Lighting the Cannon by Jamie Kirkpatrick



One of our neighbors on Cannon Street recently came up with what (at the time) sounded like a good idea: he called it “Lighting the Cannon” and it involved dressing up the houses on our little street in festive holiday lights. My wife and I decided to take him up on the idea and set out to decorate our home. Seems simple, right?

Since the interior space in our house is—shall we say—limited, we decided to decorate the porch. First, we bought a seven foot Douglas fir and seventy-five feet of pine roping at the Farmers Market. Next, we started to decorate the tree and the porch with two strings of warm white LED lights but quickly found out we would need at least four more strings from our home-away-from-home, the hardware store. Then there was a new tree stand, three outdoor extension cords, two pine garlands, several yards of burlap ribbon, a timer, a tree skirt, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh: and a home-made hydrangea wreath for that finishing touch next to the front door. Game on.

Erecting the tree was a gentle breeze. Untangling the lights was more like a gale. And draping the pine rope over the porch and up and down the pillars was just short of a hurricane that nearly did us in on the day before our first wedding anniversary. You see, she’s a careful decorator who believes everything needs to be measured and planned and measured again in order to come out right. I’m more of an eyeball-it guy who believes in a thumb print more than a tape measure. I swear: the geniuses who discovered that opposites attract used us as data in their experiment.


After a few false starts and my wife’s brilliant decision to cut the pine roping in half in order to tame it, we began to make slow progress. There was lot of up and down off the dining room chair that was pressed into service as a step ladder, a fair amount of under-the-breath muttering about overthinking things, at least one “who’s-idea-was-this-anyway?” followed by a “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me!” tantrum when the branches of the pine roping drooped in a contraindicated direction, but as dusk closed in, we set the timer and held our marital breath. We counted down to 5 o’clock…

There are times amid all the holiday hoopla—and for that matter in a marriage, too—when all our anticipation and expectations simply pale in comparison to what actually comes down the chimney. Whether it’s visions of sugar plums, or a red-nosed reindeer, or a dancing nutcracker, or Christmas ghosts, or a bb gun that just might shoot your eye out—even the silence of snowfall—miracles really do happen. So when that little JBK timer finally reached zero and the lights on the tree and porch blinked on, Kat and I looked at each other with misty Christmas eyes.

The story goes that upon hearing the opening notes of the “Hallelujah Chorus” at its London premiere in 1742, King George II was so moved that he stood throughout the performance of that divinely inspired work. (That’s why audiences stand to this day.) I know our porch is far more mundane, but it’s ours and we love it. So the Cannon is lit. Come stand out front and enjoy the show!

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

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