FARMINGTON — There goes the neighborhood.
I remember how out of place we felt when my wife and I first moved to this genteel Davis County city. Indeed, each time I’d mention to one of our new neighbors that we’d relocated from the Ogden area, an uneasy silence would descend upon the conversation. “Ogden,” they seemed to be thinking, “the place where they have nightly drive-by shootings? Where street gangs roam wild, like so many droopy-pants-wearing herds of buffalo? Where homeless people urinate on street corners, and residents proudly decorate their front porches with upholstered couches and various other threadbare furniture?”
Um, no. You must have us confused with West Valley City.
Well, you can take the boy out of Ogden, but you can’t take the Ogden out of the boy. Last spring, I just happened to mention to Rob and Tera Ramage, our neighbors across the street, that what I really wanted for Christmas was to see those milk jug luminarias making a comeback.
Huh? Surely, you’re familiar with the trailer-trash tradition of incorporating used gallon milk jugs into one’s outdoor holiday lighting scheme?
More blank stares.
And so I patiently explained everything. All about how you could take an empty plastic milk jug, put a little water in the bottom for stability, cut a hole in the cap and insert a bulb on a Christmas light strand — preferably a C-7, but a C-9 will do in a pinch — and the whole thing would radiate with a festive glow. And how, by stringing together entire strands of lighted milk jugs and lining a sidewalk or driveway with them, you ended up with the kitschy, plasticized equivalent of the traditional paper luminaria.
Rob and Tera’s eyes widened with excitement. To them, these milk-jug lights seemed the perfect combination — equal parts crafty and tacky. Sort of like if you crossed “Martha Stewart Living” with “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
They wanted in.
Months passed. I’d long forgotten our springtime conversation when, just before Halloween, Rob remarked how excited he was that they had a garage full of empty gallon milk jugs.
“Well, now. Isn’t that nice,” I replied, not really knowing how else to respond to such an odd pronouncement.
“You know, for the Christmas lights,” he said. “We’ve been saving milk jugs.”
It was all coming back. “Ohhhh, yeah. I’ve been saving them, too,” I lied.
The truth was, the Ramages had been collecting empty gallon milk jugs since early April. And with two growing boys, they go through a LOT of the moo-juice.
Meanwhile, across the street at our house, I hadn’t even begun saving jugs. And it’s pretty much just the wife and me at home these days. And she doesn’t even drink milk.
Not only that, but the missus wasn’t particularly enamored with the idea of turning our front yard into a monument to homogenization. So when I did start saving them, I had to keep rotating their hiding place, as she would periodically discover it and unceremoniously dump them in the recycling bin. (“Oh?” she’d ask sweetly, “Were you SAVING those?)
The upshot was that, by Thanksgiving, the Ramages had nearly 100 empty milk jugs saved up. I had 10.
Still, we pooled our plastic resources, and on the Saturday after Thanksgiving spent the better part of the afternoon executing our plan. We lined the sidewalk between our two houses with gallon milk jugs, enthusiastically aided by the Ramages’ two sons, Cameron and Garrett. (A special shout out to Garrett, who ended up going around the neighborhood raiding recycling cans and begging for jugs when we came up short. He was even smart enough to tell them it was for a “science fair project” — since we were pretty sure neighbors wouldn’t have contributed had they known what their donations were going toward.)
The result is, if I do say so myself, quite stunning. (“Stunning like a Taser,” my wife points out.) Oh sure, during daylight hours the 109 milk jugs stretched between our two houses makes it look like a garbage truck overturned on our street. But at night? The effect is quite fetching, appearing as if it had been some sort of magical Christmas garbage truck that overturned. It’s enough to make the Fat Elvis weep openly.
What’s more, the Ramages and the Saals (OK, the Saal; my better half wants no part in this) have a dream. A dream that one day, in the not-too-distant future, these lines of colorfully lighted plastic jugs will extend all around our cul-de-sac. And then, down both sides of the adjoining street. And eventually, our calcium-rich, vitamin D-fortified holiday display will completely take over our middle-class east bench community.
We start adding porch couches.
To donate empty milk jugs to the cause, contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.