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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: Christmas lights are another reminder of dim 2020

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 29, 2020

Julia Ditto’s Christmas lights fell victim to 2020 shortly after being put up this month.  (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
Julia Ditto’s Christmas lights fell victim to 2020 shortly after being put up this month. (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I’ve noticed that, in this dumpster fire of a year, people have been putting up their Christmas lights a lot earlier than usual. We could all use some extra cheer, right? And while I am definitely impressed with everyone’s get-up-and-go, all I can say is: The Dittos have you all beat.

We’ve had our Christmas lights up since forever because we never took them down from last year. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Does it make me feel like an incompetent human who is failing at being an adult? Definitely. Have I cared enough to do anything about it? Absolutely not.

Last year, getting the Christmas lights up was a struggle. Freezing temperatures hit early, and Logan barely managed to put up the lower, easy-to-reach strand of lights along our porch before the snow came.

After that, there was absolutely no hope of putting up the final string of lights along our steeply peaked, second-story roof, which is a fairly precarious situation and should not be attempted by amateurs in slippery conditions. So, we decided to be content with just the lower lights.

The holidays came and went, and weeks passed with no action on the lights-being-taken-down front. In our house, tasks are either on “the three-month plan” or “the six-month plan.” Taking down the Christmas lights was apparently on the three-month plan.

By the time we thought about really buckling down and getting the job done, COVID-19 hit, and we were way too preoccupied with buying toilet paper, disinfecting our cereal boxes and lying awake at night staring at the ceiling in wide-eyed despair.

We simply couldn’t be bothered with something as trivial as a few strings of Christmas lights. Who would see them anyway? No one was coming over to visit. So, the Christmas lights stayed up. We never turned them on, mind you.

They were a reminder of happier days and a timetable gone haywire. Then I snapped in September. “I’m so tired of everything being lame and boring and shut down,” I lamented to Logan one day. “We need a dose of something fun. Something weird. Something different.”

That night, as I was heading from the garage into the house, I impulsively flipped the switch and turned on the Christmas lights. I felt a little like the eccentric Great Aunt who goes to the grocery store wearing her prom dress from 1956, but I didn’t care.

Never-ending worldwide pandemic. Kids home since March. Christmas lights in September. What did it matter, anyway? We’ve been turning on our lights almost every night since. I love the warm glow they cast over our porch and driveway, almost like a friendly and electricity-wasting little hug enveloping our house.

A few weeks ago, when autumn hit in earnest, Logan decided that it was now or never to get that second-story string of lights up. One dry and warm-ish afternoon, Logan and 15-year-old George headed up to the roof to attach the elusive final string of lights.

It’s a delicate operation, and one I don’t have the stomach to watch, as it involves Logan and George climbing to the tallest part of the roof, tying ropes around their waists, and Logan scaling one side of the peak while George belays him from the other.

It’s really not something a sane wife and mother should allow, and yet here we are. Logan and George worked on the lights for a couple hours, clipping every last one perfectly into place along our raised dormers and pitched roof.

Once they’d clambered down, we stood in the driveway to take in the beautiful sight, oohing and aahing just like the Griswold family in the holiday classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

About a week later, a giant windstorm blew through our little valley and wrestled half of that perfectly placed string of upper lights into a pathetic little droop hanging from the roof.

They seemed to be a perfect representation of the year we’ve just had, smirking at passersby as if to say, “Try as you might, little humans, but this is 2020, the year that can’t leave well enough alone.”

I sure hope 2021 is a lot less of a jerk.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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