Lights to live by

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

If it weren’t for the neighbors across the street, our electric bill for the month of December would be even more astronomical.

Each of the couple of Christmases we’ve been in our house — not in Suffolk, but close — they’ve gone to great lengths to decorate their front yard so that night becomes day.

One morning last month, I left for work when they were just getting started.

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Reels of Christmas lights, piles of extension cords, a fully-decked nativity scene, hay bales, Santa with surfboards, faux Fraser fir, a jolly snowman or four, lawn deer in various states of repose, glittering stars — and the list goes on — were all lined up across the driveway awaiting deployment.

Turning into our street nine or 10 hours later, I saw all the colors of the rainbow lighting up the joint like Times Square.

Downstairs, where our blinds need replacing, it lights up our home, too, almost negating the need to ever have to flick a light switch.

That may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture.

Meanwhile, whether for religious reasons or simply because they’re worn out and have nothing left to give by December, another house around the corner goes all out for Halloween and Thanksgiving, but not so much with Christmas.

We’re talking cobwebs and skeletons hanging from every drainpipe and tree, more hideous gourds than you can poke a stick at, and a huge inflatable black cat that slowly turns its head side to side, scaring our dog when we walk past, until the straining guy ropes fail and it topples over.

A couple of weeks later, the black cat morphs into a turkey for Thanksgiving, and the cobwebs and skeletons are phased out for hay bales and scarecrows. But the gourds remain.

Both neighbors, I must say, diligently pack away their decorations when the time grows unripe. However, the same cannot be said for several other houses in surrounding streets, whose owners hedge their perennial holiday decorations with a bit of everything — Christmas lights, turkeys, pumpkins, cobwebs.

Can you blame them for wanting to keep the holidays alive through the doldrums of the rest of the year?

A question is posed for homeowners such as myself, who do not go in for holiday decorations at all: How does one go from holiday-decorations Scrooge to Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?

The transition is probably an incremental one, anchored in the timelessness of suburban life.

One year, you enmesh the mailbox in a single string of lights. Time inches forward, children’s birthdays come and go, and soon your neighbor is bedazzled like a deer in headlights and your third-of-an-acre slice of America shows up in satellite images.