Note to my current neighbors: This was written before I moved here. I don’t want to offend anyone except the people down the street who are still turning on their Christmas lights every night.
What’s shorter than five feet, wears a red robe, carries a small urn, and is melting on the front lawn across the street? Give up? A left over wise man from our neighbor’s Christmas display. I don’t mean to be petty, but when Christmas has been over for nearly four months and the temperature is rapidly reaching 75 degrees, it’s time to take in the holiday decorations. That poor wise man liquefying into the lawn has now taken on an almost Picasso-like appearance. For the past two months I’ve thought about slowly inching him out to the curb so that one day he gets picked up with the trash. I don’t understand why the same people who were so excited to put up their Christmas displays that they started decorating right after Labor Day, have conveniently forgotten to take them down now that it’s Easter.
Last Christmas the guy on the corner erected a Santa sleigh in his front yard complete with all eight reindeer. Three weeks after Christmas only Dasher and Dancer were still standing. The rest appeared to have been victims of an apparent reindeer drive-by shooting. This year our next door neighbors put a life-sized Santa on their roof and attached him to the chimney with a cord. There’s something very un-jolly about Santa being held against his will. A week before Christmas, however, Santa was dangling off the roof with the cord wrapped around his neck in a macabre Santa suicide. But the people down the block hold the record for post-Christmas display negligence.
Every year they put a large manger scene on the roof of their garage. Mary and Joseph are kneeling down on either side of the sleeping baby Jesus on a bed of straw. It lights up at night so that all three of them take on an otherworldly sort of Kryptonite glow. Last year, this display stayed up long past both Easter and Memorial Day. By the middle of June I was afraid that, come the Fourth of July, I would see Mary and Joseph with flags stuck in their hands and fireworks shooting off behind the head of baby Jesus. Someone should invent holiday decorations and lights that automatically disintegrate or explode on January 31.
And it’s not only holiday decorations that become unsightly. Lawn ornaments of any kind should be carefully monitored. When I was growing up, the only yard decorations on my block were lawn jockeys. My best friend had one on her lawn and we used to practice slow-dancing with him. Even though he never moved, and his lantern would hit us on the side of our heads, he was still a fairly good substitute for a 10 year old boy. Of course this was long before it became politically incorrect to have a lawn jockey. By the early 70s most of the neighbors had put their jockeys out to pasture, except one man who painted the black face white. He gave it big red lips and outlined the eyes in black. It ended up looking like a nightmarish version of Lucille Ball in pedal pushers.
But, today the assortment of lawn statuary has moved way beyond lawn jockeys and pointy red capped gnomes. In some neighborhoods the Virgin Mary has surpassed dandelions as the most recognizable addition to a grassy green yard. My friend lives in a brand new subdivision that is populated with Virgin Marys. You can tell when someone new moves in because even before the lawn is laid Mary is holding vigil in the dirt. The worst part is that these people leave Mary out there even during Halloween. At least put a hockey mask on her or wrap her up like a mummy because her light blue robe clashes with Frankenstein’s green skin. But, there is one front yard on this street that has surpassed the pinnacle of yard statuary.
First of all, the homeowners have erected a kind of raised rock platform to set their lawn statues in. In this above ground statue zoo there is a mother deer with two fawns lying at her feet. Two or three white cherubs dangle off the side of a stone bird bath/fountain that shoots such powerful jets of water into the air it is not uncommon to find the carcass of an unfortunate bird who has been pummeled to death from the water pressure. There is an unidentifiable Greek goddess holding what appears to be a large harmonica in her hand (I’ve done some research and couldn’t find the goddess of harmonicas), and then there is a colorful assortment of chickens and roosters who look like they’ve wandered too far from the coop. But the best part of this eclectic gathering is the large statue of a preaching Jesus who presides over this menagerie with outstretched arms. And even though Jesus wanted to be heard by all those near Him, I don’t think even He would have been too pleased about preaching to three cement deer, two bisque cherubs, a harmonica toting goddess, the occasional dead bird and a handful of plastic resin chickens. Not to mention, He has to watch His mother who somehow has become employed by the postal service.
Now, Mary isn’t part of this particular display because she gets her own section down at the curb by the mailbox. In fact, Mary has been built into the mailbox. Every day she sits out at the curb all alone and waits for the mail. It’s probably a good thing her back is to the other lawn ornaments. No mother wants to spend her days watching her son preach to chickens. I wonder how she would feel if I added the melting Wise Man to the group?