Decorating for Christmas has always been a highlight of the year for me. When I was young and still living in my parents’ house, I pleaded to get the decorations out as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over.

Every time a “Christmas” box was pulled down from the attic, my eyes lit up. There’s just something about Christmas—especially the lights—that brightened my spirits on the gloomy days of winter when it gets dark so early.

My sweet, eleven-year-old son, Colton, knew how much I liked decorating for Christmas. One year, we got all the Christmas boxes out with the intention of putting up the lights and decorations a little at a time each night after I came home from work. But Colton wanted to surprise me, so he did it himself.

He couldn’t wait to show me how he carefully wound the white lights around each baluster and each railing on the deck of our second floor apartment. He was so proud of himself! I gave him a big hug and told him how much help he was to me.

After dinner, we decided to go out on the deck and enjoy his special holiday decoration surprise. He wanted me to sit on the chair while he plugged in the deck lights. When he did, they were so bright I thought I was on a television stage. He had not strung one set of lights… but four. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him I thought there might be too many lights. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

I continued to give him kudos about what a good job he had done. We sat outside basking in the overwhelming glow of all those white lights. When we decided to head inside for the night, he begged me to leave the lights on.

This routine went on for a couple more nights until one night there was a knock on the door. I looked through the peephole and there stood the apartment maintenance man. He politely told me that the people on the deck next to ours were complaining about all the light. This was not because they were Scrooges, according to the maintenance man, but rather because our lights were so incredibly bright that they were keeping the poor couple awake at night even with their blinds closed!

After he left, I drove around to the loading dock of the Home Depot behind our apartment complex to check out our lights from that distance. There happened to be workers unloading a truck at the time. I pulled up, got out of the car and looked back toward our apartment. I mentioned to the workers that the enormous glow in the distance was from my apartment and they told me they had wondered what was going on over there. There were other Christmas lights in our complex but none as bright as ours. They joked that there was maybe a Hollywood movie crew shooting a sequel to Christmas Vacation.

I spent the short drive back deciding how to explain to my son that we would have to remove some of the lights. Not wanting him to feel bad, I gently explained that we did not want to “outshine” our neighbors. That evening, we took photos of what a magnificent job he had done decorating the deck for Christmas, after which I helped him remove several strands of lights.

Last year Colton sent me a photo of how he had decorated the sidewalk up to the apartment he now shares with his wife. He had penguin and candy cane lights along the walkway, five inflatables on the small grassy area, a wreath on the door and miniature white lights framing his doorway. I guess he never really forgot how good it feels to decorate for the holidays. And even though it’s been twenty-three years since my genuinely sweet son went delightfully overboard in creating his Christmas surprise for me, I’ll never forget the year that he put us on center stage in the “Hollywood Lights.”

~ AimeeAnn Blythe

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