Five Hours till Enlightenment


The gift was one born out of necessity, the necessity of getting a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep. Case in point: kids getting up in the middle of the night.

Our granddaughters’ bedtime routine is always the same: a bedtime story, the tucking in, hugs and kisses, and then we say, “Unless it’s an emergency like an earthquake, hurricane, or a really bad dream, don’t wake up Gigi or Big Papa. It’s okay to go to the bathroom and then put yourself back to bed. Trust me, we won’t complain if you do this all by yourself.”

Little One and Sweet Caroline will be nine and eight years old next month, old enough to do many things on their own. What they don’t seem to be able to do is find the bathroom in the dark.

Hence the gift of a new Tiffany-style stained glass monarch butterfly wall sconce nightlight soon to be installed in their bathroom hallway. Like a beacon in the night, the blue, red, and orange butterfly will soon be shining their way. It would be only a 30-minute job … or would it?

About the size of a dinner plate, the giant butterfly was much bigger and heavier than The Wife and I first imagined. We both agreed that we would return the butterfly for something smaller … that is right up to the point when the Girly Girls saw it in the morning laying still lying in its box.

“We love it, it’s so pretty!” It was their nightlight so their votes counted. While Gigi got breakfast on the table, I started the installation. The girls still had an hour before leaving for school, so I thought I’d have the new light installed and shining long before they left. After all, with over fifty years of home improvement projects under my belt, just how hard could it be?

Quick answer: by the end of the “30-minute” job, not only could I barely raise my arms, but I just wanted to lie down and cry. Here’s why.

Unpacking the rest of the box, I found there were no instructions. Guess folks thought anyone buying a Tiffany-style monarch butterfly wall sconce nightlight, they would either know how to install it or hire an electrician.

I only read instructions as a last resort, so I was fine with this development and went to work. An electrician had already installed a new wall switch and outlet box in our hallway so my job was simple: connect his black, white, and green wires to the matching wires on the butterfly. Nope, not that simple. The butterfly’s wires were blue, red, and yellow with green stripes.

By this time, the girls had finished breakfast and were back in their bedroom getting dressed for school. Wanting to surprise them with the new light being on when they came out, I relied on my fifty years of home improvement experience and connected the wires the way I thought they should be. Then I turned the switch on. This action resulted in two things.

First, the breaker blew in the basement, causing the lights to go out in the bathroom. Second, the Girly Girls started screaming. Their bedroom was on the same circuit, plunging the bedroom, and them, also into darkness.

It took another 30 minutes to get the lights back on, unwire the butterfly, and make sure the girls were dressed and out in the car. On the way to school they asked, “Why don’t you hire an electrician, Papa?”

Scoffing at this idea, I told the girls that their Papa can do anything, and he never gives up. The 30-minute job had already taken an hour. How much longer could it take?

Once back home I connected the wires again, blew the breaker again, and then connected the wires a third time. I turned on the switch, but nothing happened. Now two hours into the butterfly wall sconce nightlight installation debacle, I broke down and called the electrician for help. He asked if I had reset the ground fault outlet.

It took another 30 minutes to find the correct ground fault outlet that had been tripped, but still the light wouldn’t work. Another call to the electrician prompted him to suggest that I do two things: first check to see if the light bulb had also been blown, and second, stop calling him because he was busy on another job.

The bulb was indeed blown. Now with the light working, it was time to get the butterfly connected to the wall plate. Not only were there no instructions included in the box, but there were also no parts to connect the butterfly to the wall. A quick trip the giant hardware store with the orange roof was in order, along with a well-deserved lunch.

Now into hour number four, I returned home to find the parts I just bought wouldn’t work, so back to the hardware store I went. Once back home, the new parts still wouldn’t line up, so I called my friend who knows even more about home improvement than me. He suggested calling an electrician. I called my trusted, reliable electrician again.

For some reason, this time I only got his voicemail. I was on my own to figure out how to install the new nightlight. It was time to pull out the power tools. With a metal drill bit, I made new holes in the wall mounting bracket so they would match up with the ones on the butterfly. Unfortunately, the wandering drill tore a hole in the wall.

No problem, nothing a little sheetrock mud wouldn’t fix. Problem, I found no sheetrock mud in our basement tool room, so another trip to the giant hardware store was in order. But first a stop at that coffee store with the green roof for a much deserved overpriced drink.

When the Girly Girls came over the next day, they found their new nightlight on and casting a blue, red, and orange glow over the entire hallway. I smiled as they danced under it.

Here are the four most important things I learned from the butterfly nightlight installation. First, a 30-minute job can quickly stretch into hours if you don’t have the right parts or a set of instructions.

Second, constantly holding your arms up at head level for five hours will make you unable to hold them up the next day, the day after, and even the day after that.

Third, any amount of pain is worth enduring if it leads to the Girly Girls being happy and, hopefully, to undisturbed sleeping for The Wife and me.

And lastly, when wiring and connecting to the wall a Tiffany-style monarch butterfly wall sconce nightlight, make your life simpler — don’t! Just simply hire an electrician … even if you have 50 years of handyman experience.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]