The east side of our backyard is defined by a low brick wall that belongs to the building next to us. The top of it is festooned with loops and whorls and tangles of stuff — some of it’s wandering ivy, but most of it is a few decades’ worth of changing infrastructure. There’s coax, and old phone lines and who knows what else, the extant and the defunct all snarled up together.
That seemed like a logical place to run a string of lights. And baseball lights — little white plastic globes with red stitches — seemed like the logical kind of string lights to get. There are Christmas lights in there too, but looking out the window they’re invisible unless on. The baseball lights, though, are impossible to miss.
The baseball lights are connected to various extension cords that follow the string and the coax and all that stuff, descend the wall, run behind a fence, make a quick dash through the open to the maple tree, then run in the shadows alongside the bottom of the little deck and make another quick dash across the walk, this last little journey taking advantage of a handy little channel between slabs. Then the cord runs down the wall and crosses a slab between the retaining wall and the building and finds its power outlet.
A few years ago I bought a little timer for that outlet. The baseball lights turn on, you’ll be shocked to learn, a little after 7 p.m. each night — I can’t quite get them to switch on obediently at 7:10, but close enough. By 11:30 they shut themselves off. I plug them in on Opening Day. And I unplug them … well, I did it this morning, making a quick dash through the wind and rain of Sandy’s outer bands.
When I get back from Thanksgiving I’ll plug in the Christmas lights, changing the timer setting so they go on a little after 5 p.m. in the ever-earlier winter dark. They’ll stay on until somewhere between New Year’s and Epiphany, depending on the weather and my fortitude. And then there’s nothing but darkness until April.
I’m always happy sitting on my haunches that first April day, fitting the plug into the outlet and making sure the timer’s working — the sun is losing its winter pallor, the spring plants are peeking up out of the thawed soil and the Mets are back. After that day, for nearly seven months I can look out and see the white globes glowing in the evening and know that everything’s as it should be. Until it’s time to acknowledge — with a quick yank on a cord — that it’s not.
It will be a long lonely five months. But that’s always true, and it always passes. In fact, while you were reading this the wait just got a little shorter. And that’s something to smile about.