April 21, 2018
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Let’s shake up the neighborhood with a plastic Santa

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

I’d like to think my house is pretty during the holiday season. I’m a traditionalist, and my house fits in just fine in my middle-class Bangor neighborhood.

Small colored lights on the Christmas tree; white electric candles in the windows; small white lights wrapped around winter greenery on the porch.

A wreath on the door.

It doesn’t stand out. There is nothing gaudy.

It’s just pretty and conservative.

It’s just right.

Except for this year.

This year there is going to be an addition. I’m very excited, but my conservative banker husband isn’t.

This year there is a poorly painted plastic Santa and a sleigh and Rudolph with his bright red nose that lights up and the whole shebang is headin’ to the rooftop of my house.

And it’s going to shake things up in my otherwise mostly conservative neighborhood with its pretty white lights and tasteful greenery.

And I can’t wait.

It all started last spring when I arrived home to find something unexpected in my driveway.

Now, my family’s life has not followed an exact course. Few who know us would argue that, and when you have busy and friendly teenagers in your home, all bets are off as to what you can expect to find when you return home from a jaunt even to the grocery store.

I came home once and found an old, beat-up, very large recliner on my porch. Who knows exactly why. I came home another day and found a well-used and stained tot-sized blackboard in the middle of my family room.

One morning I woke up and found marijuana plants growing in my street-side flower bed. My own teens did not put them there, by the way, but they were there nonetheless.

Last spring I returned from the YMCA and found a very well-loved, well-used and fairly large plastic Santa, sleigh and reindeer in my driveway. All attached, I might add, to a large red extension cord.

Unlike the other stray matter that ends up at my house, however, I knew exactly where this treasure had come from, and I was touched and happy and vowed right there in my driveway to honor the tradition that a departing neighbor had so thoughtfully entrusted to me.

I will put the most likely lead-paint-laden monstrosity on the roof right where it belongs and small children bored with the pretty white lights of the other homes will point to our roof every time they go by.

This unexpected gift came from now-retired Bangor police Officer Greg Sproul, who lived a few blocks down.

When we first moved to the neighborhood, I quickly took note during the Christmas season of this sort of outdated but charming addition to his Christmas decorations. He had it since he was a child, and he continued to put it on his roof in our otherwise conservative neighborhood each year.

I loved it.

“That,” I told him, “is what kids want to see.”

Some years he backed off. Threatened not to put it up at all. It’s gaudy, his wife said. It was sort of a pain in the butt, he agreed.

I scolded them. I shamed them, and they reluctantly placed Santa with his sleigh back in its rightful place.

It became “our thing,” and they honored my wish year after year as their own children grew.

Last spring, with an empty nest and a sweet little lakeside cottage feeling more like home, the Sprouls sold their middle-class-neighborhood home and had a major yard sale. They emptied the attic and the basement and prepared for the next stage of their lives.

And when Greg dug into the back of his garage and found his childhood Santa and sleigh, he debated what to do with it.

Hence, it ended up in my driveway and then in the back of my garage attached to a big red extension cord.

The paint is chipped. The wooden foundation is questionable. Rudolph is missing an antler.

Even my kids hate the damned thing.

But I love it. I love that it was Greg’s when he was little. I love that he gave it to me. I love it that I think it’s the only plastic rooftop Santa and sleigh circa 1958 in the neighborhood, and I love that this weekend my husband will be sticking it up on our roof and snaking that long extension cord through a window so Rudolph’s nose will light up.

I’ll still put white electric candles in the windows and small colored lights on the tree, but the little kids in the neighborhood won’t see that or care about it, but they will see Santa and the sleigh and Rudolph on the roof.

And someday, a few or many years from now, I will most likely pull it from the back of my garage, peruse my neighborhood and find it a new and appropriate home.

But this year it’s mine.


E-mail Renee at reneeordway@gmail.com and listen to her and co-host Dan Frazell from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on the radio at 103.1 The Pulse and 620 AM.

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