Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

It has become a bit of a tradition here to write a column about my adventures hanging Christmas decorations.

I had no intention of continuing that tradition. But when I sat down at the computer, nothing else came to mind. So on with Tradition.

Maria and I are spending our 19th Christmas together at our north Long Beach home. The sycamore in the front yard was huge when I bought the place, but I could reach the first few branches.

Not so much these days — the 16-foot extension ladder barely makes it to the first crook of the tree. So decorating involves a little stretching and a lot of stuff around the 3-foot-in-diameter trunk.

It should come as no surprise that Maria is the one behind the design in this endeavor, and I'm the executor (I like that title better than labor). This year, she managed to come up with an entirely new design without buying a single new ornament or yard decoration. I was impressed.

Of course, new designs require a bit of trial and error. That means more than a few trips up and down that ladder, or the 6-foot painter's ladder. How many extra trips? Just ask my thighs.

I will say that the new design doesn't go nearly as high on the sycamore as last year. I'd like to think that was purely a matter of design, but I suspect it was a concession to my advancing age and increasing rigidity.

It also seems to take more time for each trip up and down that ladder. All I know is our live-in grandson Erik actually came out to help and we still were out there well after dark.

But when I came home the next evening and saw the complete, lighted effect, I have to admit I was impressed. There was a smiley face on one bush, presents scattered around the outdoor room, a tree that looks more Christmasy than any other sycamore in the city and just generally a sense of Christmas fun.

We have avoided the elaborate statues of reindeer and the like, and Maria is philosophically opposed to the blowup balloon figures — although she admits that the Minion in the Christmas hat is pretty darned cute. We've done it our way.

I'm pleased to say that others in our neighborhood do much the same — each a different style, different elements and a different feel. That's what makes decorating houses for Christmas so much fun.

It's my impression that there are more houses with at least some decoration this year. Even better, there definitely are more colored lights out there.

The reliance on white lights for Christmas was a shock when I came to California. I guess it was meant to be cool, hip or something. Maybe it's because we had snow in Colorado and wanted the contrast of color, but all white lights didn't seem all that Christmasy to me.

I've since come to appreciate the tasteful use of white lights in decoration. But those blue, yellow and red Christmas bulbs still touch the little Christmas heart that I do have inside.

We'll enjoy the lights for the next few weeks, and I have no doubt my thighs will recover before we get to the real reason for Christmas — that little matter of a child's birth.

’Tis the season. Enjoy.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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