Deck the halls, part deux

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Remember how I was telling you about my sleep deprivation due to the blinding Christmas lights in the neighbourhood?

One would think that I would be used to it by now, because in my previous neighbourhood, I also found myself caught in a perpetual twilight zone from Thanksgiving until after New Year's.

In fact, one of my former neighbours was the Nazi of year round decorating.

I had almost two years to see her in action, and it was truly astonishing.

The first time it was just before Valentine’s Day. By the time I had moved in, the decorations were already up for the occasion: A flag with pink and red hearts hanging from a flagpole next to the front door, pink and red heart-shaped balloons bobbing from the porch railings, and – to further top off the understated elegance – another flag-like cloth in more or less the same theme of hearts and still MORE hearts, draped down the length of the front door.

I thought that was it, until I noticed a peculiar reddish glow outside when I looked out my window one night. Suspecting a fire or – at the very least – the landing of an unidentified flying object (this IS the United States after all), I rushed outside.

To my further amazement and slight horror, I saw what it was: strings of red and pink lights – similar to Christmas lights, but only in heart shapes – were strung along the fence and around the porch. In all the windows, a succession of Cupids outlined in the same kind of lights, blinked on and off, furiously alternating between red, pink and white.

Perhaps it all wouldn’t have been THAT bad, had it not been for the fact that it had just turned January and the day of St. Valentine was still more than a month away.

Believe it or not, but I eventually got used to it.

By the end of Valentine’s Day, though, I was shocked anew. The Valentine’s adornments that I had reluctantly learned to live with, were conspicuous in their absence.

Unfortunately, this didn’t mean that the little garden was back in its ‘natural’ and quintessentially Baltimore state of gnomes and plastic flowers (really, the kind with little propeller-like leaves that is set off spinning in a blur of bold colours at the nudge of even the most gentle breeze).

Instead, all the Valentine’s decorations had been skilfully replaced and Easter bunnies of all shapes and sizes had invaded the garden.

By the time the red, white and blue flags, streamers and lights went up for a very patriotic Independence day on the fourth of July – before the sun had even sunk on Easter Sunday, mind you – I finally reached a profound conclusion. I realised that the woman was an obsessed decorator and that she simply HAD to be the first one to have her decorations up for the next holiday.

One of the younger neighbours tried to beat her to the punch (for Thanksgiving, I think, for which the decorations come out about a week after a flag with a yellow and brown leave motif announced the start of autumn. Oh, did I forget to mention the seasonal decorations?), but she must have had a secret informer, because she returned home early from work that day and (perhaps out of revenge, I suspect, but can’t be sure) out-decorated the entire neighbourhood with turkey flags, stuffed toy turkeys along the stone path through her garden and a larger-than-life scarecrow.

And yes, of course she was first again. But in the defence of the young neighbour who had tried to beat her: she was only 11 years old, while the Nazi Decorator had the edge of experience at about 35.

But if I had thought that she was overdoing it the rest of the year, I was in for a serious surprise. You see, I was to learn that the epitome of her decorating …um…talents are saved up to come to its full glory only for the Holiday of all Holidays: Christmas.

But before I get to that, let me tell you about the seasonal decorations. Regardless of what the weather was like, on every official calendar day that marks the start of a new season, her old decorations were promptly taken down and the new ones went up in its place.

That same year I was horrified to see her take the same stance regarding the few natural flowers in her garden.

On a beautiful, warm October day, she was out in her garden, viciously ripping out all the perfectly alive natural flowers in sight.

(And no, it wasn’t weeds, it was real flowers.)

Shocked beyond belief, I asked the 11-year old what was going on.

"Oh, don’t you know? Today is the first official day of fall."

"But it’s still so warm!" I exclaimed.

She merely shrugged, and sympathetically patted me on the shoulder as if to say: "You’ll get used to it one day."

And yes, of course the flowers were replanted with military precision on the first official day of spring, whether it was still minus forty degrees outside or not.

Back to Christmas.

The Thanksgiving turkey wasn’t even cold yet when she went outside and started ripping off the decorations.

That night, when we emerged from the house again to see off a friend, Christmas had arrived in all its glory.

I don’t even know where to START describing all the decorations she had up: stuffed Santas, reindeer made out of wire, blinding Christmas lights everywhere, the ever-present flag, and the best: A life-size nativity scene with all the figures (multiracial, I must add, so at least she was politically correct) made out of plastic. At night they lit up as well, and with that special effect they did seem like glowing idols.

Later that Thanksgiving weekend, we had a terrible storm that ripped through the area, complete with rain and howling wind gusts.

When we left our house on the first sunny morning, I looked over at the Nazi Decorator's Christmas palace. At first I thought she had taken the nativity down, but then I looked closer. Mary, holding the baby Jesus, the three wise men, the donkey and the sheep all lay facedown in the bare and muddy flowerbed.

Only Joseph was still standing – or rather, leaning – and also just barely, because he was merely held up by the porch railing.

I had to wonder: was it Divine Intervention?

Well, whether it was or not, the nativity was promptly resurrected. This time, she had securely tied them to the porch railings with rope, where they remained hostage until sunset on Christmas day.

Believe it or not, but it could have been worse.

A man who lives in the northern suburbs of Baltimore made the evening news recently for his decorations and for how he managed to do it. And believe me, making the Baltimore evening news because of your Christmas decorations takes some doing in this town!

You see, he lives in the woods and he decorated all the huge trees around his house with Christmas lights.

He managed to string the lights by... you'd better sit down for this one... shooting it up into the branches with a bow and arrow.

In the dark.

He proudly demonstrated this to the camera crews and breathless television reporters. While he was taking aim, he said cheerfully: "I haven't killed anyone... yet."

See? I really should count my blessings, because no one in my neighbourhood has gone to such drastic decorating lengths... yet.


Happy Christmachanukwanzaasolictivus, Red!

... and yes, always count your blessings. :)


Gretchen said:

Her name wasn't Martha by any chance was it? With such precision and extreme need to be first, Ms. Stewart may have lived there.

Then again she could just be strange.

Mery Holiday to you!

redsaid said:

Hey Gretchen,

Oh, no... Martha S would've abdicated her cookie covered thrown without any court cases or trading scandals before "planting" plastic flowers in her garden.

This woman was just plain weird.

And you know what? For the life of me, I can't remember her name! She was 35 years old and still living with her mom (who was rather unfriendly... maybe because she couldn't sleep either, what with the constant glow of whatever holiday lights flickering right outside her bedroom window) and her poor dad, whose name is Fred. He was the sweetest old guy and TOTALLY oppressed by those two women, ordering him about and giving him daily chores to do. Even on weekends, when they went to a neighbouring state to shop at outlet stores where they undoubtedly bought even more decorations, he was out mowing the lawn and sweeping the porches and vacuuming the house. Skinny as a rail and moving about like a nervous bird, he always had some sort of broom or vacuum cleaner in one hand, a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his free hand. He was so friendly when they weren't around, and he'd actually come up to the fence and initiate conversations with us. I bet he was quite lonely. When they were around, he found escape in his hardcore factory job. The highlight of his year was when he got to have a rare weekend off and away from them. Then he got into his old jalopy of a car with a couple of six-packs and went fishing all by himself.

And I swear, whenver he came back from his lone fishing trips, he looked about a hundred years younger.

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)


  • redsaid : Hey Gretchen, Oh, no... Martha S would've abdicated her cookie covered thrown without any court cas... [go]
  • Gretchen : Her name wasn't Martha by any chance was it? With such precision and extreme need to be first, Ms. ... [go]
  • Motor City Santa Kitty : Happy Christmachanukwanzaasolictivus, Red! ... and yes, always count your blessings. :) *mwah*... [go]
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