By Greg Laychak
Becky Perey leans over her front yard fence and adjusts a string of Christmas lights on a tree that hosts a selection of other, less conventional decorations: a hulahoop, ice skates, a tricycle and a stuffed horse.
“These lights are frozen to the tree,” she tells her husband Keith Carter, as the couple takes stock of their property’s light and decorative display.
The bulbs that she’s examining now are just a few in a collection that boasts about 15,000 lights according to Perey, and as the sky darkens around the first snowfall of the winter they bring the house and yard to a strong glow.
“There’s at least one light that’s out every night I check,” she says.
It’s not just the sheer quantity of bulbs that make nightly maintenance mandatory for the Hope couple.
Every last one of the lights and decorations adorning their self-constructed winter wonderland is recovered, fixed and put back into use by the pair.
Perey and Carter got started creating a holiday display seven years ago when they lived in Yale and worked at the Hope landfill.
“We were just coming across all these lights and we were finding broken ones and recovering them,” Perey says. “I’ve requested if people are throwing away lights, I’ll take them off their hands. So I’ve got donations from people from around the community too.”
That’s something they rely on more now after leaving their jobs at the landfill.
“I miss it a lot,” Perey says. “I miss the fact that people would come in and I wouldn’t charge them if I could recycle it.”
And it’s not only Christmas lights the couple recovered in their time at the landfill.
Perey and Carter recycled over 1,300 bags of clothes, as well as countless household items.
Much of it went as donations to help people in need.
“We probably furnished four people’s houses,” Perey says.
Some of that charity was for two fire victims in Hope, helping the unfortunate recipients get their feet back on the ground.
“We’ve been able to recover lots out of that landfill,” she says. “That’s why I miss it so much, it was recycled back into the community.”
Perey and Carter are two of a shrinking population of resourceful fixer-uppers that lives in the growing world of fast consumption and an increasing throw-away culture.
They emphasize that much of what’s tossed doesn’t need to go to the dump.
“I can recycle it,” Perey says. “I tell people, bring it here. I’ll fix it instead.”
While much of their reusing might go unnoticed in the background, the couple’s Christmas lights are a grand display of what is possible if perceived junk is given a second chance.
Perey says they wish they could have the decorations up all year, adding that it takes the pair about two months to get the display ready and running.
In the warm months, Perey and Carter work on any repairs and tweaks that are needed on their accumulated decor so everything’s ready for October when the installation begins.
And now that it’s finished Carter’s next project is rigging up his truck with lights this year, expanding the couple’s glow factor to the roads.
Perey says it’s all worth it when they get a lot of compliments and thanks from passersby for representing Hope with their lights.
“That’s what I like to see, I want to bring out the Christmas spirit,” she says.