Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's the Little Things

Photos by Evan Brandt
Our little Christmas village.

It is so often true that the things which give us the greatest joy and satisfaction, also cause us the most anxiety and frustration.

Take family for instance.

But more on that later.

First I want to talk about trains, specifically the trains in my house; the ones we, like so many other semi-annual train enthusiasts, haul out of the basement or attic to set up at Christmas time.

We bought our set when the boy was young and, after discovering the perils of young children, cats and expensive trains choo-chooing around Christmas trees, came up with the set up you see above.

A nice table, which didn't require quite so much bending on daddy's part.

And of course, over time it began to grow.

First some extra cars, then some buildings to make a little Pottstown-like town; each added on Christmas Eve by Santa until Dylan got old enough to tell me that he knew it was me because Santa would never curse quite so much.

We did manage to get one or two other things done
for the holidays.
Although I like it very much, I always dreaded trying to get the wires for the buildings all wrapped around the auxiliary transformer posts adequately.

One or the other was always popping off as you tried to tighten the tightener thingy.

After a few years, the fellow in the Ye Olde Train Shoppe off Route 100 in Douglass (Mont.) -- yes, it's really called that -- suggested these small c-clamps the would simply slip over the posts.

"Egads!" I cried, because I really do talk like that, "mine Christmas is saved!"

No more swearing, no more frustrated cries of anguish to the heavens, just simple, easy set up.

Of course, they turned out to be too small, so once again, I was reduced to the annual weeping and great gnashing of teeth.

Which brings us back to family.

We usually reserve Christmas for just us, my wife, son and I.

But this year for a variety of reasons (maybe because I watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation a few too many times) we decided on an all-out family Christmas.

We would accept the long-standing invitation from my New Jersey cousins and their Evil Santa game on Christmas Eve, then drive up from Westfield to my in-laws in New York and spend Christmas Day there.

It was ambitious, but we were undaunted by the first weather report; then by the fact that the circumstances making the New York visit paramount had changed; then by the second weather report; then by the fact that the weather report was giving my father second thoughts about driving from Long Island for Evil Santa.

Through it all, we were stalwart. We were resolute. We were doomed.

Finally felled by the flu, each in quick succession, our plans collapsed into a puddle of ... well, you know.

As you can plainly see, these are much too small,
and twisted by my attempt to force them into position.
Disappointment abounded but wayward Buddhists that we are, we sought for a bright side, some grain of goodness that could be pulled out of this crumpled tissue of a Christmas.

That's when my eye, twitching with seasonal excitement, fell upon the train box.

This year, I silently resolved, this year, I would solve the problem of the wires.

As my fellow flu sufferers slept, I crept out into the cold, wet world the day before Christmas Eve, battled the elements to Ye Olde Train Shoppe and there, transformer in hand, stepped expectantly through the door, only to be foiled one more time.

Busy with last minute seasonal train dabblers such as myself, the kindly couple shrugged from behind the counter. They knew what I wanted but could not find them just at that moment.

My holiday spirit sagging into my shoes, the helpful fellow said "why don't you try Radio Shack?"

Renewed, I leaped into my trusty hybrid and sped, within proscribed safety limits of course, down Route 100 to the store that held my last hopes of holiday satisfaction.

"Sure," they said. "We have those."

And lo! They fit, my spirit took flight!

So simple, so beautiful, and the answer to all my problems.
"But why don't you use these? Wouldn't this be easier?"

And thus did I behold the O-ring. "This," I whispered to myself, "this will not slip. I'll just pop it on and, voila!"

Overcome with joy, I bought some extra wire I really didn't need just in case I decided to re-arrange everything because now, now with these O-rings, anything was truly possible.

Oh happy day.

And thus was my holiday saved, and by such a little thing.

Here is a little video of the system running. Don't ask me why there's no sound. These technical things are beyond me.

Maybe I need an O-ring....

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