gracielou

gracielou
Location
Georgia, USA
Birthday
December 29
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"Spirit ... Read more of life, watch all our children. Keep them safe as they adventure toward adulthood, and let them turn and wave to us as they step out of our care and into the world of their making." ELIZABETH TARBOX Banner created and gifted by RicTresa

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 3, 2008 11:22AM

My King of Crap

Rate: 108 Flag

Years ago, when Sweet Husband and I were newly married, we bought our first home. A big old rambling, fixer-upper, craftsman on the tree lined street in Pasadena, California where he had grown up. We busted our asses working on that place. We were a house proud couple when Christmas rolled around that year.

We decided to divvy up the holiday decorating responsibilities. I chose the interior and the front porch. Sweet Husband would hang lights on the exterior and we’d trim the tree together.

The tree went well. We put some Christmas tunes on the hi-fi and got busy. He had a small collection of ornaments from his childhood. I filled in the bare spots with some handmade things I had been working on since August. When the tree was finished and looking great we made another pot of coffee and split up.

I laid pine and magnolia branches across the wide mantle. Placed candles and holly throughout the house. Touches of red berries here and there. I hung a natural green wreath on the massive front door. Giant pots of poinsettias on the stone steps. While working I listened to the busy noise of Sweet Young Husband. He whistled a happy tune to the rhythmic beat of the staple gun up on the roof.

All finished with my part I called him down from the ladder. We stepped back on the sidewalk and soaked up the picture. The house looked just as I hoped it would. Simple. Elegant. Christmas. “It’s beautiful, Hon,” said Sweet Husband. “When it gets dark I’ll show you the lights!”

After dinner he excitedly led me out to the street, one hand over my eyes. With a “TA DAAA” he revealed his creation. Carnival in Rio. The Vegas Strip. Mardi Gras. None were as bright as that house! Before me blinked and chased thousands of red, blue, green and orange mini lights. Hundreds of strands ran back and forth across the roof top. Around windows and doors. Stars, Christmas trees, and yep, right there, front and center, a Peace sign!

I was overwhelmed. I started to feel dizzy and had to sit down on the steps. “Well, what do you think?” he asked. I shielded my eyes from the blinking barrage. I had read somewhere that flashing lights could trigger epileptic seizures, if you are prone to that sort of thing. I felt prone.

“Isn’t it great? This is so cool! It’s just as I pictured it.” He was so happy. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I felt a weird, off-center, feeling each time I glanced out from under my hand. That first Christmas I realized something important. I may own the daytime, as far as Christmas is concerned, but without a doubt, Sweet Husband owns the night.

Every year it was the same scene. Simplicity by day. The tilt-a-whirl by night. Cars lined up in front of our house. Little faces pressed against the back windows. Lots of Oooing and Ahhhing. The sidewalk filled up with families. Our neighbor across the street gave up hallucinogenic drugs.

December 26th became half-priced light day. Each year the light show, like our marriage, became a little bit bigger and more complex.

Sixteen years ago Sweet Husband and I packed up the family and left the big city. Our traditional southern home sits on a dark, narrow, two lane road outside of the suburbs. We have only one neighbor. We are surrounded on three sides by national park, forest, and field. No sidewalks. No street lights. When we first moved here I had hoped to get my way with the Christmas lights.

“Maybe this year we can just do twinkling white lights? You know, since nobody will see your work all the way out here…” I suggested.

“Oh, they’ll see it,” he said and proceeded to hang the most elaborate and garish array ever.

And see it they did. A local Atlanta rock station used to broadcast a Tacky Lights Tour Guide. Sweet Husband made the tour that first year. It was his proudest moment. I swear. Our address was on the list annually until the station changed formats.

Folks can’t park and sit and stare on our little road as they did in the city. They cruise by. And drive off the road. A lot. Sitting in our home during the holidays we  hear the ba-lump-bumps of unsuspecting drivers veering off into the ditch as they catch sight of the display. Our home. The Christmas Lights House.

One December my youngest daughter had an emergency tonsillectomy. The anesthesiologist, a pleasant young doctor, spoke with my little girl, trying to put her at ease as he hooked up the IV. He asked her where she lived and when she told him the name of our road he asked, “Which house? I drive that way to work every day.”

“You know the Christmas Lights House? That’s us,” she replied.

“No kidding!” he cried out. “I take my kids past your house every year! It’s our favorite!”

He then asked me if we‘d found his hubcap. He was sure he’d lost it in our ditch the weekend before. My daughter was delighted with the celebrity. I cringed and gave the nice doctor Sweet Husband’s phone number. The doc wanted to ask him how he ran all that power without burning the house down.

This last year has been a rough one for Sweet Husband and me. Our Year of Letting Go. The death of my mother. The two youngest children moved out within weeks of each other and left us with a very empty nest. I suffered a serious back injury. Our shrinking 401k.

Two days ago Sweet Husband drug the boxes out of the attic and, armed with a brand new staple gun, began hanging the lights for our twenty fifth Christmas together. I was busy inside and it felt nice to hear him crawling over the roof. Thunk-thunking electric strand to asphalt shingle. I was certain this yearly ritual of de-classing our home would do his spirits good.

When night fell I was called outside to view the finished product. Led out onto the walk, eyes closed per tradition, I turned around. At “TA DAAA” I opened my eyes and was stunned. I couldn’t breathe. The entire house was outlined in tiny white lights. Tastefully done. It looked like the cover of Country Home. I got dizzy and had to sit down.

“Isn’t it beautiful? It’s just how you’ve always wanted it.”

I looked at my husband. My prince among men. A little grayer this year than last. Oh, my sweet, sweet King of Christmas Crap! This year has been harder on him than I realized. Sadness overwhelmed me. He had conformed. Given in. I had beaten him down with my years of “Can’t they just twinkle?”

“They’re all white,” I said.

“I like white,” he said.

I sat there for a few minutes and soaked up the beauty. The starry night. The white light glow against the dark house.

“Can they flash and chase?” I asked finally.

Relief and joy. That’s what it looked like to me. My Sweet Husband’s face.

“You bet your ass they can! Give me some new ideas now, Hon. I’ve got seven thousand colored lights to hang tomorrow!”

Last night we sat reading peacefully by the fire. Listening to the sound of car, after car, running a wheel into the ditch out in front of our house.

 

 

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I love houses like yours at Christmas! I wish I could see it.
Love the post. You tell a great story.
Gracie, I love this story. You are one of the most fortunates...sharing such a life with a man you love, a king, and one who adores you back. This story is so wonderful and I love the ending...with the 7000 colored lights yet to come! Just warmed my heart this cold gray Colorado morning.
What a great story. I can hear people sliding off the road in anticipation of the 7000 lights to come.

Happy Holidays.
now that's christmas spirit
You are your husband sound good together. Like him, I am a big fan of tacky. Although I don't celebrate Christmas, my family does do Festivus. I leave the inside decorations up all year, but have never done outside lights. I found some solar holiday lights at Sam's Club last week and this year may be different.

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I love how you tie (or wrap for that matter) this whole narrative up, it moves along really nicely. It also made me a bit misty, can't wait to get my tree tonight.
great story G. I hope my wife feels half as strongly toward me as you do "The King". :-)

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Happy Holidays
Greg & Family
I love houses like yours and men like your husband. Oh yes - and storytellers like you.
You got the pick of the litter with your husband. you are one lucky girl. I spend a lot of time on the NASA web site. They can see your house from space. The astronauts on the space station toast your house each year. It warms their homesick hearts. It has become a tradition.

I love Christmas lights. This was so fitting a tribute to your great husband. Laughed all the way through. Call Reader's Digest. They love this stuff. Great work.
Terrific story - great writing! A very appealing use of the word "crap" that made me want to come back for more of your "crap."
Gotta admit, Gracie...I go apeshit every Christmas. Each year, our house is lit up like a Roman Candle.

This year I went easy on things. Much less lights than usual.

I've had three string fuse burn-outs this year. Never had a one before.

Go figure.
gracielou… I used this quote earlier to describe Laura & George Bush on another blog, but I feel it is appropriate here for you…

“There's a great woman behind every idiot.” By John Lennon

With all respect to your Sweet Husband, you are a saint with loving blinders!
Sweet Husband is my kind of holiday lightguy!! Funny how they always look better to me than the reactions I get from the fam! Great story!
You are such a warm and lovely writer. Congratulations on the 25 years ;0)
Gracie, that's beautiful! I laughed, cringed and got teary-eyed. Yay to the King of Crap!
All Sweet Husbands should own the night. Great story g-lou; happy holidaze!
What a great Christmas story, sort of O'Henryish. Wish you a twinkly, flashy colorful holiday with your SW and all.
This is cover story material. You rock !
That's the sweetest most endearing story I've read in a very long while. Funny as all get out, too. Thank you so much!

And on a side-note, I'm jealous of your escape from L.A.
It's stories like yours that show me --a nice Jewish girl-- there are still people who embody the true spirit of this holiday: peace, love, wonder and joy. I wish all that and more for you, SH and your whole brood... from S to S.

::THUD:: Opps, there goes my hubcap.
"without a doubt, Sweet Husband owns the night"

Yes, he does. Yes he does.

Rated, for being the sweetest and most inspiring tale of love on OS.
This will be One of my all-time favorite Christmas Stories.
Tender, and wonderful in every way.......
What a guy! And what a story! Thanks so much for sharing.
Gracie,

A great story told with perfect rhythm and timing and love. I loved it---a delight to read.
gracielou, you are a gem. My favorite love story so far. Thumbs up!
I love it! My husband seems determined to make our house look like Christmas on Elm Street. I feel like I have to modify my Christmas greeting to "Happy Holidays" just to counteract his Christmas spirit.
i love this story!!!
Ha! Terrific story. Good read and put a smile on my face, too.
Love it gracie!!! The best Christmas story I've read yet ... :) Go get 'em Griswalds!!!
I got choked up reading this. How grand is the love and connection between two people? Wonderful stuff!

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Great story Gracielou, as the overwhelmingly positive responses show. But amid the annual proliferation of outdoor Christmas lights, am I the only reader to spare a thought for our planet and its limited resources? Your husband sounds like a creative guy. Perhaps he could find an innovative way to reducing your carbon footprint next year...
Jeeze you guys...your response is wonderful. Really. I just got back to OS and all of your wonderful comments. Gotta say Sweet Husband is laughing his butt off right now! I read him the post and your reactions. I think , well I know, he's blushing.

I'm off to make dinner right now and can't re-comment to each and every one of you..but SH loves the idea Michael of the astronauts on the space station seeing his lights!

Thanks everyone for stopping by! Peace and love to you all.
I enjoyed this so much I even read it out loud to my Sweet Husband. Thanks for the Christmas gift.
Jean: Just saw your comment and you're right about the energy issue. The King of Crap is also the King of Re-cycling, the King of Reduse, Reuse, etc...He does feel weird about the lights. We only keep them on from 6PM until 8PM except on Friday and Saturday nights when they stay on until 9PM. We discussed not doing the lights this year but decided to go ahead. Sadly, this is probably our last year. Thanks for the input.
Excellent, well written, perfect story! So glad it's true!
I forget that happiness abounds in the midst of crisis. It is so funny to me that anyone can get caught up in "frivolous" activity and it ends up not being the least bit frivolous. You cannot really explain love and beauty, you have to live it.
Great story. Got to love the King! (and the lights!) :)
Great story! Thanks so much for sharing it!
And why is it that kids always end of in the emergency room, or the toilet backs up or the disposal breaks, during major holidays?! And the Christmas lights that all worked fine, were properly stored away and then only half the string works when you take them out the next time. Your Christmas story presents a colorful visual and a wonderful family of love dynamic.
:) pictures!!! we want pictures full of tacky glory
What a great snapshot of a vibrant marriage. I say vibrant because you know something is alive when it lives and breathes and has moods like a person.
I read this twice. What more can I say?
Thanks again to all of you who commented. I feel so lucky to have OS and all of you. For the times when I just feel the need to throw my stuff "out there". I'm new here. A new writer. A new blogger. And a new believer in the goodness of folks I've never met. You give me hope.
I wrote this post mainly as a celebration of my love for Sweet Husband but also because of the numerous turning points in our life together. I mentioned above that this will be SH's last light show. It's too much work. Too much energy comsumed. We no longer have an endless supply of teenagers around to help with the up and down of the "display". And, unless we win the lottery, won't be able to afford those solar panels to offset the "carbon footprint".
So here's to you all. What ever you celebrate do it with loved ones!
This is the True Spirit of Christmas -- delight in making something lovely, light in the darkest part of the year, and driving into ditches when overcome by wonder.

I can totally understand the cutting back (especially the loss of teenagers to climb up and help), but it's still sad. But remember: you can still be tacky on a small scale! Maybe just some chasing lights around the door......
Totally double dipping with the comments here, but I had to tell you that last night I came home to a wonderfully decorated home with my girl and dogs all nestled cozy next to the fire and I had to tell her your story. She absolutely loved it. She said it was one of the sweetest things she'd ever heard. You need to send this in to a magazine or a christmas compilation. It really is just perfect.
Gracie, I just LOVED this! My family doesn't decorate outside much, my neighbor pretty much takes over the exterior display (with my blessings - too much work). But I can sure appreciate your King. Let me know if you guys ever move to Vermont. :-D

Thumbed.
luvit. thanks for making me smile!
You make me say "HA!" a lot.
Such a wonderful story, Gracie. I'm the little white lights type, one of the snobs who make fun of displays like your Sweet Husband's, but I will rethink that from now on. It's never too late to grab some more tolerance.

BTW, we live on the end of a dirt road and haven't done the outside since we moved here. It's a little lonely (but the tree always looks nice because I do it ;-)).
My now ex wife wouldn't even pick up a paintbrush...

smile...
Liz said it. Vibrant story, vibrant relationship. Sweet Husband knows which buttons to push, and clearly is attuned to his precious Gracielou.
Great story!!! I wish I had a SH that would tacky up our house at Christmas.
Truly a holiday classic!

Thanks, Gracielou. Very well done.
Great story... post some pics please.
A absolutely perfect story.

Merry Christmas.
Gracie...don't wanna bust your balloon...

...but I've already had at least four "last years" for all this crap.

When the season rolls around...its tough to break old habits.
Just Goddamned Excellent.
Whooo-oh
Front cover :D go GracieLou!!
Oh...sweet husband is so happy. Thanks to everyone who read and commented. I love my guy. I do love the lights. And all of my friends on OS. There are so many wonderful love stories here. By so many writers. Today and everyday I log on.
sweet husband ....sweetest love story....love and light
Lovely story. My year too has involved some letting go. I'm still not quite there, but am thinking that maybe some fairy lights might do the trick.....
perfect. in every way.

but, especially, as I sit here finishing up the holiday cards & listening to classic & country Christmas music (Toby Keith & Elvis, Nat & Bing, etc.)

I just love the whole Danny & Sandy ending, too!! Sweet Husband is indeed very sweet. And, you, dear gracie, for smiling & nodding & knowing what's important in life.
This story is utterly adorable. I love it. So kawaii
Can you post some pics on here of your house? That would be really cool. You got yourself a gem there! Merry Christmas!
Gracielou,

Great story read by a hopless romantic...love the romance in your sweet life!...makes me laugh, picturing the lost hub caps and the "thunks".....thank you for sharing.

Love and paz to you.
Great stories. I too love houses like this and I always wonder who would go to so much trouble. Now, I know. Folks with big hearts and imagination. You're lucky to have such a sweet husband. But those of us who get to marvel are the real winners. Keep up the good work, sweet hubby.

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Oh that was beautiful! Brought tears to my eyes.
Fabulous and hilarious - both the story, and the telling. I think holiday tacky and tasteful go together like cranberries and stuffing. You must have both. I'm donating all of my spare carbon footprint to you this Christmas. That ought to cover a couple of evenings, at least.
This was awesome. I won't be surprised if it shows up in Best America Nonrequired Reading under the heading, "Best romantic blog post about Christmas decor."

I'm forwarding the link to my wife. She'll love it, too :)
Beautiful,

It is always refreshing to see a married couple in love. It means that they are enjoying real life, not living a lie. It also makes me happy because it hurts the sales of Prozak.

I am happy for you.
Late getting here, but glad I finally did. I smiled the entire time it took to read your story. And I think your husband definitely deserves the endearing alias you have given him. And you should feel proud for allowing him to endulge in his passion.
Beautiful, beautiful story kissed with love. You tell a splendid tale! Thank you .
What would Christmas be without all the twinkling lights, whether in the sky or on the houses and lawns? Stars come in all colors, not just white. I'd love to see a close up of your personal little galaxy.
I have been struggling to get into the holiday spirit and your post really helped me feel a little more christmas-y (ok, that's not a real word, but it's what I would say). This is such a lovely post. Thanks!
And to think, all this fame over a house none of us have seen!. I have to see said house oneday, I would love to soak up the histeria and the history.
Gracie you nailed this so hard I heard it from Seattle. What a perfect gem of a tale.
Clark Griswold (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) had nothing on your sweet husband. And O'Henry, as someone pointed out earlier, had nothing on you.
Merry Chistmas and bless you for this story.
This is the sweetest story ever. You are so good.
this is great. the relationship, the kindness, the recognition that we are all individuals... and the acceptance and desire for each of us to be just who we are.

and my brother does this to his house -- he has extra electrical outlets in his front yard and all i can think is i'm glad i live in a city and don't have to do any of this! heheh.

paula
Sweet Husband is a gem! I have an SW, too, but now I feel so guilty about how I "managed" his light show all these years. Next year, I will let go. I will let him hang the lights however he wishes.
This is a great Christmas story, but also a great illustration of what a marriage that lasts 25 years looks like. Happy New Year!
What a wonderful post. I second others that you should send this out for publication.
You go, Gracie! I loved it the first time and I love it now.
Sweet story. Really a story of love and devotion and how we tolerate differences in our mates. I wish I was as easy-going as you! I tend to be the just-so Christmas Nazi.

Great writing.
I missed this post the first time -- how very beautiful. Thank you for sharing, I am all teary-eyed at the give and take of your relationship. Happy New Year!