Here's the Scoop: December 12, 2012

Not so bright idea
It’s difficult not to write about holiday traditions at this time of year. Personally, I’m not in favor of “rushing” the season. I like the tree to go up two weekends before the actual holiday, give or take.
The benefit of climate change is that holiday decorating has become much easier. Stringing outdoor lights, hanging garland and other festive items is much more pleasant when it’s a balmy 50 degrees with a pleasant breeze.
The same goes for harvesting a Christmas tree. In the past few years, we have started going over the hill to Robson’s tree farm in Bovina to choose a tree and then cut it down ourselves. I really like moving from row to row, debating the merits of one tree vs. another.
I must admit, though, it was a bit weird this year, doing the whole tree pursuit with mud in place of where the snow should have been. At least my hands didn’t get cold.
The other bonus of this warm weather tree pursuit was that we didn’t have to leave the tree in the basement until the snow melted off. One cut (to square off my “I couldn’t see the trunk” field cut), snipping off a few bottom branches and in we went.

Looking good
Things got even better when the tree apparently had no “bad side.” Just a few “better than the other side” looks. A bit of spinning and the viewing was easy on the eyes.

Like meal portions in a chain restaurant, this tree was big. We have ample space for the tree, but the rule book on trees indicated that this specimen would need more lights than the Las Vegas strip to be adequately illuminated. We didn’t have enough. So, it was off the store to get some “bargain” lights. Note the emphasis on “bargain.”

At first, only two strands didn’t work properly, with half the strands lighting up. That certainly explained the lights being priced 50 percent lower than in other stores.
As it turns out, even if all those lights had performed the sole function for which they were designed, the girth on this tree mandated way more lights than we had on hand.

Looking good
So, we made a “return” trip to the store, exchanging the lights for some brighter prospects. Plus, we had determined that we need three additional sets to provide full coverage — this was starting to sound like an insurance policy. The store clerk checked each package before sending us on our way. I got the sense she had done this before.

Contrary to my “toss ‘em up” technique, my wife prefers to intricately weave the lights among the branches to achieve thorough coverage. It’s time-consuming, but worthwhile. Having already removed the faulty strands, the “do-over” was a lengthy process. Still, by the time we got to the last string, the tree was looking good — until five sets of lights stopped working at once!

This was not well received. Non-holiday type words were uttered. Often. I believe there was even a Facebook blowup regarding the “quality” of these lights.

Darkened branches
We felt better after some venting, but still lacked lights to finish the tree. The local store where we had purchased the two strands of white lights that still worked had no more. Another area retailer had only colored lights. We weren’t going back to that “blinking” store where we’d bought the bad strands — that experience had left us feeling like Charlie Brown believing that this time, Lucy won’t pull the football away. Bam.

Fortunately, my wife was headed to Delhi to run some errands and could surely get some lights in that town. Unless she forgot.

Oh, well, I’m sure we’ll finish stringing those lights some day. If we wait a bit longer, we can get some great deals at post-holiday sales — probably half-off. Again. Hmmm…I guess we already have that going on. And off.
— Brian Sweeney