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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

TLC Blog – Tennis and Light (Part 3 of 3)

I have a confession to make.

I am Clark Griswold.

Yes, that Clark Griswold.

Your neighbor who puts up so many holiday lights, the entire neighborhood suffers a brownout each evening at 4:30 when the sun goes down and the lights go on.

The neighbor whose house guides airplanes home through the thickest fog, and guides Santa’s sleigh to a safe landing when even Rudolph’s nose won’t cut it.

The neighbor to whom some call out, “Nice lights, Griswold!” as they pass by, while others harbor secret, dark thoughts in their hearts as they avoid eye contact.

The neighbor who single-handedly makes sunglasses sales soar at a time of year that mystifies retailers, causing them to scratch their heads and wonder who buys sunglasses on the darkest nights of the year?

The neighbor who believes he is doing a service for others by reducing their electric bill, because for one month a year, those who live within a block radius need not turn on indoor lights, they only need to open their shades and let the light in.

That neighbor.

Each year, the night after Thanksgiving, because there are rules even for a Griswold (NO CHRISTMAS LIGHTS BEFORE THANKSGIVING, PEOPLE!), at our house we have the Ceremonial Lighting of the Lights. Leandra and Madeline must drop whatever they are doing, go out across the street, and wait. I give them a minute, just to make sure they are positioned for the grand reveal. Madeline, since she has been little (she is now 19) is bundled up and “ready Ready READY!” Leandra is harboring secret, dark thoughts of our electric bill in her heart while smiling through gritted teeth. (Let’s just say she is not a fan the way Madeline is).

I do an internal countdown, then flip the switch and hope I don’t blow the circuit breaker. I emerge from my basement triumphant, to applause and cheers from the two people I love most in life. That part is required. We admire it together. I say things like, “Hmmm, do you think that tree over there should have another string of lights?” and question my design. Madeline gives helpful feedback as I ruminate. Leandra says, “No, no, they’re perfect, can we go inside now?”

We eventually go inside, and I congratulate myself on a job well done, but continue to ask questions of the two of them all night, on how they might be better. Madeline engages. Leandra says, “Neal, they are lights. They are fine.” Having been together for 38 years and loving her like no other human being, I choose to ignore her tone of voice.

But I got my vindication a number of years ago. One that will keep me putting up lights forever.

One holiday season, a car would show up in the dark at our house each morning. And just sit there for about fifteen minutes. It became a little unnerving. A stalker? Someone casing the joint?

Because I am a curious person, after a couple weeks of this, I emerged from the house and cautiously approached the car. As I got close, the window rolled down. Inside was a woman. I wished her a happy morning.

She said, “You are probably wondering why I park outside your house each morning.” I said the thought had occurred to me.

She said, “Your house helps me.”

“Huh?”, I replied.

“I stop by each morning because I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and your lights brighten my mood. They make me happy, so I sit here for fifteen minutes before work each day, and they lift me in the darkest time of the year.”

Oh, the power of my lights. I don’t think even Clark Griswold cured SAD!

I went back inside and announced to Leandra, “More lights next year!!!”

She went out and bought sunglasses.

Merry Christmas from TLC to all of you who celebrate this light filled day. May your days be merry and bright. And when they are not, may your own Griswolds bring light, and your friends, and family, and Santa, and that baby, who came not to be served, but to serve others. Therein, in every religion around the world, lies the light.


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