I mentioned a few days ago that one of our neighbors had Christmas lights up and lit on the day after Halloween. That’s a little extreme, even by my fanatical Christmas light standards, but I kept my comments to myself. Well, except for making a snarky note here, but I’m pretty sure none of my neighbors read this or even know it exists.
I noticed a couple nights ago that the lights haven’t been lit, and I didn’t see them yesterday or tonight either.
With those facts in mind, let me tell you a story from long ago about our Christmas lights and one of our neighbors. (Late edit: It occurs to me after typing all of this out that I may have told this story before – so be it.)
We’ve put up a fair number of lights every year, but less in the early years here than in the last decade or so. It took us a few years to build up our collection and hit our stride. The lights always start going up on the day after Thanksgiving (if we’re not travelling, it’s happened once or twice I think) or at least that weekend. It’s the taking them down that’s usually an issue.
These days we have enough lights so it’s four or five or six days of work to get them all up. In part that’s because I always used to have the three kids helping and they’ve been grown and scattered for a few years. (The Youngest Daughter will be visiting this year and is already making plans for how we’re going to attack it like the good old days.) What’s always amazed me is how lights that took six days to put up can come down in a half day. Must be that gravity thing.
In the early years here (it’s been well over twenty) there were years where we weren’t (by which I mean “I wasn’t”) terribly obsessed with getting the lights down after January 1st. We would stop lighting them up by the 4th or 5th or so, but between long, long work hours, the kids being in school, weather, baseball, and a zillion other parenting things, sometimes we got to the second half of January with the lights still up.
After this happened for the second or third year, we got a handwritten, anonymous note left on our doorstep, complaining about it and letting us know that we were making the neighborhood look shabby and driving down property values.
Which was total bullshit on SO many levels, but we’ll take that as a given. Let’s just say that having lousy neighbors will drive down property values far more than having Christmas lights still up on January 16th.
What really chapped my hide about the note was its anonymous nature. I consider myself a good neighbor and a nice guy. If someone had a problem with something we’re doing as neighbors, such as leaving our lights up, I would have much preferred they knock on the door and tell me. I wouldn’t go ballistic, I wouldn’t take offense, and I wouldn’t throw a fit or start a fight. My most likely response to something like the lights being up would be along the lines of, “Oh, okay, my bad, I’ve been busy and didn’t know it bothered you, I’ll get on it and try to do better next year. Sorry.”
But the anonymous bitching and veiled intimidation tactics? If you’re looking to sour my opinion of you quickly, that’s the way to do it!
We never figured out who it was, and it was tempting to get a 4×8 sheet of plywood and make a HUGE snarky response letter to prop up in the front yard – but I didn’t. And yes, ever sense then I’ll prioritize getting the lights down in the first week or so of January.
I always referred to the anonymous neighbor as “Mrs. Kravitz.” Do you remember the neighbor on “Bewitched” who was always spying on Samantha and Darren (or Darren II) and going nuts? She’s apparently moved into my neighborhood.
Now that I’m “being good” for all of these years and it’s been fifteen years or so since the “Mrs. Kravitz Christmas lights incident,” I’ve wondered if the person who wrote the note is even still in the neighborhood or even still alive? Have I not gotten any more notes because I’ve met their unknown and unknowable standards for neighborhood decorum? Or have there been no more notes because they’re complaining to St. Peter about how the grass above them isn’t cut often enough?
Flash forward back to November, 2015.
Did the neighbors turn their lights off for now because someone said something to them? (As a side note, did they say, “Oops, sorry, we didn’t think it made a difference to anyone, we’ll keep them off until Thanksgiving, thanks for mentioning it to us”?) Or did they get an anonymous note from “Mrs. Kravitz” about how the photons from their early Christmas lights were destroying property values and putting a burr under the saddle of some busybody who has nothing better to do with their life?
I don’t know.
But I’m curious. I probably won’t go over just for the purpose of asking, but if I’m out and about and they’re in the yard or putting up lights, I might have a friendly chat, neighbor to neighbor. You know, the way someone should have had a chat with me twenty-some years ago.