I plugged the strand into the other my dad handed me, he had covered two bushes and done the white stars across the front by himself already. He had gotten out both aluminum ladders, one tall one medium. He was wearing a sweatshirt as old as I was. I don’t know what is more comforting than my dad in an old sweatshirt and in the midst of A Project, either practical or artistic, this one was artistic.
Men like doing a project together and not talking about feelings, which is why I have sometimes thought I was a man.
It was sunset, the multicolored lights go across the front of the house, must be tucked securely as they go over the front door, you can stand on the bench to put those ones up, I was the first person to paint the wood slats of that bench, twenty-five years ago, I painted the burgundy, which matched the house then, the color I loved, red wine colored, like the house of Mrs. Rosenberg, our neighbor in the first house I remember living in, that color was roses, dark roses, I thought Mrs. Rosenberg had a beautiful name, too, and must be a very romantic person. My dad bought that house thirty-four years ago, a house with two bedrooms for his one kid one on the way, and he bought this house twenty-five years ago for his six kids. We all worked to destroy it the best we knew how, and he and my stepmom have made great progress in restoring it since.
He noted the sets of lights which, although on perfect behavior when he had tested them, when he had taken them out of one of three banker’s boxes marked, “Christmas Lights Box 1 of 3.”
“That happens,” I said. He said he might get some more. “You have so many. They aren’t that cheap.”
He told me how much he had paid and that the sets of 100 lights were actually cheaper than the sets of 50, isn’t that funny?
I always buy lights at the drugstore, since I can’t be bothered to go anywhere other than the drugstore to buy, like, anything, so.
Across the garage go the red ones, nail by nail the forest green cording tucked behind, or better, around, a nail.
Once I put red lights in my room at home, I told my dad, I said, it made my room look like hell or something, it was awful. Sometimes I think I should enlighten my dad more about my current life, that there is something I need to share to make him understand, but then I think there is nothing I need to share with my family or my old friends, they know me through and through, whatever is recent little events of note are really beside the point, are merely for passing the time, I’m not becoming anyone else now, not a bit, although I have moved far away.
Pulling green wires behind rusty nails I thought my dad would die someday and I couldn’t believe I would ever leave and not spend every minute hanging out with him, although there was nothing particularly I wanted to say or wanted him to say to me, and even if I moved back home, it’s not like my dad and I would become siamese twins or something, in fact, both of us are the sort of people who enjoy a goodly amount of time alone. When I lived close, we saw each other once a month or so.
He thought I might need the ladder sometimes when I didn’t, I am the tallest person in my family, well, not my brother or my one stepsister, but they weren’t around.
A woman walked down the sidewalk talking on her cell phone. She stopped and said, “You’re going to make us look bad again, aren’t you?”
My dad smiled. “Aw. Sorry.”
“My husband is an electrician, and not a single light on my place,” she said.
Again my dad smiled because what was he supposed to say? His display when we were growing up was just a line across the front of the house. Without kids, he has time to take it about ten times as far, still nowhere near Clark Griswold territory, but flashy.
We stepped back to check out the set of blue lights we had added to the front and center bushes. “That’s good,” my dad told me.
The stable he built, the manger he built, the hay that would hopefully, again, remain mouse-free, and pre-Christmas Mary and Joseph, would come out the next day, and their electricity would be run then.
He took one ladder back to the garage, I took the other. I brought back the three banker’s boxes, 1 or 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3, all empty.
Later my stepmom came out to see how it had turned out. The sun had gone totally down. You couldn’t see birds flying over anymore. The moon was a ¼ sort of size. “Very nice,” she said.