It started right before the Thanksgiving weekend and has ramped up over the course of the last three weeks. Each house in the neighborhood is taking the competition very seriously. To win the honor of the Best Christmas Decorations is the goal. The means to this end have taken near-Biblical proportions and, over the years, has resulted in more than a few heated exchanges between friends.
Max and Mary Phillips continue to add to their front yard presentation that already sparkled. What started as some lighted bushes and a few twinkling strands on their gutters has turned into a full blown herd of 47 glowing reindeer. The male deer heads and antlers slowly move up and down, as if looking for grass in the snow-covered lawn. The female deer heads move back and forth, as if looking for danger at any turn. Some in the neighborhood question the random penguins placed throughout the mass of deer, but the Phillips contend this is the way Santa would want it.
Trudy Montague and her sons have purchased three new generators to help power the six dozen blow-up holiday scenes packed into her small yard. The standard vinyl snow men and the Charlie Brown scenes are puffed tightly in the cold night air and win high marks for the sheer volume of props. But Trudy has felt pressure to increase her four-foot plastic snow globes that recirculate snow/foam inside. Unfortunately, she’s searched every manufacturer and has come to a dead end. She already owns every model ever made.
Tom and Pauline Sullivan are wonderful people who have raised the decorative bar for the entire neighborhood. After four straight years of holding the trophy (and there really is a trophy) for the best decorations, they have to work extra hard this year to keep the prize. Everyone is sure they will win. Especially since they unveiled their multi-media presentation that utilizes and FM transmitter, synchronized music and flashing lights, animatronic camels and Wise Men, and 8 foot wide projection of favorite Christmas movies. The Sullivan’s had a slight set-back when local authorities required a permit to show the film clips and after a small fine was paid for copyright violations, they were back in business. In past years, the rumor mill suggested that they spent more than $8,000 a year just to power the show. With the fines and out of court settlement, it is anyone’s guess what they’ve spent in order to “buy” their way to the trophy.
While the contest was always intended to be a healthy and friendly neighborhood competition, it is not always healthy and has hardly ever been friendly. And this year, it took a nasty turn.
A week ago, the Sullivans began noticing missing bulbs in their Singing Christmas Tree. What once was a collage of red, green, blue and white, was just a tree with two red strings of light that flash on the off-beat of every song. Tom went so far as to blame Trudy for steeling the bulbs. Of course, Trudy claimed she had no time to spend pilfering bulbs, as she’s been working a deal with a distributor in Guam who has an entire warehouse of blow-up lawn ornaments ready to ship out via FedEx.
No one was surprised when each of Trudy’s blow up decorations were found flat the next morning. They had been stabbed. It took her the entire day of taping and repairing before she was back up for business. Trudy suspected the Sullivans. Everyone suspected the Sullivans. Trudy didn’t sleep for the next two nights as she kept watch over her yard, waiting to catch Tom in the act of killing Christmas again.
The vandalism moved from Trudy to the Phillips’ residence when Max awoke to find their herd of deer all paired up and in a line, as if in a huge reindeer orgy. Each female was mounted by a happy male deer. Each buck’s was head still nodding up and down as if approving this position, while each female’s head shook back and forth.as if to say, “Not tonight, deer. I have a headache”. As if that weren’t strange enough, the out of place penguins stood in a semi-circle to one side, as if watching the scene in some perverted north pole peep show. To make matters worse, the local TV media made it to the yard before Max could tear down the disgrace and the humiliation of making the morning news was more than Mary could take.
What most people in the neighborhood didn’t realize is that the Farmours, a couple that moved into the neighborhood last summer, had been watching this entire event with much interest. They had put out one simple tree, covered in white lights and silver bulbs. Timothy Farmour hammered a sign into the yard beside the tree that said, “Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men”. It was simple. It was elegant.
In the end, the Sullivan family won the competition, again. Trudy’s shipment of blow-up displays arrived too late for this year’s event but she’s already preparing for next season. Max and Mary are vowing to put out more deer with security cameras to catch the pervert who messed with their herd.
But for most in the neighborhood, the Farmour family were the true winners.