By Jeff Gilliland
This column marks a milestone of sorts. It’s my 200th in this most recent series. What that means I don’t really know, except that I have more gray hair than when it started and maybe I should update that mugshot.
But that’s enough of that because that’s not what’s on my mind right now. What’s on my mind is Christmas and all the things I need to get done between now and then.
I like Christmas a lot, but when it comes to preparing for it, I’m a procrastinator. My mom starts shopping for next Christmas sometime around February. I might start this weekend. Maybe.
It’s not that I’m a Scrooge. I really do like Christmas. It’s just that the older I get, the less motivation I seem to have to fight the crowds. Or, maybe it’s really because I’m less inclined to crawl out of the recliner when there’s plenty of great football to watch.
Actually, though, I’m much better than I used to be – when it comes to Christmas shopping.
One year I put it off and put it off until about a week was left before the big day. No problem, I thought, I’ve still got six or seven days. Then a couple days later I got sick. Really sick. So, there I was on Christmas Eve, still feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, with my dad driving me around Hillsboro to see what I could find for my wife.
Let’s just say I’ve had better Christmases.
When my sons got to school age, we started a little shopping tradition. It wasn’t possible every year, and sometimes it was with just one of them, but when we could, I’d take a day off from work, they’d skip school for the day, and we’d go Christmas shopping. We had some pretty memorable moments, like shopping for lingerie with a 7 year old (I told him it was joke), or the time I wasn’t feeling so well again and had to run for the bathroom every once in a while.
Our last excursion was just a couple years ago. Three to be exact, I think. We went to Dayton, got some pretty good stuff after a slow start, then ended the day by meeting my sister and her daughter for dinner. It was a good day.
But now, one son is in Illinois and one is in Kentucky, so I guess I’ll have to start a new tradition. Or maybe I could revive an old one.
In my younger years, I decorated our house pretty good most Christmases with big, bright, colored lights strung around the outline of our two-story homes, up to the peak of the roof. In our former house, I didn’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the peak, so I had to have help when I reached that point.
In other words, someone had to crawl across a few levels of roof and out to the peak, then someone in front of the house had to climb the ladder. Only before they started up the ladder they had to grab a leaf rake, attach a string of lights to the wide end of the rake, climb as far up the ladder as they could, then reach the rake up to whoever was on the roof.
Since my wife is only 5 feet tall, she had to climb that ladder pretty high. And she doesn’t like ladders. But she likes the peak of roofs less, so since the boys were still pretty young, she usually got ladder duty.
I was not always good at taking my lights down in a timely manner. Besides, once I get them up, I like to leave them there until at least New Year’s. One year, though, I procrastinated too long. Then we got a lot of ice and snow. Then I procrastinated a little more.
So, one night in mid to late March, I was coming home with the family from somewhere, and a block or so away, I saw an unusual glow in the sky. When we turned the corner, I saw that my Christmas lights were shining so bright it looked like I’d laid out a landing pad for Santa and his reindeer.
I was not happy. I was more than a little embarrassed. And I wanted to know right away what jerk had snuck into my house, while I was not home, and plugged my Christmas lights in – in stinking mid to late March.
It turned out to be my brother-in-law, so maybe jerk is a harsh word, but when I saw those lights glowing bright three months after Christmas, I’m pretty certain I was thinking words a little more descriptive than jerk.
A few minutes later – after I’d unplugged the lights – it seemed pretty funny, and it was probably the best prank anyone has ever pulled on me. But we swore revenge, and my wife and one of her sisters got it. But I’m not sure I ever did. So if you want to find out how they got even, just ask Ralph Vance.
Merry Christmas, Ralphie.
Jeff Gilliland is the assistant editor of The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro. Reach him at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.