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Today is Christmas Lights Day. As readers of my “classic” – that is, outdated –columns know, Christmas Lights Day can also be called, although only silently, my dad’s birthday.My dad looks like a string of lights without the lights. I like to watch him untangle the long strands, skinny legs in green sweatpants lost among the loops. Or so I imagine: I haven’t spent Christmas Lights Day with my dad in some time.Vladimir Nabokov once commented, not about my dad, but about someone more theatrical*** writing “the way one person relates to another the most important things in his life, slowly and yet without a break, in a slightly subdued voice.”Steven LeVan might not write that often, but as my father, he has of course been, several times, the one to relate to me the most important things in life.He has a gruff, but also Gund-soft voice. He taught me how to watch football, how to work and how to forgive. His rule, always, was no whining.I can’t count how many of his tiny, invisible violins I wanted to bust up. He would whip one out, mercilessly – “the world’s smallest violin,” he called it – every time I complained about some all-consuming teenage problem.My warm mother generally coops up near the fireplace, reading political websites on her laptop while Dad stumbles around window frames and rain gutters. In her way, she also relates to me the fundamentals.However, my mother is not a subdued person.I saw her subdued maybe twice growing up: once after major back surgery and once after waiting up for me all night. I had snuck out, and back, through the woods bordering our property. She was too angry to yell.She taught me to behave.Important lessons are kind of a parent’s chore, although unlike certain other chores, they do not have their own holidays.Christmas Lights Day signifies the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas. It means the boxes come down from the attic, with the sparkling nativity scene, the goofy reindeer and ancient ornaments with dates going back to the 1980s.It means important things become more obvious: Spending evenings together as a family, for instance, suddenly didn’t seem like a chore to me. I looked forward to this excuse to soak up my parents’ attention every year.This column is a present for my dad.I bought him something, too, but the store-bought present that reminded me of him most is undeniably Christmas-y and I don’t want to cheat yet another December birthday sufferer – not that he ever complained – out of a legitimate birthday gift.This year, when he unwraps the newspaper concealing his Christmas Lights Day present from me, I hope he doesn’t rip into it too fast.But even if he does, with no regard whatsoever to my heartfelt expressions of acknowledgement, I love him anyhow.I say this from the lofty crow’s feet of my sonorous fourth decade of life.In other words, back when I was 29.9, I knew nothing. These days, I know at least four things:
1. The Buffalo Bills will not go to the Super Bowl this year, which means they won’t lose it, which means my father will not heave the Christmas tree off a second-story deck.
2. Work makes me a better person, if not a richer person. In fact, rich people are not necessarily better. The best person, at any income bracket, does not invite the tiny violin.
3. It’s important to forgive not only my parents, but also other authority figures who, like my parents, don’t have a book explaining how to make me happy. It might be equally important to forgive Scott Norwood for kicking wide to the right. I’m not to that point yet. Watch “Buffalo 66” for details.
4. Things that go on at random parties in the middle of the night are not as interesting in actuality as they are in theory, much like communism or “The Remembrance of Things Past.” I have no reason to sneak out of the house any more. Of course, I no longer live with my parents, but my boyfriend sure seems to appreciate it.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. Not everything you did was the worst possible thing ever in the whole wide world that could ever possibly happen to me.
*** whose books are available at Mesa Public Library, as are books by Nabokov and Marcel Proust, whom I refer to in my penultimate paragraph. I don’t think, however, there are any books by goblins.
E-mail Kelly MP3s of songs played on your father’s miniature fiddle.