to be different. Readers with good memories (better than mine – which would be most of you), will recall that the whole “holiday decorating” thing didn’t go well at the Sweeney household last year. Ditto this season.
After last year’s “lights out” disaster, we carefully packed away the “survivors” in the light department. These specimens worked well and we appreciated them in all their illuminated glory. These working strings were being counted on for another year or two of brilliant production.
Keen readers have already figured out that the words “planning” and “functioning Christmas lights” aren’t usually linked in the same sentence. At least not in a good way.
When last year’s All-Star lights were unpacked, we checked them, even though we knew these bunches of lights wouldn’t leave us “stranded.” I think it should be explained that this year’s tree is a bit wider than normal. Even experienced “cut your own” tree folks can have a little trouble gauging tree size when they’re in the midst of field with hundreds of trees.

Tale of the tape
I make no claims about my powers of tree size estimation. My trips to the Christmas tree farm involve carrying a tape measure — just to be sure. Our house has tall ceilings, so height isn’t usually a problem. Width isn’t something I usually consider. Until this year. When the tree farm folks had to utilize the tractor to pull the tree through the machine that neatly encases the tree in netting for the ride home, I should have been suspicious.
It’s not like the tree wouldn’t have plenty of room in its designated space. It’s just that a tall and wide tree takes A LOT of lights. Ornaments, too. My wife prefers to tightly weave the tree lights into every nook and cranny. We had a lot of lights left from last season, but this Mega-Tree would certainly challenge the supply. The NYSEG bill, also.
The stringing was a tedious process. We both had to stop several times to combat spells of dizziness. After several hours, the task was finished. All of the lights worked. That was a good start.
“I think we need another string or two,” were the words I thought I heard my wife whisper as I headed for the eggnog cooler. I pretended not to notice.

Not that I’m counting...
My little ploy didn’t work for long, but I was finally able to convince my wife that 126 strands of light on a single tree would be plenty. I’m exaggerating the amount, but if we didn’t have a roof, I’m sure that airline passengers would have no trouble spotting the Christmas beacon. Except on Day Two.
That’s the morning we woke up, fired up the tree and only about 10 percent of the strings were doing their job. I place holiday lights in roughly the same classification as auto registration stickers — which have the sole function of sticking to one’s windshield. And they never do. Lights are meant to light. It shouldn’t be that hard.
The fact that most of the tree lights had failed was not good news. Plus, finding the exact same type of lights proved difficult. “Maybe people really do buy Christmas stuff in mid-October,” I commented. Indeed.
After fruitlessly scouring the local stores, we ended up ordering lights online. I was able to convince the Head Decorator that a systematic removal of “bad strands” would cut some work from our relighting chores. Despite a few needle pokes, the repair project went fairly smoothly. I blurted out very few swear words. Out with the old, on with the new — and they all worked (so far).
The good news is that we ordered many extra boxes of lights. If I remember to measure the tree width next season, we should be covered. What a bright idea! We hope.
— Brian Sweeney