Saturday, January 5, 2013

Holding Back the Darkness

This is the weekend we take down the Christmas lights and decorations. I can't think of another chore that's as depressing, unless it's unpacking after a vacation. Every year, I'm tempted to leave at least the lights up until spring. After all, the whole point of Christmas lights is to bring a little light and cheer to the darkest days of the year. (And yes, I realize that we are past the solstice and the days are getting longer, but we still have quite a bit of darkness to go.)

The only thing preventing me from leaving the lights up (aside, probably, from the homeowners association), is the fear that I will be labeled "eccentric."

Every year when it comes time to take down the Christmas lights, I think of Seth Ward. He was once a prominent attorney in Kosciusko County, Indiana, which is how my father knew him. I tried to find information about him on the Internet, but the only thing I could find was an old newspaper clipping with a picture of his house on Lake Wawasee. The article mentions some of the unique features of the house, and that Mr. and Mrs. Ward enjoyed entertaining friends there. The article is undated, but judging by the car parked in front of the house, the picture was taken a decade or two before my time.

The house certainly didn't look like this in the 1960s, when my father pointed it out to us on a visit to the lake. By then, it was almost completely hidden by overgrown trees and undergrowth. Anyone would think it was deserted—and possibly haunted—were it not for the many Christmas lights and decorations that adorned the place year round. I was fascinated by the contrast between the dark, dreary house and the cheerful (though somewhat faded) lights and decorations. I was also fascinated by the story my father told of how Mr. Ward had wanted to bury his deceased wife in the front yard.

My father said he was "eccentric." I thought he was just plain crazy.

Now, however, I feel sorry for him him. The poor man must have been devastated by his wife's death. Her absence took all of the light from his life. The Christmas lights and decorations were a feeble attempt to hold back the darkness. Sometimes, during the darkest part of winter, I can imagine how he felt.

But spring will be here soon.

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