It never seems to fail. Every year, I toss out a strand of lights. A few bulbs go out and so half a string of lights are left in the dark and these days it’s cheaper to just go buy another box of lights, then to waste my time trying to find that one bulb that’s ruined it for all the other lights. I don’t have the patience for it, first off, and second, I’d rather be writing about a guy fighting a strand of Christmas lights than actually doing it myself.
My dad would have done it. He would spend hours switching bulbs around until he found the culprit that was delaying his holiday decorating. His sense of satisfaction at having succeeded would glow brighter than the lights themselves. Not me. I wad them up, toss them in the trash, and send Zac to go buy another box. I know some of you are saying it’s a waste of money, but it’s my money to waste, so stay out of it. Besides, these are just lights and I’m not attached to them. Therefore, I don’t hesitate; I just toss.
As I said, though, those were just lights. I bought them as we needed them and none are that old, less than a decade, to be honest, because no one makes quality Christmas lights anymore. That’s probably why they are so cheap. The lights weren’t handed down to me as some family heirloom. They’re just department store lights. No big deal.
Other decorations, however, are another story. These are filled with emotion and sentiment; memories. These you do your best to hold onto. At least, I do.
Certain aromas can carry us back in time. Songs tend to have that same power. So do decorations. We pull it out of the box knowing that it’s already broken, and the minute our eyes land on it, we are transported back in time to other memories that bring a smile to our face and a tear to our eye. We see the people associated with that particular ornament or decoration. We hear their voices, feel their touch, see their smile, and our hearts are heavy with the memory and the loss. For a moment, they are with us again.
It is for that reason we hold onto them, even though they may never get displayed again or hang from a Christmas tree. We have a box among our decorations for that very reason. Inside can be found a broken Santa, a faded snowman candy dispenser, and a toy Santa that at one time walked after being wound up. Ancient and broken, they’re out of place with the newer, more modern decorations. Yet, they are much too valuable to throw away, for they connect us still to grandparents and parents who have passed on. They also remind us of our children when they were younger and still had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. The hardened macaroni may be falling off, but it still looks brand new to a parent with nostalgic eyes. We can even hear the prepubescent “Look, Mom and Dad! I made it all by myself.” Once again our cheeks puff up with a smile of pride as we hold it up and inspect it all anew.
While these decorations may be kaput, they are sometimes the glue that holds the Christmas memories together. While our children may toss them once we have passed from this earth as mere broken relics of a bygone day they never knew, we will continue to pull them out every year, hold them for a few moments as their magic carries us back in time to visit family that we can no longer visit. This is our memory chest, and we hold it close every year. The decorations are broken and faded, but the faces they bring to mind are fixed just as they were when we last laid eyes on them in our own aging minds. While newer decorations may be pricey, the broken ones of years past are priceless.
* * * * *