The lights hang in the kitchen.
The red lights hang in the kitchen.
The red lights shaped like bells hang in the kitchen.
The red lights shaped like bells affixed with gold bows hang in the kitchen.
The red lights shaped like bells affixed with gold bows that sing Christmas carols hang in the kitchen.
They sing Silent Night.
They sing Feliz Navidad.
They sing Good King Wenceslas.
They can flash in tune with each carol.
They are the tackiest purchase I’ve ever made.
At the same time, they may also be the best purchase I’ve ever made.
And that is what Christmas 2020 looks like in our house.
About a month ago, I started scouring the Internet for something jazzy that would dress up the house this holiday season. God knows I needed something new to look at and god knows things were going to be quiet this holiday season.
It didn’t take me long to find the treasure trove that is the Wayfair website. So I strapped on some mental SCUBA gear and started diving deep. On page 34, I found the bells.
Over the past few years, I’ve recognized that the Ukrainian in me is surfacing more and more, especially when it comes to tchotchkes.
When I was younger, I had one very specific home décor rule: I wouldn’t allow any ornamentation that didn’t have a specific purpose. So, a picture frame was OK because it held a picture. A vase was OK because it could hold flowers. Candles were fine because they could be lit. But a cartoonish figurine of a sleeping cat? No, not allowed. It serves no purpose other than to betray the fact that its owner might be prone to bad taste.
Over the past year, especially, I’ve found myself backsliding on this rule. At an antique store, for example, I bought three brass ibises that don’t contribute to this household in any way except to make me feel hopeful that one day I’ll be able to visit a place where ibises live.
Now lights, you could argue, do serve a purpose in that they light things up. However, I think we all agree that Christmas lights, especially ones strung randomly on a staircase railing in the kitchen, don’t actually facilitate vision.
Still, I wanted those bells. And while I knew they would be very much at home in a 1950s Ukrainian farmhouse in the middle of the Canadian prairies — one that smells of dill pickles and Borax — I didn’t care. In fact, that may have made me want them more.
So I shelled out the $15. And then I kept looking, promptly adopting this rationale: if I were going to dress up the inside of the house with lights, I might as well do the same with the outside — especially since almost no one would actually see the inside of our house this season.
So I bought these fun jewel-toned lights and strung them on the railing and down the stairs of the back deck.
This still didn’t feel like enough because, I mean, it was the back deck. If we were really going to make a splash, we needed front yard presence.
This resulted in a brief conversation with my husband William during which I pitched the possibility of lacing lights all up and down our willow. William, who actually loves Christmas décor more than I do, was initially game until we realized that, in order to really do things right, we’d need a bucket truck to reach the top third of the tree.
That made both of us feel tired.
So I kept searching. I wanted something different. No snowmen. No Santas. Not even a reindeer would do. I zeroed in on a neighbor’s house that had candy canes skewered along the front path of their yard.
I likewise wanted something to skewer. But what?
Finally, I found them: solar-powered garden stakes in the shape of branches whose leaves lit up in a medley of colors. They were on page 42. They were just different enough to make an impression and just tacky enough to satisfy the Ukrainian in me.
I bought 18.
I set them up on Saturday, stabbing them in our flowerpots. I fluffed the branches so they would look “natural.” I planted their solar panels. So as not to be too tacky, I put them on “steady” instead of “flash” mode.
Then, I waited for dark. I held my breath. And then suddenly there was this little garden of light in our front yard.
All of this has made me realize how happy light can make a person, how it can, in fact, infect others with what it produces. This year especially, I’m willing to go after whatever little thing that can make me feel this way. So, sing on, little, red bells. Glow on, jewel-toned lovelies. And shine a light on me, garden glimmer. You mean more than you know.