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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004


Time to brave the ladder

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By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

None of the tools I own frightens my family as much as my ladder, especially with Christmas coming.

Christmas means outdoor lights and outdoor lights mean Dad is going to climb onto the roof.

If they were religious, they would cross themselves. This is the time of year where obsession and dread intersect.

He's going to fall again, The Little Darlings will say. Does Mom know he's going up there?

For the record, I have never fallen off my roof while hanging Christmas lights. I fell off the roof during a spring painting project.

I'd slipped just when I was about to stand up, thumped my chin on the edge of the roof, spun around and crashed onto the concrete deck 10 feet below. My leg went through a fiberboard wall, and I landed on my elbow. It broke.

Everyone said I was lucky, and trust me, I knew. Somehow I escaped with only a few scars and a kink in my arm.

And a fear of my roof.

Three years after the fact I still get the heebie-jeebies when it's time to get on the roof. But it isn't an issue until the holidays.

I make Mrs. G. secure the ladder and up I go, teeth clenched, knuckles white.

Once on the roof, I'll think how nice it would be to have handles on the edge like the kind you see on swimming pools and fire escapes.

Of course, I'll have to climb down.

Why I do this is simple. Christmas lights have a stronger hold on me than gravity. They are a siren from the roof that I can't resist.

Like a lot of guys, I view my home as a canvas to be painted with blinking, glowing, multicolored light strings.

We create fanciful scenes of fake snow, we dangle icicle lights, we shell out the big bucks for motorized reindeer and this year we can display huge inflatable snowmen.

More is always better. If your home can been seen from space, that's a definite plus.

It's no secret my neighbors will judge me by my lights, although the harshest critics will be other light-obsessed-men like myself.

The reasons behind this obsession are never easy to explain. Luckily, no one ever wants to know, certainly not The Little Darlings.

They like the lights more than they like the ladder.

I like to think the lights connect me with my own childhood. My father never put up lights but our family enjoyed seeing them on other homes.

Or maybe I'm driven by the look on the faces of my children at Christmas.

So, the look that lit a thousand bulbs will guide me up the ladder once again. Mrs. G. will brace for impact.

And The Little Darlings will have no clue to the drama unfolding above.

Good thing for them, they won't be able to see the look on my face.

Good thing for me, too.

Reach Mike Gordon at 525-8012 or mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com.