One of the great things about our street is its quaint size. There are only a few houses, bookended by two churches and a ‘senior citizens retreat,’ all winding along a beautiful road lined with oak trees on one side and marsh on the other. Coming home at sunset there are leafy shadows on my left, contrasted with bright ambers and lavenders glistening off the water to my right. As I exit the parkway, I pass a ranch with horses grazing lazily –which is funny to mention, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a horse grazing ‘animatedly’ or ‘winsomely’ or any adverb other than ‘lazily.’
Our neighbors to the left are very sweet and constituted the entire neighborhood welcome wagon when we moved in a year ago. We are on a first name basis with each others’ pets and wave across our yards in the mornings. Mr. Neighbor must have the best fertilizer on the planet, because he seems to be cutting his grass every day at 7:30am. To our right, we have very clandestine neighbors that pretty much keep to themselves; more will be said about them later. Directly across the street is one of the two churches and a big ‘WELCOME’ sign, and next to them (upstage left, if you will) is another house with a boat and a vintage Model-A Ford.
Yes, my street is peaceful and easy, like a page out of Our Town. Until the holidays.
The aforementioned clandestine neighbors really seem to like their privacy and treat their home as more of a hideaway. They so enjoy their seclusion that they have covered their front porch with huge, leafy plants so that the main entrance to the house is now completely invisible from the street. I have concocted many stories about them belonging to the Witness Protection Program, or their top secret development of a new Jehovah’s-Witness-eating plant. Whatever their secrets, they keep them well.
Since we have lived here, they have been coming and going stealthily from the side door instead of fighting their way through the thick jungle at their main entrance. While they may fool the church across the street into thinking that nobody’s home, they are highly visible to us, as their side door faces our living room. Their covert entrances and exits are under heavy surveillance by my cats, who like to sit in the living room windows and watch what I presume to be ‘Outdoor TV.’
Come Halloween, these quiet neighbors unexpectedly put up a bit of outdoor holiday décor in the form of a life-sized, long-haired, hunch-backed Igor Butler holding a plastic pumpkin that presumably held candy for the few trick-or-treaters that would dare pass the jungle to get to it. He soon became known in our household as our next-door-golem, since he scowled through our windows every day, like a Halloween peeping tom. The cats were overly distraught about his presence, largely due to the fact that he won every staring contest; unheard of for such a human-like opponent. Halloween came and went, but the golem remained, complete with plastic pumpkin and cobwebs with spiders hanging from his serving tray.
The day after Thanksgiving, our other neighbors went immediately to work. Their house is now framed in colored lights, their windows lit with battery-operated candles and their immaculate yard filled with discount Christmas paraphernalia. They have light-up reindeer, fiber-optic trees and an illuminated nativity scene, complete with beasts of burden, angels and the Holy Family. My personal favorite is the 6’ inflatable snowman that, when deflated with his head at his crotch, appears to be performing a very obscene act right next to the baby Jesus.
It is now that I must detour and mention the newest addition to our home; a motion-sensitive cardboard display Wall-E that, I am told, is actual size. Wall-E came to us from Circuit City, a lone orphan that my husband took pity upon and brought home for disputable reasons. He is approximately two and-a-half feet tall by two feet wide and makes various E.T.-like noises every time you walk past him. It might also be apropos to mention that we have three cats, all of whom find Wall-E to be a most intriguing fellow and a very comfortable, if noisy, seat. After the first sleepless night of Wall-E’s whistles and gurgles, we faced him into the corner, as one would a child who was in time out. It made no difference; Wall-E still sings to beat the band.
I have tried to be a gracious hostess, but my patience has run thin. Every day I try to convince Wall-E that somewhere in the world is a family who will care for him and love him just as he is, annoying sound effects and all, but still he is reluctant to leave. Wall-E has officially worn out his welcome and my softie of a husband refuses to kick him to the curb with the other garbage. It would be one thing if he worked for his supper, like Roomba the Vacuum Cleaner, but all he does is sit there making a constant commentary on the fact that I walk back and forth a lot.
I woke up unusually early this morning because of some distant sound that I couldn’t quite place. I assumed that it was Wall-E, greeting the morning with his song, but soon I noticed that it was coming from somewhere outside, beyond Wall-E’s voice-throwing abilities. I walked to the porch to investigate and realized that it was coming from across the street.
As you are no doubt aware, no resplendent Christmas display would be complete without the addition of Jingle Bell Rock, played in loop through an outdoor sound system at dawn. The lights, trees, animals, nativity and vulgar Frosty were not enough, no! My neighbors need Muzak.
A strange gurgling sound louder than the Christmas carol startled me, making me jump backwards. Because I was standing in front of his window, Wall-E had yelled at me from inside to please stop blocking his view. His motion-sensitivity is apparently so acute that it works through walls. So much for time out. Slightly amused and extremely irritated, I turned back towards the house to go inside when a flash of red caught my eye.
With all the holiday cheer next door and across the street, how could my sideways neighbors not catch the decorating bug? Filled with the Christmas spirit, someone put a Santa hat on the golem’s head. The bright red and white of the hat contrasts greatly with his permanently gloomy and sallow expression, topping him with a festive glow that I’m not sure he fully appreciates. Nonetheless, it does bring a certain cheer to the otherwise cobwebbed and spider-filled display. I wonder if they would notice a certain cardboard robot in reindeer antlers. The two could become fast friends.