It took a few moments for the realization to hit that the Christmas lights beside my foot were blinking off and on, even though they weren’t the kind of lights that do that.
My eyes followed the strand behind me, to the wall, where our 18-month-old son Zack stood, merrily plugging and unplugging the lights.
“Dude, Mommy’s going to kill me if she sees you doing that. Also, it’s not safe,” I explained, trading him a bouncy ball for the lights. Taking something from a toddler without giving anything in return is like taking a bone from a strange dog. It might go just fine, or you might lose a finger.
I took the safety plug off the window sill and stuck in back into the outlet. Zack watched, then pried the safety plug back out and handed it to me. I looked in my hand and realized that this two-pronged piece of plastic was not a child safety device after all. It was simply an adult inconveniencing device.
“If Mommy sees him doing what?” my wife Kara asked, coming back into the room with a warm cup of her favorite tea, called Chamomile Nights, which could double as the title of the most boring romance novel ever.
“Oh, Harrison, I feel so soothed, I could just put on full-length flannel pajamas and sleep all night,” the heroine would yawn.
“Nothing. You find the honey for your tea?” I asked. In a moment of weakness, we’d bought a little squeeze bottle of local honey from a nearby farm for nine bucks, about three times what it would have cost to buy grocery store honey from faraway bees in countries with relaxed regulations on larva labor.
“No, it completely vanished,” Kara replied. We’d never see that bottle of honey again, but we did get a clue about what may have happened to it about a week later, when Kara caught Zack dropping her wallet into the kitchen trash can.
I unrolled another strand of last year’s Christmas lights and plugged it in. Half of them came on, half of them shrieked, “Bah, humbug!” and stayed dark.
“That’s not right,” I said, looking at the box they came in.
“If one or more bulbs burns [sic, I think] out, others stay lighted,” the box proudly proclaimed.
At first, I thought the lights weren’t functioning as designed, but then I read the carefully worded message again. It didn’t say how many others would stay lighted. It just said others. If I assumed that meant ALL others, well, that’s my faulty interpretation.
“Isn’t that being a little deceptive?” asked an intern in the conference room where the box was being designed.
“You’re fired. Which means half of you are fired,” the boss said, dividing the room with his arm and pointing toward the door.
My dad can fix anything. He’s spent a great deal of his life with his head under cupboards, inside engines and between floor joists, swearing at things until they worked again.
“How do you fix a strand of Christmas lights?” I asked him over the phone.
“Easy. Throw it out and buy a new one,” he said.
Several years ago, I wrote that if the universe were a just place, when an overhead light bulb burned out in the factory where they manufacture Christmas lights, the entire factory would go dark until they figured out which bulb it was. I’d like to amend that now to say they should just burn down the factory.
In any event, we’re ready for Christmas around here. Our lights are now strung, and our children, though amped up, remain at the proper voltage. No thanks to our outlet covers.
You can get half-lit with Mike Todd at email@example.com.