TLC Blog – Tennis and Light (Part 3 of 3)

Posted on December 24th, 2018 by

I have a confession to make.

I am Clark Griswold.

Yes, that Clark Griswold.

Your neighbor who puts up so many holiday lights, the entire neighborhood suffers a brownout each evening at 4:30 when the sun goes down and the lights go on.

The neighbor whose house guides airplanes home through the thickest fog, and guides Santa’s sleigh to a safe landing when even Rudolph’s nose won’t cut it.

The neighbor to whom some call out, “Nice lights, Griswold!” as they pass by, while others harbor secret, dark thoughts in their hearts as they avoid eye contact.

The neighbor who single-handedly makes sunglasses sales soar at a time of year that mystifies retailers, causing them to scratch their heads and wonder who buys sunglasses on the darkest nights of the year?

The neighbor who believes he is doing a service for others by reducing their electric bill, because for one month a year, those who live within a block radius need not turn on indoor lights, they only need to open their shades and let the light in.

That neighbor.

Each year, the night after Thanksgiving, because there are rules even for a Griswold (NO CHRISTMAS LIGHTS BEFORE THANKSGIVING, PEOPLE!), at our house we have the Ceremonial Lighting of the Lights. Leandra and Madeline must drop whatever they are doing, go out across the street, and wait. I give them a minute, just to make sure they are positioned for the grand reveal. Madeline, since she has been little (she is now 19) is bundled up and “ready Ready READY!” Leandra is harboring secret, dark thoughts of our electric bill in her heart while smiling through gritted teeth. (Let’s just say she is not a fan the way Madeline is).

I do an internal countdown, then flip the switch and hope I don’t blow the circuit breaker. I emerge from my basement triumphant, to applause and cheers from the two people I love most in life. That part is required. We admire it together. I say things like, “Hmmm, do you think that tree over there should have another string of lights?” and question my design. Madeline gives helpful feedback as I ruminate. Leandra says, “No, no, they’re perfect, can we go inside now?”

We eventually go inside, and I congratulate myself on a job well done, but continue to ask questions of the two of them all night, on how they might be better. Madeline engages. Leandra says, “Neal, they are lights. They are fine.” Having been together for 38 years and loving her like no other human being, I choose to ignore her tone of voice.

But I got my vindication a number of years ago. One that will keep me putting up lights forever.

One holiday season, a car would show up in the dark at our house each morning. And just sit there for about fifteen minutes. It became a little unnerving. A stalker? Someone casing the joint?

Because I am a curious person, after a couple weeks of this, I emerged from the house and cautiously approached the car. As I got close, the window rolled down. Inside was a woman. I wished her a happy morning.

She said, “You are probably wondering why I park outside your house each morning.” I said the thought had occurred to me.

She said, “Your house helps me.”

“Huh?”, I replied.

“I stop by each morning because I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and your lights brighten my mood. They make me happy, so I sit here for fifteen minutes before work each day, and they lift me in the darkest time of the year.”

Oh, the power of my lights. I don’t think even Clark Griswold cured SAD!

I went back inside and announced to Leandra, “More lights next year!!!”

She went out and bought sunglasses.

Merry Christmas from TLC to all of you who celebrate this light filled day. May your days be merry and bright. And when they are not, may your own Griswolds bring light, and your friends, and family, and Santa, and that baby, who came not to be served, but to serve others. Therein, in every religion around the world, lies the light.

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  1. Greg Morin says:

    Patrice is a language professor and grew up light-deprived in northern Maine winters (8:30 of daylight this time of year and sunset 3:48 pm). A colleague in German told her that Goethe’s last words before parting this life were “Licht, mehr licht!” “Light, more light!”
    She would enjoy your light display and taken comfort in it, as many SADs sufferers would. She finds comfort this time of year in the new generation of digital “fireplaces” to offer at least the illusion of warmth and some “more light.”
    Happy holidays to all in the extended TLC family!
    Greg, Patrice, Jessamyn, and Tristan

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      So good to hear from you, Greg. I love Goethe’s quote. Just love it. Here is my true confession: I put up my lights because it feeds my need for light myself, and helps me through the season of darkness. A wonderful byproduct is to find out many people have the same need and I get to connect with them and know I am not alone. I miss seeing you at family camp! Time for a reunion at TLC this summer?

  2. Brad Olson says:

    Merry Christmas Neal and all of the TLC family out there!!

  3. John Wilkinson says:


    My children frequently referred to me as Chevy Chase when I would lead them on important explorations. Uncertain if it were derision, or admiration, I would push ahead with my plans with the hope of enlightenment for all. Thank you for supplying me with yet another benefit of our efforts. My Seasonal Affective Disorder is always improved with a good laugh, and a good pair of sunglasses is an excellent idea for a useful gift. (the average life expectancy for my sunglasses is approximately 2-3 months)

    Have a merry Christmas, and a happy new year.


    • Neal says:

      I take it as admiration. Chevy Chase did. And to be clueless is bliss, then I don’t have to wonder if it’s derision, lol. The SAD in my life is also lifted by humor. And, medically speaking, that’s great to know about sunglasses. Now I know that my retinas are probably burned out as I haven’t changed sunglasses in years.

  4. Bev Lesiuk says:

    Haha! You and Mike are the same.Each year he buys more lights and never do any get thrown out. Merry Christmas to everyone at TLC

  5. Jennifer Kirby says:

    Thanks for such a funny and uplifting post! Made me laugh and feel warm at the same time. Merry Christmas, Neal, to you and your family!

    • Neal says:

      Merry Christmas back, Jennifer. If only I weren’t so eccentric. But then I wouldn’t have anything to write about!

  6. Shawna Pocock says:

    John 8:12
    Again Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.”

    When Jesus said this, he was telling the people that He was God – hence the “I am”.

    Today, many celebrate His Birth. Immanuel, God with us.

    May He be with you this season and fill your hearts with love. His light is shining!

    Merry Christmas.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Shawna, for sharing. For myself, light comes on a different path up the same mountain, where we all meet at the top and recognize each other. I am grateful you have found the path that lights your way and how it has given you peace and how you bring that peace to others. Happy (almost) New Year to you! Hope to see you this summer!

  7. Pat Lonneman says:

    You are the light in the darkness thanks so much so so glad our paths crossed 🙏😊🎄!!!!