Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and this year, because fuck this year, it started early. I’m talking about Christmastime, or as I like to call it, the time Michael figures out where the hell two thousand Christmas lights are supposed to go (hint: at least six hundred of them go on the tree).
I was never a Christmas freak growing up. In Russia, the big family holiday is New Year’s Eve, and even though as “westernized” Russians, Santa Claus did drop by with something in our stockings, it was New Years that took centre stage. And sure, there’s many similarities, for example how our New Years trees are essentially Christmas trees, but the holidays tend to be invasive in different ways.
So it was my wife that ended up infecting me with the stereotypical anglo-western Christmas bug. Our first winter in Toronto, where we moved into a 350 square foot box while I went to law school, one day she came home with a few bags from Dollarama and basically vomited Christmas all over our apartment. Then, over the years, I built up on this decorating tradition, and much like with Frankenstein, the creator quickly lost control of their creation.
I wasn’t kidding about the number of lights. My last tally was a couple of years ago and we were up to three thousand, a good chunk of which ends up on our tree, as you can see from this year’s iteration:
I also have some icicle lights in the corner of the living room, a set of dewdrop fairy lights on a bookshelf in the kids’ room, and this string of white lights running half the perimeter of our unit:
I think it might be a good thing that we live in a Housing Cooperative and not a detached single-family home, because had it been the latter, I think Christmas decorations may have been allotted double-digit percentage points in the family budget. Instead, our housing complex is set up more like a townhouse with multiple units per building. Still, it doesn’t stop me from plastering the railing with as many lights as I can fit:
Every year I make an event out of adding to my collection, usually hopping south of the border for a visit to Target. This year though, the borders are closed, and in any case, I’ve lost quite a few lights to attrition this year so it would mostly just be replacing what I previously had. I was thinking of checking out Canadian Tire’s curbside pickup but I prefer looking at the lights in person, so my purchases this year have been limited.
The best part is that once it’s all set up it’s really easy to maintain. I went from plugging everything manually every evening to using remotes to now setting everything up on two plugs that come with a timer, so it ends up being completely hands-off.
There’s generally been a lot of trial-and-error since I started doing this that makes the setup easier year every year, like taking pictures of the previous year’s lights to jog my memory, installing clear plastic support hooks that can stay up year-round, and figuring out how to place lights on railings in a stable but not time-consuming way. Gotta say I’m very pleased with past year’s me and the tidy work he left for me.
I think it goes without saying that lights are not the most important part of the season for me, but I’ll say it anyway – it’s my family’s happiness and seeing them up and feeling like Christmastime has begun that keeps me coming back to this labour of love year after year. And during this year, we can use all the light in the darkness that we can get.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.