06 December 2006

The Escalation of Lights

'Tis clearly The Season.

My neighborhood, eight square blocks at the foot of a venerable old Catholic Church, is intensely competitive in the Domestic Decoration Front. For Halloween, people start planning months in advance, and end up doing dioramas of graveyards that span three houses’ worth of lawns. Last year, six houses pooled their funds and rented a dry ice machine, and flooded the entire street with low-creeping ground fog. It was absolutely spectacular. The entire city I live in buses kids into this neighborhood for Trick-or-Treat, because we’re known to be both safe and enthusiastic, which is not something easily found around here.

But you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Christmas. Decorations started going up this year before the Thanksgiving turkeys had even been carved. Literally; the guy two houses down was wrestling with figuring out the blower machine for his inflatable snowman while his wife was in the house angling with whether the aluminum foil went shiny side up or down, as she does every year (it’s down, in case you were wondering.)

But this year, the annual competition has gotten a little more aggressive than normal. The folks that used to live next door were definitely keeping up with the Joneses. And the first year we had this house, and did the full-on light gig, they went out and bought just one strand more than us. Which was fine; they have two sons that are four years older than my sons, and very aware of the holidays in a way that my sons are not. Also, no one in this neighborhood was used to lights being on this house; the previous owners were, to quote the Redoubtable across the street, "frugal". Which means that in 40 years of living here, they never spent the money on lights, and this house was always dark for the holidays. The contrast alone got us compliments, our first year, so the expectation bar for this house was really, really low. Through a set of pretty astonishing real estate gymnastics, our old next door neighbors moved across the street last year. And a new family is next door. Well... several families are next door. It's a multigenerational hispanic family. They are loud, boisterous, full of life and color and enthusiasm. It's been a real joy having them here; they've added spark to the street. And when their decorations for Halloween were kinda subtle, I didn't think much of it. But this? This is Christmas. You should see the lighting on the house next door. I'll post pictures just as soon as I figure out how to get it to turn out well. Every single edge of the house is covered with running multicolored lights. At least fifteen strands are crisscrossing the lawn from the house to the two large sycamores in the parkway. A string of running-lighted stars spans the front porch. Multicolored icicles hang from every gutter surface. The chimney is wrapped. And every night, new lights go up. One or two strands at a time, subtly, so you don't really notice they're augmenting. Except that the whole display just becomes more fabulous and over the top and wonderful, by bits, every night. Makes you want to shout "Feliz Navidad!" at the top of your lungs just to look at it. Our old neighbor wandered over the other day to chat with Hubby. He's clearly feeling the pressure. Despite pre-wired reindeer in the lawn, wreaths on the large flat surfaces, inflatable snowmen, and white icicles, his spread simply cannot compare to the multicolor extravaganza across the way. So he keeps augmenting, but it isn't having the effect. Jason consoled him, encouraged him, and then chuckled vindictively as he found his keys and his wallet, and headed for the car. ...because we needed just a few more feet to really do the sycamores justice.


At 12/06/2006 10:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a "light" post on a day when my heart was heavy and dark with the news of the Kim family's dad found dead in the snow - that was gut-wrenching to follow especially since the kids were almost exactly the age of ours (and probably would not be alive and reasonably well without their mom breastfeeding [YAY] them after the few crackers they had ran out - 9 days in the car - she's a hero too, considering how little energy she must have had left in her own body)...

At 12/07/2006 07:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I don't know about the situation the other poster referred to, but it sounds very grim. About 20 years ago an entire family we knew perished in a blizzard, and it was tragic. This sounds much the same. Your blog though about the lights. Good grief. We have a flashing strobe light across the street. Is it disco Christmas? What? LOL. They're normally fairly tasteful people too, but the season must bring it out in 'em. love, V

At 12/09/2006 09:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to take your kids' picture with Santa you should bring them by the Benicia Capitol tomorrow or next weekend. It's free and a lot less frightening than the mall. And it would be neat to see you!



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