Our new neighbor’s name, Edison Thomas, was the first clue. He was quick to share how his parents named him after the inventor and how prophetic it was.
“The first word I said as a child was ‘yight’”, he told us. That was the second clue.
The third clue came when the Indiana & Michigan Power Company truck appeared at his house in mid-October doing some major installation work. We didn’t want to pry and, actually, we didn’t have to as Edison proudly announced his plans to put up a “few” Christmas lights. We had always enjoyed a few Christmas lights, so we thought his would be a nice addition to the neighborhood.
“I love Christmas lights”, Edison said. “Always have, ever since I saw my first C-6’s as a child. I loved changing bulbs and checking strings for burnouts. My daddy said I could smell a bad bulb a mile away. I still have a couple of cloth-covered strings of eight that I put on the dining room table. I drilled a special hole in the middle and put an outlet in the floor, so Christmas dinner is truly ‘radiant’. I still have a few bubble lights, too. Can’t wait ‘til Halloween’s over, so I can ‘light up my life’. Yours, too,” he chuckled. The clues were mounting.
David’s Landscaping arrived and planted several more evergreens and firs in Edison’s yard. Soon, Edison was busy moving ladders and cords and plugs and setting up silhouetted creatures and figures all over his lawn. We didn’t need any more clues. We knew. “The Light Before Christmas” was coming and would soon illuminate objects in Edison’s yard - and ours - from the top of the porch to the top of the wall. And, we couldn’t just dash away. Besides, we were intrigued. Each evening when darkness fell, we stood wide-eyed, peeking through the shutters at Edison’s yard, our shallow breathing professing a mixture of eager anticipation and dread.
On November 2nd, we were startled from our spying by the telephone.
“Edison – it’s you! Uh, no, I’m just a little out of breath from exercising. Sure, we’ll look out the window. O.K., we’ll countdown with you. . .five, four, three, two, one!”
The explosion of light we saw next was unbelievable. We’d witnessed fireworks at Niagara and the lighting of Rockefeller Center at Christmas, but neither held a candle to Edison’s display. My wife ran to get her sunglasses, while I went to get the fire extinguisher, just in case.
“Whaddya think?” Edison’s voice sparkled in my ear. “Ever seen anything like it?”
“Edison, I can truly say I never have.”
“Well, enjoy it, neighbor, I’ll only be giving this show every night through Christmas.”
I had always wondered what it would be like to live in Alaska or anywhere far enough north where you had to learn to sleep during daylight. Edison gave us a simulated opportunity. When word got around about his “Light Spectacular”, the drive-bys began. Bumper-to-bumper traffic lined the roadway each night; Edison was so elated, he kept leaving the lights on later and later.
Greater than life-size outlines of Frosty, Santa, the Nativity, reindeer, toy soldiers, angels and gift boxes glittered and flashed; trees, shrubs, chimney, roof, windows and even the porch swing sparkled. A huge fiber-optic sleigh ebbed and flowed with color. “Oohs” and “aahs” wafted from open car windows and drivers honked their horns in approval. Edison was ecstatic; we were mostly groggy.
“Lord,” I prayed, “thank you for dormant grass in winter and for snow cover.” My wife thought my prayer silly until she realized, too, that tall, growing blades could be light-holding possibilities.
Finally, after a dark and good night’s sleep on New Year’s Eve, we took sticky buns to Edison to wish him Happy New Year. He greeted us with a Christmas light catalog in hand.
“I’m ordering some lights for next year – look at this – it’s called ‘Dazzling Lawn Blanket’. Can’t you just see it? It will be like having a light on every blade of grass.”
So much for silly prayers. I called my earthly father as soon as we were back home.
“That’s right, Dad, we want to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with you next year. No, paying for plane tickets will be no problem. I just bought several shares of Indiana & Michigan Power and I’m expecting some great dividends, thanks to Edison Thomas. No, dad. You heard it right, but I think there is a light connection.”
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