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Being Merry and Bright — and Brighter and Brighter



Decked out for the holidays at the Kleisle-Murphys.

COURTESY OF KLEISLE-MURPHY FAMILY

It started with an impulse buy at Costco.

Laura Kleisle and her son, Isaac Kleisle-Murphy, then 5, spotted a light-up deer at the warehouse store.

“My kid asked for it, and I was like, ‘Why not?’” Laura says. When they got home, her husband, Joe Murphy, was horrified. Fourteen years later, Laura and Isaac still remember Joe’s exact words: “We are not those types of people.”

“I was so mad at him I went back to Costco and bought two more,” Laura remembers with a laugh. “We had a little kid and he liked lights.”

Since then, the Kleisle-Murphy light display on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill has kept growing. The original deer expired, but they’ve added a light-up moose, a couple of replacement deer, a dozen candy canes, a snowman, two flamingos, a small hippo, a 6-foot-tall Abominable Snowman riding a moose and eight dolphins, plus lights in the trees and on the house. Getting dolphins instead of reindeer was Isaac’s idea, Laura says, and she went with it because “you’re happy your teenage boy is participating.”

Joe estimates, conservatively, the light count at 5,000. When they get a Christmas tree, that’s another 2,500 lights. The household electric bill spikes up $500 over the two months the lights are on. 

And the man who wanted to keep things to a tasteful string of icicle lights? “It’s now Joe’s event,” Laura says. “He’s all about the lights now.”

Joe starts laying out the power cords just before Thanksgiving, and it takes at least a day to get the display together. Isaac, now 19, usually helps out. 

“Dad and I, we both have similar visions for the end results,” Isaac says. “But we have competing philosophies on how to get there. Dad doesn’t think I’m setting it up correctly, and frankly, I don’t think Dad is capable of setting it up correctly.” 

“We just divide the task,” Joe adds.

Isaac’s now a college freshman, and the family plans to keep the tradition going. A lot of younger families have moved onto the block, and kids get a kick out of the lights. “We kind of feel obligated to keep it going,” Joe says. “It’s fun.”

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