No matter how hard I try, when the Christmas lights emerge from their festival slumber, they’re hopelessly tangled. How does that happen? I’m sure that when I put them to bed after their last Christmas show, I took great pains to ensure they would be ready for the following year. And yet, somehow, when they come out of their assigned spot in the cluttered holiday cabinet, they’re a Christmas mess. I can only conclude that some disgruntled elf makes it his priority business to slip in and tangle everything up just to get my holiday off on the wrong foot. Bah humbug!
Oh, well. If the holidays are about peace, love, and joy, then I can’t let some evil elf’s prank get me down every year. Watch, therefore, as I exhibit abnormal calm while I struggle to untangle four strings of lights. Better yet, watch me stand aside while the wee wife actually untangles the lights. She has oodles more patience than I do and anyway, she’s the one who will decorate the tree. You see, wee though she may be, she has high standards. I tried to decorate the tree one year and she just looked at me and said, “Let me help, honey.” Then she started over.
Things do get tangled up sometimes. Lights, plans, elections, democracies. The trick is to know how to make things right again. To undo the wrongs that have been done and to begin anew. To not be discouraged by all the snarls and tangles but to take a big deep breath and begin the frustrating task of untangling. It takes a healthy dose of optimism, calm patience, and some visionary thinking, but in the end, the string will untangle and the tree will glow.
Without doubt, it has been a rough year. 2020 will be remembered for all its many tangles: a deadly virus, racial malaise, a contested election. It’s a year that is definitely not going gently into that long, good night. On the contrary; it’s leaving like a toddler throwing a tantrum, kicking and screaming, holding on to the door lintel for dear life because he doesn’t want to get in the car and go to Florida. Not a pretty picture for sure, but then tangles and temper tantrums never are. Better to focus on a brighter future, to a time when the string of lights lays straight and bright and the tree is adorned anew.
I’m told that the best way to untangle a string of lights is to start with the plug. Once you locate the plug, just fish it through the tangles as gently as possible because pulling too hard can result in breakage and loss. Can’t have that! Just work your way along the string patiently. Whatever you do, don’t let frustration set in lest you compound the mess, break the lights, and have to go the hardware store and buy four new sets. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Apparently, there are lots of little tricks to keep your holiday lights untangled. YouTube or Google can show you how. I only wish it were just as easy to untangle that other mess. I guess you start with the plug.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com