Don't let smoked lights fog the season's reason

One of my favorite Christmas movies of all time has always been the Chevy Chase classic "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," in addition to "A Christmas Story," which is about Ralphie and the Red Rider BB Gun that he wanted for Christmas.

My reasons for being a fan of the latter is because it was shot in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

I love the shots of Ralphie and his brother as they are sitting on Santa's lap in Higbee's Department Store in downtown Cleveland, just as I did as a young lad many years ago.

Those are all fond memories of Christmas, including the large Christmas tree that was displayed at the Sterling-Linder Department store, also in
downtown Cleveland.

Despite all of those Cleveland memories, I find myself relating more with "Christmas Vacation," especially the main character's difficulties with attaching Christmas lights to his home's exterior.

The squirrel that appears in the Griswold's Christmas tree was
reminiscent of when our cat, Tiffany, was seen inside our first tree after my wife and I first got married.

I came home from working at a radio station in Ashtabula, Ohio,
and I was looking for our rather large cat when I saw her eyes peering out at me from inside the tree.

As she exited the tree, it came toppling down onto the floor, spilling ornaments and tinsel and lights all over our burnt-orange shag carpet.

As annoying as that was, it still doesn't hold a candle to the frustration that comes with keeping a string of mini-lights lit throughout the yuletide season.

It doesn't matter how carefully you handle them or what brand you purchase. There are always problems with keeping the bulbs burning.
The person who invented these lights must be a mad genius.

Not only did he invent a light string that becomes easily tangled when you remove it from the box, but he also designed a strand that always lights fully — at least during pre-testing.

As soon as you put them up on the peak of your roof or other portions of your house, though, they quit working once you climb down the ladder or depart the roof in another fashion.

The most popular lighting snafu is where half the string of these sparkling marvels becomes smoky black, which I have learned is not a good sign.

Once that occurs, that string is done, whether they are multi-colored or the beautiful clear lights, which come with a guarantee that if one light goes out, the others will stay lit. Yeah, right.

This year, we removed the bushes from in front of our home, so we created hillbilly Christmas trees made out of upside-down tomato plant baskets so we could place lights on them, which actually turned out pretty well, all things considered.

I'll never forget the night we carefully placed them perfectly in the flower beds and how beautiful the multi-colored mini-lights showed up in the dark.

Of course, the reason it was so dark was because half of the other lights that had already been placed the week before had already quit working.

It was my lucky day, though, as the lights had accidentally come unplugged —which turned out to be an easy fix.

Two years ago, we were in the market for a new artificial tree, and decided to take a chance and purchase something called a "pre-lit tree," which comes with another guarantee —to light up when it is first plugged in.

And it did, and continued to light during its first two years of its life.

Then, last year came, and two strands were "smoked," which translates to, "It's dead and has to be completely replaced," in my experience.

It took only three hours to cut the burned-out lights out of the branches with wire cutters and replace them with new light strands.

I vowed that would be the last pre-lit tree we would own as long as I'm alive.

As of this writing, the lights on the manger scene are "smoked," and Thursday, I was made aware that the lights on a wreath that adorns the top of our porch are out. too.

If I didn't enjoy the Christmas season, decorations and the lights so much, I would've given up in my search for the perfect Christmas where all of the lights and decorations work perfectly long ago.

Then, after having had cancer surgery this past fall I realized I already have the perfect Christmas just by being here to celebrate it — smoked Christmas lights and all.

I've seen Christmas lights on signs throughout the area that say "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season."

That sign reads the same whether the lights are lit or not.

The star over Bethlehem is the one Christmas light that never goes out.

I wish all of our readers a very Merry "Larry" Christmas.

Larry McGuire is a news reporter for The Punxsutawney Spirit.