It's that time of year again, when my neighborhood looks intentionally festive rather than just lazy. The holly on the mailboxes, the icicle Christmas lights dangling off rain gutters, and the Nativity scene window stickers could all be mistaken by any new visitor to the cul-de-sac for recently adorned holiday decor put up by those eager to make jolly. Little would a new trespasser know that these winter wonderlings have been in place since we moved to the neighborhood over three years ago.
Dead of summer? How about a light-up snowman leaning on your wilting hibiscus? Nothing goes better with your dead brown lawn than a wicker Rudolph-and-friends lawn display.
Not that I am judging. Oh, no. I am taking notes.
These folks have clearly figured out how to capture the holiday spirit year-round. Rebelling against the societal expectation of taking down seasonal decorations strikes me as genius for many reasons, not least of which is the immediate access to holiday cheer.
Who doesn't love cheer? Alas, our house often lacks holiday cheer. Not from lack of desire but from lack of time.
Every year and for every holiday, I intend to put up decorations. And nearly every holiday of every year, I fail. It's raining outside. Or it's too hot. Or it's too cold. Or it's too perfect, so we want to enjoy the fine weather. The kids have sports in the morning and a birthday party in the afternoon. And now it's dark outside. If only we'd been like our neighbors with year-round Christmas light displays, we'd be able to see the yard past sundown. But, I guess, if we had been smart like our neighbors, we wouldn't have to worry about putting up the lights each year, would we?
In our home, attempting to put up Christmas lights is much like buying a big bag of spinach at the grocery. You get the bag with the greatest of intent. You think that surely, this time I will use this bag of spinach. I'm going to be so ambitious and thoughtful with this bag of spinach. I'll make salads and spanakopita. I'll make spinach dip and grind it into the kids' pasta so they won't know how healthful their meal is. This time, the bag of spinach is going to change our lives! Then, three weeks later, the bag of spinach is found soggy and dripping in the bottom of the vegetable drawer. It is hauled over to the garbage bin, leaving a trail of fermented liquid on the kitchen floor. A stabbing pain of guilt, remorse and perhaps some self-loathing penetrates your gut as you once again toss your lost ambition into the trash. But alas, there is always next time!
Every year, I search for our lights, which are scattered among the boxes of old CDs and baby clothes piled high in our unfinished basement. I think this is the year that I will not only outline the house but write "Merry Christmas" in cursive on the front bushes. I will use the lights to snake up our railings and drip down from the rooftop like falling snow. This year, the lights are going to change our lives! Then they sit in the front hallway until the day after New Year's, when the bag, marked by broken glass and caked-on dust from years without use, is taken back to the basement. And there is that old familiar stabbing pain of guilt, remorse and perhaps some self-loathing penetrating the gut as I once again toss my lost ambition down the stairs. But alas, there is always next time!
It's the "next time" that fools me into keeping this pattern alive. But my neighbors have figured out the trick to avoiding "next time" syndrome. Eliminate the next time by doing it just the one time.
Unlike my neighbors, who look ready for Christmas, we still have a baby T. rex skeleton on the front lawn and Halloween cookie cutters sprawled across the kitchen counter. Naturally, no cookies were actually made. Perhaps it is the year-round Christmas cheer of my neighbors that inspired me to take those bat-shaped cookie cutters and make my kids bat-shaped sandwiches for lunch this week.
Maybe we will leave out the Halloween decorations, too. You do it right once and you can avoid a next time.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.