Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Lights and the Quintessential Sitcom Neighbor

You’ve heard me talk about my neighbor Don a couple of times before.

He’s one of those guys whom you describe like this: “I adore Don, but…”

There’s always a but, poor Don. It’s just that he’s such a great guy, but he’s so damned competitive…in ALL aspects of life.

Over the summer, I was at another neighbor, Mark’s, house.  We were watching our kids play in the driveway and chatting about normal adult things:  What kind of beer we were planning to pick up for the neighborhood barbeque that weekend; how we were excited for the party because, with small kids, the last time we’d gotten to have a beer was like 20 years ago, etc.

Don strode up to the lawn, and Mark and I turned to smile at him. But Don cut right to the chase.

“Hey, Mark, what’s up?  Who won the big t-ball game Thursday night?”

Mark looked at me, at a loss.  “Big t-ball game…?  I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as a big t-ball game…”

Mark and I both giggled.  I know we sound like assholes, but trust me, Don gives as much as he gets.  One of these days I’ll write a post about all of the backhanded “compliments” he’s thrown my way.  It’s just how our relationship works.  I really do adore Don, but I still couldn’t help but revel in it just a bit when Mark teased Don about the actuality of a “big t-ball game.” 

Don’s eyes grew wide.  “Uh, YEAH, the big t-ball game that your kid played Thursday night…DUH.”  He looked to me for support, but I was with Mark on this one.  I shrugged.

“It’s 27 4-year-olds running around a field smacking their own faces.  They keep score?” Mark asked.

Don didn’t miss a beat.  “Oh, yeah, they keep score.”

“I’ve seen kids making sandcastles at home plate,” Mark continued.  “How in the hell do they keep score?”

“Oh, they do,” Don replied.  “Which is why my kid’s team is 15-0.  And we’re playing you guys next week…y’all better come prepared.”

Holy shit.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas lights?

When we moved into the neighborhood about 5 years ago, we quickly learned around Christmastime that the husbands of the ‘hood had a “friendly” competition going on to see who could put up the most elaborate lights.  They even sat at their front windows at night and kept tally sheets, marking how many cars slowed down to see their blinking lights.

Extra points were given for the duration of stay for each car—which they timed with stopwatches.  You think I’m kidding?

I think that’s one of the reasons they all loved my husband immediately:  He was no competition.  Homey don’t play that shit.  We buy a few strands of lights from Dollar General each year, throw them haphazardly in the yard, and light those motherfckers up.  When Christmas is over, we simply throw them away.  They cost about $3.00 per strand and they also suck major balls.

Most, if not all, of the bulbs are burnt out by December 26th, so a person doesn’t feel guilty tossing them straight into the curbside trashcan as the method of cleanup.  I think the $9.00 per year that we spend on lights is more than worth it to not have to wind the lights up into a messy, wiry ball to be packed up and stored, only to have to be untangled the next year in fits of frustration.  Maybe when our kids are old enough to be made to do the job…

See?  We’ve got this shit all figured out, peeps.

Anyway, about 4 years ago, a new woman moved into the neighborhood directly behind my house and to the left of Don’s.  And at first, everything was cool between her and Don.  She even hired him to mow her lawn, which he likes to do during his summers off from teaching.

And then came November.

We saw her working outside on her Christmas lights with friends.  I got all excited; I love love love me some Christmas lights.  My oldest son and I would come and stand in her yard while she worked, and she’d even let my boy—only a sweet little toddler back then—“help.”

On one such occasion, I noticed Don standing in his driveway, gazing toward the new neighbor’s house, sweat beading on his upper lip even though it was only 45 degrees outside.  I walked over to give him some shit.

“Looks like you guys have some major competition this year, huh, Don?” I asked, smiling and nudging him with my elbow.

Don didn’t smile back.  He was busy wringing his hands.  “Puh-lease,” he said dazedly.  “No competition.  She’s just getting an early start…doesn’t mean hers will be better, right?”

He was acting weird, all robotic and shit, so I just scooched away quietly.

That year, the new neighbor’s lights were INSANE.  It was as if Heavenly angels had come down and used their sweet, angelic, perfect hands to place the twinkling lights all over the house themselves.

The lights were blinking—no, dancing—in all different colors of the rainbow.  It was the mother of all light shows, my peeps.

Those motherfckers would have brought a tear to Clark W. Griswold’s eye.

And I KNOW they brought several tears to Don’s eyes, because the best part?  The neighbor had posted a banner at the front of her yard:  PLEASE TUNE YOUR RADIO TO 100.1.

The lights were set to music.  Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas being one of the tunes that they jumped to.  And isn’t that everyone’s favorite Christmas song?

But peeps, there’s one more thing:  As more and more people in our small city began to talk about the lights, as word got out…

The neighbor’s Christmas lights were featured on the evening news.

Dear God, I almost wept for Don myself the night the hubs and I DVR’d the story. And I would’ve, too, if I hadn't been so busy joyously dancing to the kitchen to refill my glass of spiced wine as the hubs and I watched the news story over and over again, screaming with laughter.

The next year, there was nary a light to be found on Don’s house.  Not even one lone, sad, flickering red bulb.

The other neighbors and I couldn’t help it; we all felt sad for poor Don.  We did our best to goad him into getting into the Christmas light game once again because we knew that he loved it so much.  And we were all just a little bit depressed right along with Don when he threw his hands into the air, defeated, and said, “I give up. I fcking give up.”

And even though—after all the crap he gives us on a daily basis about how much better his yard looks than ours, how much better his kid is at playing t-ball, etc.—even though we knew he didn’t deserve it, we felt bad for him.

So one night in mid-December, a group of us neighbors got together when he was out of town and decorated his house with Christmas lights for him.  We did a damn good job, too, effectively putting Don back into the competition, where he belonged.

Oh, holy shit, we so totally did NOT do all of that good-neighbor-decorating-in-the-dark-of-the-night shit.  Are you fcking kidding me?

What we did do, however, was make a pact that each of us would seize every single opportunity we had to make fun of Don about his absence of Christmas lights.  Here was my contribution:

“Holy shit, Don, those blinking lights right outside of your bedroom window must have you and the wife up ALL NIGHT!  It must be like living in a small apartment in downtown New York City!  You know what I suggest?”  Here, Don started walking away from me quickly, but I’ve got a voice that carries, so I just yelled more loudly as he headed toward his front door. “I suggest getting heavier blinds for this time of year to shut out her dazzling lights.  Then you can just pack the window covers away with your Christmas decorations and pull them out every November…at least until she moves…”

This is where I heard Don’s front door slam...but I wasn't worried.  I'm pretty sure I got my point across. 

Poor Don. 
Gotta love him.


  1. I know this story was mainly about Don, but I'd love to hear more about the lady neighbor with the insane lights. Is she nice or a bitch? Is she super competitive like Don or just loves Christmas lights and Mariah Carey? Does she bake all the neighbors cookies?

    There's a house about 10 minutes from us that sets their lights to music also, but it's coming from speakers in the yard. It is un-freaking-believable. I don't know how they hear themselves talk inside.

    1. Dana--she is so nice. I don't see her much because she doesn't have young kids like the rest of us do, and that's when we mainly get to know each other--when we're outside watching our kids or getting them together to play. But when I do see her, she's always really pleasant and I know for a fact that she LOVES the kids coming to "help" her with projects outside--or she at least tolerates them with a smile. :)

  2. Just watched Clark last night - best holiday movie ever, except when my kids kept asking me to explain why something was hysterical (The Dickey on Cousin Eddie for example).

    1. Yes!! I reference that movie in another post coming up this month, too. It's one of our all-time faves!

  3. Haha. Funny story. Why do we all have guys like Don in our lives? Life really is a sit-com.

    1. Thanks, Liz! And thanks for the +1! I tried to tell you that on Google +, but I'm still trying to figure out all of that. I probably have random stupid comments all over the internet that I don't know about b/c I wasn't sure where they landed. :)

  4. That was so Charlie Brown of you guys to put lights on his lawn. God bless you, every one! LOL The dialogue in this killed me! "…27 four year olds running around smacking their own faces…" and the "sandcastles at home plate". hahahaha - great stuff as always Shay! I can just see Don standing there all freaked out about the neighbor. So Mike Judge!

    1. Thank you so much, Linda! I always love your comments; they put a smile on my face.

  5. OMG. I LOVE you in the uncreepiest get-off-of-me ways. I'm a little jealous of Don. And you. And of the neighbor lady. I want to live in your hood. My hood sucks. I hope it's not me...

    1. I love you, too! I wish you would move into my 'hood, although I have an inkling we'd do more drinking than writing. Haha

  6. I would probably fit right in with your neighborhood since I'm kinda like the neighbor with all the lights. Clearly I have Christmas hoarder issues….as always, you are a great story teller, Shay. Next year I want to come there and see those lights!

  7. I'm lucky that our grown daughter lives with us, or decorating simply wouldn't happen. Sigh.
    BTW I've always thought of t-ball as day care. With bats.

  8. Poor, poor Don. It's sad when all fight leaves a beloved asshole.

    We do ZERO Christmas lights. In fact, I didn't even turn on the lights that are in the garland going up my staircase. And all I had to do was plug them in!