Last holiday season Tom and I got each other a ‘Mensch on a Bench’, and an ‘Elf on a Shelf’. Raising kids in an interfaith home requires balance, right? This year, as Christmas and Hanukkah align, we present to you, our new friends Danny and Arnold in:
[fanfare music] Dum-da-da-DA!
ELF-AND-A-MENSCH: A Chrismukkah Tradition
(Cue Robbie Williams & Brad Paisley, “It’s a collision of wo-orlds…”)
Let the countdown begin!
31 days: Interfaith Homes & Underwear Gnomes
30 Days: Tell me if you heard this one – a Mensch and an Elf walk into a bar…
29 Days: It’s beginning to look a lot like Chris-moose-kah!
28 Days: ho, ho…oy?
27 Days: “May the Schwartz be with you.” -Mel Brooks
26 Days: Celebrity Cook-Off – Gingerbread Boss vs. Ace of Potato Pancakes
25 Days: Candle Canes!
24 Days: Merry Chris-STEM-Kah, Lego My Lights
23 Days: Do You Want To Build A Snow Mensch?
22 Days: Mele Kalik Ha-NA-Kah’s the Hawaiian Way, to Say Merry Chrismukkah…
21 Days: Do You Sia What I Sia?
20 Days: Super-Mensch!
“Easy, miss, I’ve got you.”
“You’ve got me…who’s got YOU?!?!”
So, for no particular reason, I wrote an episode of a hypothetical TV show that has something to do with a family living in a quiet suburban New England town, somewhere south of Boston and north of Providence.
In this episode, the mom and dad, let’s call them, oh…Marielle and Dom, noticed a pungent odor emanating from some vegetation in the neighbor’s yard. In fact, the scent wafting over the fence seemed to be coming from a spot not 4 feet away from their own swing set, where their adorable little 1 and 3 year old suburbanite children frequently played.
As the days went on, the reek got stronger and stronger, until finally Marielle and Dom peeked through their fence and noticed a large plant, as tall as the highest part of the fence, and equally wide, growing right next to the fence for all to see. Assuming “all” were peeking through the slats.
Now, even though Marielle and Dom had no particular moral issue with people growing…whatever they want…in their own yards (especially when there is such potential for rope weaving or clothing production, for instance), Marielle had concerns about how this would impact her family.
Marielle worried that the stench in her living room will become permanent.
She worried that other mommies would avoid play dates at her house and in her yard.
She worried about her 3 year old asking her why it was so stinky, and trying to come up with an age appropriate explanation.
She worried that the neighbors would get in trouble, assume it was her fault, and that would result in even crappier neighborly relations (see prior episode where neighbors blast music late at night and cops arrive).
And most of all, Marielle was aggravated that she couldn’t take her kids on the swings without practically gagging from the ridiculously strong odor (that she never would have expected from a live plant, had she not smelled it herself.) I mean, it REEEEAAAALLLLY stunk. To Marielle, the character, I mean.
So one night, Marielle was having trouble sleeping because she was so pissed about the situation, and she finally decided she’d had enough. It was 1 or 2 in the morning, and she got up and paced around, trying to decide what to do.
She considered going out and tossing a crapload of salt over the fence to dry up the plant.
She rejected the suggestion she’d gotten, from a source choosing to remain nameless, of tossing her dog, Rex’s, poop over the fence, so it would be smelly for them, too.
She chuckled over the thought of inviting her 3 year old’s best friend over for a picnic by the swing set. With his mom. And his dad. The state trooper.
Finally, she decided to write the neighbors a letter, and to leave it in their mailbox in the morning.
Morning came, and Marielle had second thoughts. She questioned whether her brand of humor would be fully appreciated by those on the receiving end. She consulted the smartest people she knew, the ladies/bloggers/gurus of the Honest Voices Facebook group, and the consensus seemed to be to meet this crisis head on – confront the neighbors. But nicely. Some even suggested that bringing brownies along for the chat might be appropriate.
So Marielle and Dom went next door and rang the bell. One of the neighbors answered, and Marielle told him, “There is a really bad smell coming from something you guys are growing in your yard, and my yard,and living room, are starting to smell, too. If you could find it in your heart to move it somewhere else on your property, we would really appreciate it.”
Neighbor 2 came to the door and the Neighbor 1 told him, “The plant is smelling in their yard,” or something like that, and Neighbor 2 kind of stared at Marielle for a moment.
Smiling amicably, she said VERY NICELY, “We really don’t care what you do, one way or the other, but we’re starting to get comments from visitors, and the smell is really getting overwhelming.”
Neighbor 2 gruffly replied, “Well, it’s coming out in a week or so anyway.”
Marielle and Dom said, “Thanks,” and left. And though the conversation was uncomfortable, and in fact, an Honest Voices friend accurately remarked that “Wow that has to go down as one of the most awkward conversations ever!”, it certainly could have been worse.
And as the episode comes to a close, Marielle says to Dom, “Hopefully next spring they will choose another location to grow their stash so we don’t have to go through this again. Until then, I will work on improving my stick figures.”