Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why We Left Our Christmas Lights Up (Is It Really Almost March?)

Act 52:  Embrace Tacky Lawn Ornaments. 

For the past few months, my family and I have been bombarded by neighbors with clipboards, letters in our mailbox, and friendly calls from folks who live down the street - all with the same intent of asking us to support the creation of a formal neighborhood association with enforceable rules and regulations.  Just yesterday, one of my dear neighbors called and asked for my e-mail address and telephone number to be included in a neighborhood directory, an informal way for the community to connect with each other to report suspicious activity, a neighborhood watch of sorts.  "Community", however was defined in a fairly limited way, and did not include the entire neighborhood, but only the four back streets.  The street that is the main entrance, the one with (in her words) the "smaller" and "less attractive" houses, the one with the "tacky" lawn ornaments, would not be included in this directory.  My neighbor then proceeded to tell me that the developers promised that in the future we would have our own entrance and would no longer have to drive through the tacky street in order to get to our houses.  We would eventually be spared from daily interactions with the family of ceramic deer.  The colorful gnomes.  The year-long plastic poinsettias.  And yes, even the gargoyles.

Despite all the visits, calls, and letters.  Despite the fact that one of the reasons we moved to this neighborhood was so our son could grow up in a tight-knit community where people welcomed one another with home-baked pies.   Despite the fact that we sometimes get annoyed when neighbor kids routinely leave their bikes and basketball goals in the middle of the road.  Or when people down the road burn their trash in their front yard (yes, this really does happen).  And despite the fact that we actually do kind of pride ourselves with having decent design taste and have consistently adhered to the notion that ornaments were meant for Christmas trees and not lawns - my family and I decided that we would not support the creation of a formal neighborhood association.

Please allow me to paint a picture of my neighborhood.  We live in a small subdivision with mostly brick homes.  Upon entering, you would have to drive through phase 1, one street of about 25 starter homes, nestled closely together.   Then you would enter phase 2, four streets of larger homes, mostly one-story to maximize views of the Pinnacle hills that surround the back streets.  The Pinnacles are the sole reason we bought our home.  We moved in when our kindergartner son could not yet walk, and until about a year ago, we - well actually just me - were the only people of color in the neighborhood.  Last year an African-American family moved in one of the phase 2 houses and I got giddy with excitement, hopeful that my son might actually grow up with a little diversity in his immediate surroundings.  Then the family did the unthinkable.  Gasp.  They built a huge shed in their backyard.  A super fancy shed actually.  You know, the ones you could probably park a car in.  And that is when all hell broke loose in our little picturesque community.  First the petitions to have the shed removed.  Then the efforts to establish a neighborhood association.  Then the calls about the neighborhood watch directory.

Again, might I remind you that I live in a neighborhood where people actually burn trash in their front yard.  You'd think the natives would have more of an issue with the possibility that our entire neighborhood might burn down - not to mention the fumes our kids have to breathe in - than with a shed that isn't  "made of the same brick material as the house".

With all the divisiveness surrounding us in politics, in legislation, in religious thought, in the world -I refuse to allow the place where I lay my head down each night, the place of refuge and sanctuary for my family, to be used as yet another battle ground with restrictions and rules and penalties.   A place where expectations are seemingly different for people based on the color of their skin or the dollar amount on their paychecks.  A place that gives us all yet one more reason to divide, than to bring us closer together. 

So we did the one thing that we knew how to show solidarity with the family with the shed.  We left our red and white candy-cane striped lights up.  Yes, they are still up today, and at this rate, we're just down-right too lazy and may leave them up till Christmas.  For all we know, there's a petition going around about us.  And we are just fine with that.


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