The note stared out at me from inside the box, the moment I opened it.

“For Christmas 2014: A tip for putting lights on tree with no stress!”

I recognized my own handwriting right away, unfolded the paper and read the rest:

“Put strand of white lights from top of tree, near trunk, straight down to the bottom of the tree. Attach strand of colored lights and wrap them on branches from left to right, back and forth around front and sides of tree only (you do not have to wrap around back of tree). Attach blue lights to string of colored lights and finish the same way. Then plug blue light plug in receptacle behind TV, Voila!”

I immediately thanked myself profusely for having the foresight last Christmas to leave instructions in the box of lights to avoid the disaster I seem to find myself in every December as I attempt to put them on the tree.

I love decorating the Christmas tree, but that first step — installing the lights — is another story entirely.


Inevitably, what is supposed to be a happy, relaxed time turns into a frenzied, frantic, stressful hour as I wrap the lights around the trunk of the tree from top to bottom and then weave them in and out of thick fir branches, only to discover once I’m finished that half the lights don’t work and I can’t find the source of the trouble.

Each year, I somehow manage to repress those bad memories. They surface again only when I start the process of putting the lights on for another season.

Well, it must have been so bad last year that I vowed never to torture myself that way again and decided to drop myself a line and plop it into the box.

I’m glad I did.

We have not yet purchased our Christmas tree, but we can rest assured that when we do, we’ll be prepared.

I finally understand that, since we always place the tree in the corner of the living room between the piano and television, there’s no need to put lights on the back of the tree because no one sees them anyway and the tree looks just as beautiful.


It’s funny how, every year as I open my boxes of bulbs, baubles, bows and other Christmas things, I always seem to find something I did not remember having, and am always pleasantly surprised.

There are the two Christmas stockings I bought at the old Marden’s store when it was on College Avenue in Waterville — old-fashioned stockings of exquisite quality and detail, with Santa Claus faces, complete with white fluff for hair and beard, protruding from the red fabric. Miniature candy canes, French horns, bells and gifts dangle below the Santas.

We have two very old candles from my husband’s childhood, one in the shape of Santa Claus and the other, of Santa climbing out of a chimney; a green paper cone-shaped Christmas tree that revolves around a warm light bulb, emitting a glow through the little cut-outs of children’s toys from the 1950s. The tree, in its original box, tied with the original string, was a gift from Phil’s mother to his grandmother many years ago; but as the story goes, she did not like it, so Phil’s mother took it back and kept it. Now we are graced with its presence every Christmas.

There’s the ceramic Christmas tree that legendary Sentinel writer, editor and columnist Clayton LaVerdiere’s wife, Mary, made and Phil purchased for his parents many years ago. That, too, has a light inside that causes all the little multicolored bulbs at the tips of the fir bows to glow.

Each of our tree ornaments has a story and each year, as I remove them from the boxes, I remember. There’s the ballerina in white who appears to be twirling in mid-air, a tiny wooden violin, a miniature saxophone made of clear glass with gold trim, and a blue boat with little white sails. There are the antique glass orbs in shimmering colors, and ancient white plastic reindeer that, when suspended from fir bows and backlit by the glow of the tree, appear to be magically flying off into the night.

This month, as I adorn the tree with all these treasures, I’ll do so with a light heart and nary a care in the world, thanks to a little note discovered in a box of lights.

It may sound corny to those fortunate enough never to have wrangled with tree lights, but the gift of foresight really can help produce a Christmas miracle.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for more than 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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