Our neighborhood is the kind of place where tasteful outdoor holiday displays of white lights framing front porches and mini-wreaths and candles decorating windows prevail. It is the kind of place where the neighborhood listserv calls out visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses as potential prowlers “casing” the neighborhood, sees arguments erupt over individuals allegedly failing to pick up their dog poop, and lists endless requests for the names of worthy contractors for all sorts of home improvement projects. It is the kind of place where everyone waits to buy their Christmas trees until the local high school lacrosse team Christmas tree sale fundraiser, because everyone’s sons plays lacrosse. This terrifies me, as there are two team sports that I do not want my sons to play: American football (because of the fear of traumatic brain injuries) and lacrosse. In Durham of all places, I do not understand the enthusiasm that so many people have for their kids to play lacrosse. Those Duke lacrosse players may not have been guilty of rape, but they certainly were guilty of racism, sexism, and just generally appalling behavior. Even at UNC, I was once caught walking through the lacrosse team after practice. In addition to their general post-practice odor, the 30 seconds of conversation that I overheard made me grieve for all of humanity. No, that lacrosse thing is exactly what I want my kids to avoid. So, it is possible that we might have to move to a different, less lacrosse-friendly neighborhood before my boys get drafted into the neighborhood sport.
But here is the other thing about living in my neighborhood, a perfectly pleasant place to live, it makes me despise many of my neighbors who seem so obsessed with appearances. Now fortunately, I live in the best part of the neighborhood. In fact, I like all of my immediate neighbors. They are good people who are kind and always looking for ways to help a neighbor out (and some of them even have sons who play lacrosse and who manage to still be polite and good kids). But the neighborhood listserv does no favors to my neighbors not in our immediate proximity. When we were looking for a house to buy, one of my criteria was that the house not be in a neighborhood where I had to sign some restrictive homeowner’s association agreement about how long my grass could be, what kind of car I could drive, what kind of signs I could put in my yard, etc. I don’t sign away my free speech rights when I purchase a house, no thank you. Our neighborhood has a Homeowner’s Association, but it lacks the ability to create restrictions on people’s property, so that was good enough for me. From time to time, neighbors lament this on the listserv, as they regret that they cannot stop people from doing things they don’t like or don’t like to look at.
It has gotten to the point where this holiday season, I told David, I am sick of the tactful white light holiday displays of conformity. I want to blow it up, literally. Call it the Mississippi white-trash country girl part of me, but I wanted us to buy a giant inflatable Snoopy kayaking with Woodstock for the front yard. I wanted us to get the old giant-sized wooden nativity figures that Ma-Maw and Pa-Paw had in their front yard for Christmas out of storage in the old black house (called that because the house is painted black) on the farm and put them in the front yard. David said no to those requests, as he apparently has more tact than I do. However, he did let me extend our Christmas lights animal menagerie to include a golden elephant standing on a flashing red ball this year (not that he had much choice, as I bought it at Lowe’s with my Dad when David wasn’t around). He agrees with my choice to add a lot more color to our lights display to counteract the blandness of the white lights. I don’t know what it is, but I hate conformity so much, that it brings out the extremist in me.
We still have some purple lights to put up, but here is our current statement to the neighborhood.
Yes we still have the candles, so I guess we still haven’t broken free from all vestiges of conformity. Our house is so tall, and neither David nor I are going to be climbing ladders to put lights on the roof National Lampoon style, so we need some lights up high that are easier to manage.
More than anything, what this means to me is that David and I need to hurry up and find a house out in the country (before all of the “country” in the Triangle has been suburbanized) and I can stop reacting out of my innate extremism. And there we can display all of the giant inflatable Snoopys that our at least 10 acres will support without the fear of retaliation on the neighborhood listserv.