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Advertise on the Tentacle

December 22, 2010

Joy to the World

Norman M. Covert

(BULLETIN: Weather forecast for Frederick and vicinity December 24-25, mostly cloudy, 25 degrees, chance of snow showers; Weather forecast for Bethlehem, Judea, clear, starry skies, 70 degrees.)


The excitement of Christmas has the grandson agog, full of hope that Santa Claus’ imminent visit Friday night will yield a bounty for everyone, especially him. He also wants lights, lots of them, to herald the big “Eve.” Age and infirmity haven’t dimmed my anticipation of Christmas, but stringing lights has always been an adventure.


I rejoice in the beautiful displays of lights made possible along Market Street by private donations and neighbors willing to share electricity. We were awed by the array of homes opened for visitors on West College Terrace and vicinity during the Candlelight House Tour.


There, too, is the spectacular view along US Route 15N brought about by the (Denny) Crum family’s effort to surround driving lanes on their farm with colorfully lighted images of every variety (continuing through Sunday). That took time, energy and a good electrician.


All of the above is great, but for the grandson, it’s “Miss Kitty’s Bush” that needs illumination. It is a Japanese maple in the front yard, where the late domestic short hair ran to safety on more than one occasion. The street light is insufficient for the season, and darkness doesn’t get it! The bush then is the logical choice for strings of lights.


It is imperative, the young one opines, that with the neighbors creating such nice displays each year, we must not be Scrooges, sitting in darkness. He begins plotting and prodding virtually as we are cleaning up from the Thanksgiving feast when the neighbors hit the light switch.


Grandson took things into his own hands recently when granddad hesitated, heeding indisposition caused by the Global Warming phenomenon known as extremely cold temperatures. He espied the box containing strings of lights, intertwined from last year’s stowage, which emerged from the basement with the Christmas Lionel Train layout.


He set about putting up the lights in tangled bunches along the porch reaching to Miss Kitty’s Bush, hooking each set in series, and plugging the last cord into the outlet inside the front door. It made no difference that the door wouldn’t shut as he proudly rousted granddad to give an approving word.


His success – every light was going in the tangled weave, stretched and pulled from Point A to Point B, caught the Old Man off guard. We agreed to help out and untangle the lights. Suffice it to say that when untangled and properly strung in granddad’s manner, less than half the lights worked when plugged into the porch outlet – the front door would shut, however.


He was happy that Miss Kitty’s Bush had lights on it, however abbreviated and inconsistent the number.


It reminded granddad of a time more than 60 years ago. We would finally bring home a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, not an unusual sight in that neighborhood hard by the C&O Railroad’s Newport News Maritime Terminal.


In those “olden days” many observed the tradition of erecting the tree on Christmas Eve, anticipating that Santa Clause would decorate it – but it was dad who had to sort out the strings of lights. He was an electrician, among his many skills, and he was sorely tested to get the lights working each year. It was the annual rite of passage for Christmas Eve.


There were no miniature bulbs then, they were large, the wires seemed Edisonian, and it seemed there was always electrical tape wrapped around the plug. The lights worked in series, that is, if one bulb was out, all of them were out. It was a time consuming task to find the offending bulb. The replacement may have had to be found on more trial and error, realizing the backup bulbs contained many which had died over the past year.


The electrician here counseled that each string in the modern version of lights had fuses in them, which would explain a technique to fix them, if you could find the bulb that was the fuse. In addition, she noted that it was possible that half the set could be working and not the others – that explained it but didn’t help.


Alas, with only the granddaughter to advise, one more attempt was made to fix Miss Kitty’s Bush. An offending string was located after several circuits around the bush and replaced with a new one. The wonder of Christmas emerged triumphant for the Old Man and when grandson sees it, we hope he approves.


Dad may be looking down at his son, wondering how he got the other half of one string to suddenly light up 10 minutes after the replacement effort. Who knows? Divine intervention? But it works? Miss Kitty would be happy, too, were she around to bat at the glowing bulbs. Tours are available at no cost.


“16: The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light,

And to those were sitting in the land and shadow of death,

Upon them a light dawned.” – Matthew 4:16, New American Standard.


Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a joyous time for all who celebrate this wonderful season.


Let there be Peace on Earth.


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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