Wish You Were Here: How to Change a Lightbulb

photo: Landon Martin/Unsplash

My husband is having a midlight crisis. I wish this was a typo like I wish Milo Ventimiglia had actual speaking lines in the fourth season of “Mrs. Maisel” and maybe that I was Rachel Brosnahan in the six seconds of (barely passed for a sex scene) but alas, our house looks like the Hurlbutt St. Disco Inferno. Yes, light as we know it, is officially over my friends.

He (my husband, not Milo) discovered color-changing lightbulbs, and had planted one in the lamppost at the entrance of our driveway. Convoluted metaphor. Sorry.

I know what you’re thinking. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?

Before you answer that, ask yourself this: if we don’t sweat the small stuff, does the small stuff (over time) become the big stuff? And also what are the long-term effects of disco lighting exposure? I mean, have these even been studied? I could literally start sprouting shaggy layers (a la Farah Fawcett) or wake up in bell-bottoms and a halter, funky chickening and hustling all over the place and not for anything, no one ever should have to witness my dance moves.

So it matters. Greatly.

It matters while I’m doing the dishes, (humming “Night Fever” to myself).

It matters while I’m bringing out the garbage.

And it mattered last Saturday, standing in my bedroom window, tying on my robe (fine, I don’t own one but I’m painting a picture here), contemplating whether to brave the driveway at almost midnight to remove the biggest eyesore from here to the Las Vegas strip.

The whole thing was ridiculous. It’s a lightbulb, for crying out loud and I was, completely at that point, crying out loud, carrying on and on about the stupid lamppost and how it was so important to me and why couldn’t he see that? Why couldn’t he understand that “this lamppost, this very lamppost was one of the few things I actually liked, that I actually appreciated and took comfort in and now you’ve robbed me of that, too…”

Two things, in retrospect: I really do need a robe (and maybe some heavy sedation), and secondly, it’s a good thing Jon sleeps through everything because that was far from the end.

“You can’t just change light bulbs without consulting people. It’s not okay, Jon. What if I changed the toilet paper on you? What if suddenly you looked down not to find something akin to what my father likely used under communist occupation circa 1956 but Charmin? Charmin, Jon. What if suddenly instead of one-ply (or no ply really), you found yourself hand to…”

Ask me if I changed the lightbulb. Ask me if I put on my imaginary robe and my imaginary slippers and shuffled out to the driveway to right what was clearly so very wrong in my book while my husband dreamed up even more novel ways to make our lives colorful.

Here’s the thing, I like predictability. I like waking up at the same time every day, eating the same thing for breakfast (and usually lunch) and possibly dinner and maybe that makes me boring or rigid or incapable somehow of looking at a lightbulb and expecting it to stay the same color and not induce seizure-like symptoms in children or the elderly.

But is that so bad really, that I just know how I take my bulbs? “Is it so bad to want to look out in my driveway and see a GE LED dusk-to-dawn candelabra in a slightly off shade of soft white?”

“I think you need a therapist,” Brinna told me while day-drinking and ordering the less fortunate around that following weekend.

“Thanks for that and I have a therapist.”

We were sitting in one of her living rooms, waiting for her manny to arrive. I’m still not sure if this is someone’s name or some sort of man-nanny but I was too afraid to ask at that point.

“No. I mean a real therapist. Not Bob from the drugstore or the poor girl who takes your coffee order or your gynecologist…”

“She’s surprisingly insightful.”

Brinna polished off her Prosecco, pausing for a second to consider the exact angle of her million-dollar chandelier. “Do you think I should have them move it a little to the right? Do you think it’s too off-center?”

“I think it’s fine.”

She put down her glass, collecting her glossy locks into a messy top knot before settling back into her beige suede chair. “That’s not an answer.”

“Tell you what, next time I come over, I’ll bring a couple of those little light-changing numbers with me and you can have Roy just pop one in for you. Trust me, you won’t even notice that it’s crooked.”

“So it is crooked. I thought you said it was fine.”

“Roy does know how to change a light bulb, right?”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course he does but we pay people to do that so I’m honestly not sure now that you mention it.”

Sometimes I feel like Brinna and Roy live in this perfect little bubble on their perfectly sprawling estate with their perfectly perfect show child and show dog and Prosecco, and when I start telling her about things like my disco lights or my toilet paper or the fact that I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that cake pops are actually just munchkins on a stick and that all this time I’ve been way overpaying for something that usually ends up smashed into the creases of the car seat, she just looks at me the way she looks at her crooked chandelier — like I’m a little off-center.

I drove back home in the dark, taking the backroads and my time, knowing the minute I pulled into my driveway someone would want me to pour them a bowl of cereal or fish a matchbox car out of the toilet or explain for the four millionth time why they can’t stay up until 2 a.m. playing Minecraft while binging on an entire box of Cocoa Puffs.

The list is endless but at least predictable and maybe it’s the Prosecco talking, but there was comfort in the chaos and then out of the blue I suddenly wasn’t green with envy at Brinna’s shiny bubble or her chandelier or husband who possibly can’t change lightbulbs. Color me crazy, but suddenly, I was okay or as okay as one can be with an imaginary robe and slippers, and fine, you caught me red-handed — I’m happy, or at least a shade of it, lamppost and all. How’s that for a lightbulb moment?

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.