Sometime in December not so very long ago.
You know your life has hit a new low or perhaps taken a much different, darker path then you ever imagined when you find yourself at Goodwill haggling over the price of Christmas decorations. I had gone to Goodwill to drop off two large Hefty garbage bags filled with clothes my kids had either out grown or had “never liked” and only wore because they didn’t want “to make me mad.” Some people would choose to go through the Goodwill drive thru lane. This, my friends, would be a mistake. You should always go into the Goodwill because you never know what treasures are waiting for you.
I went in and discovered the motherlode of the crappiest Christmas decor you’ve ever seen. What caught my eye first was the collection of torn and faded yard blow ups. I had found the Island of Misfit Inflatables!
There was a Frosty the Snowman with no eyes and a corn cob nose that looked like it had been disfigured in a knife fight with Jack Frost. Poor inflatable Santa Claus had an outfit that had faded to a light pink and it appeared that at one point his head must have been ripped and reattached with duct tape giving him a tracheotomy Santa vibe. There was a Mickey Mouse with no tail and one ear and a Rudolph that some incredibly disturbed individual had drawn a life-size target on. If this wasn’t ghastly enough I turn around and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a “mooning Santa.” When the inflatable was new I believe it had some kind of motorized system that pulled Santa’s pants up and down. Now, Santa pant’s just hung there at full moon like there was no way he could hold it till he got back to the North Pole. It was the “Santa Is Going to Take a Dump in Your Yard” inflatable.
I almost wept with joy. I must have these inflatables! God forgive me, but I had a plan. I found the manager of the store and began the bargaining process. He informed me that “Goodwill doesn’t negotiate on their prices.” I explained to him that I really only wanted to borrow the decorations and I would return them or re-donate them in less than a week. So, what I was basically asking for was a lease agreement.
Now, you maybe thinking that I’m a deluxe cheap skate for trying to rip off a charity at Christmas. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish I could pay full price. Sadly, I don’t have any kind of monthly budget for schemes or mischief. So, this was coming out of my sacred (and meager) hair highlight fund. Luckily, the Goodwill manager (in I’m sure an attempt to get me out of his store) agreed on a flat price. I happily skipped out of Goodwill, folded down the seats of my mini-van, loaded up the inflatables and their accessories and headed home. It was time for me to marshall my troops and call a meeting.
Later that day
It was 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. In my kitchen I had assembled the suburban equivalent of Navy Seal Team 6. Me, three of my best friends and my son (who would be providing the tech support). Here was the plan. We were going to “enhance” the snootiest, biggest pain in the ass neighbor’s holiday party. Barbara Gray, was going to get a much-needed Christmas Comeuppance. I was dreaming of a White Trash Christmas.
Barbara is in her mid 50’s. She married later in life to a much older man. She has no kids, no pets, no career and no life. She derives her happiness from telling other people what to do. Barbara thinks she wrote the book on good taste and graceful living and relishes every opportunity to point out how you’re not living up to her standards.
She’s called me out on my yard maintenance, my holiday decor, my parking (she seriously bitches at me that I don’t put my car into the garage during the afternoon. Excuse me, I’m home in 15 minute increments dropping one kid at home and hauling another kid to some kind of practice. I’m not putting my car into the garage to spare her having to gaze upon the beauty that is my Sienna mini-van.) my children, my pets and my love of Target track pants. You can insult my home, my kids and my pets, but when you start dissing my track pants, you’ve crossed a line lady and you will pay.
I probably would hate her less if she was unattractive with a hook nose or chunky. But, nooo – Barbara is exceedingly well-groomed and thin (damn her) with the dewy skin of the affluent. You just know she devotes a hefty portion of her day to a nine step skin care regimen. The whole exfoliate, cleanser, toner, tonic, serum, primer, hydrate extravaganza with the glands of virgin sea urchins. Meanwhile, I’m in the shower hoping the Suave Damage Care conditioner with moisturizing properties will take a detour from my hair to my face and hitch a ride on my pores thus completing my skin care routine.
She was also very fashionable. Her winter uniform is tight black pants stuffed into black boots that look like the ones the S.S. officers wore in Hitler’s Imperial March and I’m sure cover her manicured cloven hoofs. She also wears some kind of designer poncho that could double as a cloak for her coven. She’s very busy doing important volunteer work. The Symphony, the Lyric Opera, have all, according to Barbara, been “blessed by her dedication.” Suffice it to say, this woman’s idea of achieving nirvana is getting Yard of the Month.
Every December Barbara and her husband, Mr. “No Balls” host a party for her fancy friends. This gives her a chance to play Lady of the Manor. Two weeks before the party Barbara goes door to door and distributes letters to all the neighbors requesting that we “strive for immaculate yards, use a less is more philosophy when it comes to holiday decorating and please house cars in our garages during the evening on her party.” Hey Barbara, I have two letters for you F & U.
Barbara’s party was three days away and using my, non granite, kitchen island as command central I mapped out my plan on three Brawny paper towels with a Sharpie. Directly across the street from Barbara’s house was a lovely home that was currently unoccupied. The owner, a very nice man, was somewhere in Eastern Europe working on a telecommunications project or as the neighborhood gossip went collecting his mail order bride. All I needed to know was that the gentleman wasn’t coming home anytime soon.
We would be using his house, or more specifically his front yard, as ground zero for our caper. The goal was to take all the inflatables I had “rented,”11 in total, (including an Easter Bunny that due to the unfortunate stretching of a portion of the nylon looked like he had erect male genitalia) and get them in the yard, add in other “no so gently used” pieces I had picked up like broken candy cane yard stakes, mix in loud holiday music and a light show and have all this ready for her royal highness’s party.
The catch – she couldn’t see us doing any of the set up. That meant we had to get the whole yard rigged an hour before her party and we would need at least an additional hour undetected by HRH to do some electrical work in the back yard, like layout all the extension cords (Just in case you’re curious it took 23 super long outdoor extension cords) and get them hooked up on my home’s exterior outlets. (Bad form don’t you think to use your neighbor’s electricity without asking?)
This meant my BFF Kelly would have to use her clout as the Homeowners Association treasurer to get Barbara out of her home. Barbara was the HOA recording secretary. I suggested to Kelly that the afternoon of the party she call an emergency meeting at Starbucks to discuss something sure to get Barbara’s attention like some kind of juicy financial malfeasance or unauthorized shrubbery installation. Kelly, who really needs to work on her fibbing skills, was afraid she wouldn’t be able to pull off.
This is when I had to tell Kelly to put on her big girl granny panties and remind her of all the things I’ve done for her up to and including my August smoke bombing (left over from July 4th, waste not want not) of a car. It was my way of helping Kelly. You see there was a mother who was standing in the morning kindergarten sign up line holding the spaces for herself and 8 other mothers thus totally blocking Kelly from getting her daughter enrolled into the a.m. kindergarten program.
Quick backstory – There are only 18 morning, high value, kindergarten slots and a group of moms formed a coalition to make sure all their kids would get in and be in the same kindergarten class. These slots are so coveted that moms start lining up at 4 o’clock in the morning outside the school. Their lame plan, (I mean really lame. These moms acted like they were the masters of the long con) was to have one mom stand in line for all of them and then as that mom got close to the front she would alert them and they would charge the school and take their “rightful” places. Kelly, who had been standing in line since 5 a.m. figured out what was going on and called me for help.
I, on the spur of the moment, awakened from a deep sleep, came up with the brilliant idea of a smoke bomb. I asked Kelly to find out which car was the line hog’s and then leave the rest to me. I snuck up to the school, did the stop, drop and roll, chucked the smoke bomb and screamed “Oh my God, who’s Beemer SUV is on fire!” The mom hogging all the a.m. kindergarten spaces started screaming, left her place in line and ran to her car thus enabling Kelly to move up and into position to grab a slot for her daughter. You’re welcome Kelly.
My little reminder did the trick and Kelly was sure she’d be able to pull it off. Our goal was to get Barbara out of her house between 2 and 3 on Friday. Right before we had to get our kids from school. We would use that time to rig all the electrical and layout the inflatables making it easier for us to drag them into the front of the house right before the party.
The electrical part of it would require me springing my son early from school. I told him I would need speakers for the yard, preferably surround sound and some kind of computer generated light show. He was also given an I Tunes budget of $10 to purchase the most obnoxious Christmas songs ever produced and put on a continuous loop. I suggested anything with Kidz Bop or Clay Atkins sings Christmas in the title. Once everybody was clear on their responsibilities, we kicked my son out of the kitchen, and toasted our plan with some Jingle Juice.
It was party time and I was pumped. I went through my to list and checked it twice. All was good. At 1:30 I got my son out of school early and gave him the “It’s best not to bother your dad with this information” speech. Yes, that’s right, I keep secrets from my husband. It’s called a marriage people not truth serum. Besides what man wants to be updated constantly on the day-to-day minutiae of his wife’s life? The answer to that question is a guy you never want to marry.
We meet up with the rest of the crew (minus Kelly who had successfully managed to get Barbara to attend the emergency HOA meeting) at the rendezvous point (the out of the country neighbor’s backyard) and began attaching extension cords to the inflatables, setting up speakers in the front yard shrubs and positioning two spotlights. Kelly texted us when she was leaving Starbucks which gave us just enough time to clear out. As we were getting back into our cars I shouted something I had always wanted to say, “We ride at dusk ladies! We ride at dusk!”
Barbara’s fancy pants cocktail party started at 6 p.m. I had planned for us to be in position in the backyard at 5:55. I wanted to ensure that a few party guests had already arrived before we went into full white trash mode. My feeling was it was best to light up with a few guests in the house thus keeping Barbara busy from peering out any of her front windows.
After we saw three cars pull up and the guests welcomed into Chateau Snotty I gave the signal to begin. Dressed in black (of course) me, my three friends, and our older kids dragged the deflated inflatables into the front yard. Then we jammed all the falling apart signs into the lawn, put up the broken candy cane yard art and threw piles of Christmas lights on the grass. (You didn’t think I would actually take the effort to string lights did you?) When all that was done we ran to the back yard and texted my son to plug everything into Mission Control which was my garage with about 13 large power strips. He was also in charge of starting the music and a computer generated light show that was so intense he was afraid it would induce seizures in squirrels.
Like magic all the hideous inflatables began to come to life, hunks of Christmas lights brightly shined and Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer as sung by the Kidz Bob chorus began blaring from the speakers as a green and red strobe lights hit the house like army artillery in a battle of the elves. It was a sight to behold and it got even better.
At around 6:15 car after car began cruising down the street creating a bit of a traffic jam. That morning I had put on Craig’s list and mentioned on the local parenting website under “events” that FREE candy would be given away and invited folks to drive by the “Ho, Ho, Ho, House”. All I had to do was buy candy canes in bulk from Costco and we were ready receive the lookie loos. Barbara’s poor, pitiful, party guests were having trouble finding a place to park making Barbara so livid she called the cops.
No worries on that front. I had it covered. I find for any scheme to be successful you need to work backwards from a worst case scenario objective as in the worst that can happen is someone will call the police. I knew, without a doubt, that a police officer would most likely be visiting us that evening that’s why I also mentioned in our “event” announcements that we would be collecting canned goods for the local food bank. Many generous people were stopping and handing us canned food. When the not one, but two police officers arrived I was ready. I explained to them that our children, in the spirit of the season, had decorated this house in an effort to help the less fortunate and to bring holiday cheer to the community. I then offered each of them a candy cane. They told us to “keep up the good work,” and left.
I’m pretty sure Barbara had been watching my interaction with the police. I could see her guests were transfixed to her living room window watching the merriment of the common folk. As soon as the officers drove off she ran over in her fur and said, “Well, why are you still here?”
I answered back with, “What are you talking about. Those delightful police officers came over to admire our handiwork. They think it’s great. Do you like it?”
She screamed, “I’m not done yet! I’m calling the sheriff!” and scurried back to her yard.
It was right about then my daughter started yelling to people in their cars to “Honk if you love Santa!” What a beautiful sound that made – like angels trapped in a Boston traffic jam. I was so happy and full of the spirit of the season I hugged my friends and paraphrased Dr. Seuss, just a bit and said, “Tonight maybe Christmas, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more! Like showing our horrible neighbor that we’ve now declared war.”
With that we all laughed and I realized one of the greatest gifts of all is friendship and of course, sweet, sweet, revenge.
*This, my darling Snarky readers, is my holiday present to you. Thank you for your support, love, and dedication to all things Snarky. My fondest hope is this little story of family and friends working together for peace on earth or at least the subdivision will become a holiday favorite that you can share year after year or e-mail to your H.O.A. president.
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**For more Snarky check out my book Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.
Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival. If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.