A Few Lines Of Illumination


28_balloflightsLike most folks, my memories are random, and connected to one another in totally unpredictable ways, crisscrossing over and under one another in a rather tangled web, with bright highlights here and there, and shadowy areas in other places— a lot like the way some people put  the Christmas tree lights on their trees. It is often a source of contention—”That’s not how it’s supposed to go!”  ” Where is that line leading?” or “There’s not enough light in that area. Why didn’t you add more illumination there?” Rolly knows all about this; he is the tree decorator at our house— I resigned from the job a long time ago when I realized that it was causing both of us too much stress doing it together. It’s a lot like trying to wall-paper with a spouse—Don’t do it! It’s not worth the cost of a good divorce lawyer!

The thing we needed to do was resolve the tree lights issue permanently, because, no matter how hard he worked at it, I was never entirely happy with his “illumination allocation.” (a new term I learned from Candace Olson or Nate Berkus— one of those designers anyway.) So we bought an artificial tree with 350 mini lights already pre-wired into it. It also came with a remote control to change the lighting program. Options include either blinking, fading, or flashing of the red, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange, and white lights separately, altogether, or in sequence. There was even a rather psychedelic, epileptic seizure-inducing option for those who were willing to take the risk. Here, every possible lighting combination flashes at high-speed, illuminating the room! It might even cause the neighbours to call the fire department in fear for all of our lives, as they catch sight of the apparent conflagration through our closed blinds! 

So, now that I have told you that I am no longer plagued by the obsessive need to change the arrangement of lights on our Christmas tree, as the task of arranging tree lighting has become obsolete at our house, you must be wondering why I am talking about this at all in early September. It’s hardly the time for a Christmas anecdote, is it? That would depend on whether you see any validity to my earlier suggestion that the strings of lights on our trees and how they all connect together and whether they all function adequately is a lot like our memories.

The family tree is always being decorated at all times, not just at Christmas. There are always going to be lots of strings of lights— not just one person’s. Every single family member who has any light to shed on any of the shadowy branches, not just the ones right out front will be linking or at least making an effort to link their string onto everybody else’s. Sometimes there just might be a little bit of a faulty wiring problem. Sometimes it may even cause a few fuses to blow if things aren’t connected properly. Totally predictable programming, by remote control, is not available for the illumination of family trees. When the story strands full of colourful, or bright and shining moments that we attempt to link together are linked together there will still be dark spots, or things that clash. Purple and orange, which are my son Steven’s favourite colours are certainly not mine and yet he has always been great at adding backround illumination to many of my story lines. That is because he spent hours upon hours interviewing my parents about their lives, and formed it into a treasured family history book several years ago. My brother Keith is colour blind and in the same way that he often might be seen wearing odd colour combinations together, he also seems to be able to connect totally disharmonious thoughts together for hilarious results in the stories he tells. 

My family has all been so very helpful in bringing their story lines to me or suggesting others I need to retrieve from my own collection of memories by saying, “Hey, have you written anything about the Rubber Cake  yet? Do you remember how you girls used every egg in the house for that, and it bounced when Keith threw it to the chickens?” or “I haven’t seen you write anything yet about how Baby Jeannie painted herself and the front porch red yet. Do you remember that?” or as Mom asked last week “Hey Vonnie, do you remember the day Jack the horse fell down drunk from eating fermented plums? And do you remember Mum making her plum dumplings every summer when she was up from Pittsburgh visiting?”

I have an amazing bunch of family tree decorators at my disposal. (That term “at my disposal” is a really strange one, isn’t it? It sounds like something a person is just on the verge of getting rid of —in a very speedy and environmentally unfriendly fashion!) Let’s just say instead, that I have an amazing family who are enthusiastic about wanting to link all of their “story lines” with mine, to shape something that we can all enjoy together. Ultimately though, when others outside the family will be looking at it too, somebody has to be responsible for checking that all the lines link together. Somebody also has to be sure to avoid any dangerous shock hazards. I’m sure Keith would love that though— he used to enjoy putting his little pinky into the back of Mummy and Daddy’s electric alarm clock* just to get a little buzz when he was a toddler!

Like most large families our memories are indeed random, and connected to one another in totally unpredictable ways. They crisscross over and under one another’s in a rather tangled web, with bright highlights here and there, and shadowy areas in other places. As just as Rolly would frequently answer, in respose to my:  “That’s not how it’s supposed to go!”or ” Where is that line leading?” or “There’s not enough light in that area!”…

“You know what?…. I’m not finished with it yet.”


* You can read about Keith and his love of electricity in the post of April 16, 2013. It is titled A Shocking Tale of Butchie and Life’s Little Stings.

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