I'm fascinated by America's obsession with holiday yard art. Like everything else in America, it just keeps getting bigger, and true to our American way of life, it's not really getting any better—just bigger.
Seems the large inflatable figures that light up are here to stay. We're not content to simply watch others haul dirigibles along 5th Avenue in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, we must have them in our own front yards. One day soon, these will come with helium tanks so we can fly them above our roofs. Imagine the chaos when one comes untethered and interferes with air traffic: Police shoot down inflatable Rudolf, owner sues. It's coming.
One night I might just knock back a couple hot toddies and find a way to crawl into one of those large inflatable snow globes just to spend an evening with the happy snowman family. Think what a brilliant holiday selfie this would make—me, in a scarf and mittens, posing with my adoptive snow people family—tons of tiny Styrofoam balls in my hair (and probably up my nose). Imagine the fun when the owners of said inflatable snow globe discover me face down in a Styrofoam snowdrift. The police are called, Tom has to come get me, I’ve ingested Styrofoam... Okay, maybe not.
Those holiday yard art fanatics who freely mix Christian religious figures with ones of popular culture hold a special place in my heart. Nothing brings me more delight than a nativity scene surrounded by animated reindeer, or The Grinch lurking nearby as a poser fourth Wise Man. He took the Who pudding, he took the roast beast. He's eyeing the Baby Jesus, this really must cease.
I often wonder what those unfortunate souls who crank out this avalanche of cheap holiday crap in China must think of us as they sit in factories for hours on end, day after day, assembling the plethora of gaudy decorations for our American holidays. Imagine if things were reversed. Can you picture yourself sitting in a factory somewhere in America painting Chinese characters on thousands of plastic dragons, having no idea what they said or meant? Exposed to god only knows how many toxic chemicals so you could earn horrible money making hideous doo-dads for a holiday in another country?
Sorry, I seem to have strayed down a dark path. And we really don’t want to think too far down the line during "the most wonderful time of the year." Shake it off, Kel, and get back to your previously scheduled humor piece.
This year, we were simultaneously dumbstruck and impressed when we discovered our neighbor out putting up his Christmas lights the week after Thanksgiving. He doesn't usually have "game" when it comes to this kind of stuff and Tom was even a tad jealous since we were nowhere near spelunking into the garage to bust out the X-mess boxes.
But true to his nature, at a certain point our neighbor lost interest in the whole thing and simply walked away. Though he managed to get one section of the eves done, as the holiday light project rounded a corner, it suddenly came to an abrupt halt. And there they sat—a good-sized cardboard box and two tangled mounds of Christmas lights left behind on the roof. Up on the housetop, click, click, click. Down to the sofa, I’m over it.
Believe me when I say I’m not bagging on our neighbor. The truth is, as a writer, I totally get this. That's why I find it so damn amusing.
I can relate to that moment of inspiration when you bust out the ladder, climb to the roof of your imagination, and start staple-gunning magic to the eves. But sometimes, you simply run out of steam, lose interest, and toddle inside for a beer or a nap (probably both) vowing to return to the project just as soon as creativity strikes again. Here’s proof: I began an article entitled, The Obligation of Holiday Yard Art about five years ago. So you see, sometimes you actually do finish stringing up the lights.
Happy holidays, America. Whether you light the menorah, plug in the nativity scene, or fire up the giant inflatable Snoopy—enjoy. Just be grateful you didn't have to make any of that cheap plastic crap yourself.
Subversive neighborhood photos by Tom Size