My mama is spinning in her grave like a chicken on a spit, and Martha Stewart is clutching her chest, moaning, “This could be the Big One!”
Before I launch into this story, I should preface it with this: there is no “right” color of Christmas lights. I know that, in my head at least.
However, in the South, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, and that’s how it was at our house when I was growing up. My mother, may she rest in peace, had dozens upon dozens of “rules” that she applied to life. I had no idea just how many rules she had (and that she had inculcated in me) until I got married to a perfectly nice perfect stranger to my family’s ways and traditions.
Some examples? Sheets aren’t on a bed properly unless you have neat little hospital corners. A present isn’t properly wrapped unless you can’t detect a smidge of tape (that one alone nearly sent me to therapy.) Don’t use the same utensil in the jelly jar that you just used in the peanut butter jar. Don’t get crumbs in the jelly. Never wear plaids and stripes at the same time.
There are also strict rules about which way the toilet paper goes on the roll, and how you fold a napkin, as well as a whole canon on the proper way to handle thank you notes. But if you think those were a lot of rules to learn, Christmas outstripped them all. Yep, you could fill an entire set of encyclopedias just on Mama’s Rules About Christmas.
The one absolute immutable law, though, dealt with lights. Christmas lights were to be dainty and small and, well, white. Preferably NOT blinking, but she could take the blinking as long as they were white.
The way she taught this law was simple. From the earliest age I can remember, if I ever admired multi-colored lights as we were driving by someone’s Griswoldville, she’d tutt her tongue and hiss, “Looks just like a jook-joint.”
For those of you not from my neck of the woods, a jook-joint is slang for beer joint, and the worst sort, the kind that the bartender might have to break up three fights in one evening alone.
Fast forward to now. The Kiddo and The Husband had long planned to string Christmas lights along our front fence. It never occurred to me to tell them to get white lights. I just sort of, er, assumed that they knew that. I mean, The Husband has been married to me for how many years? Yes, 20. And never a colored light has been lit on our hill.
But what do we have on our fence? Rainbow hues of lights. Brilliant, garish lights – that, gasp, blink. Yes, my Mama is spinning in her grave. But she was a mama, too, so here’s hoping she can understand that I had nothing to do with it.