Twelve years ago, on a clear, sunny morning between Christmas and New Year, I opened the door to reach for the newspaper and I noticed something amiss on the roof of our two cars parked in the driveway. Very cute but definitely amiss.
On top of one car was a plastic Santa Claus, about three-feet tall, and on top of the other, Frosty the Snowman of similar height.
Snow had fallen the night before and the white blanket covering the cars created a lovely scene for these joyful characters.
I blinked a few times, then I found my boots, put my coat on over my pyjamas and ventured outside to get a closer look.
I shook my head in puzzlement, and when I turned to go back into the house, I noticed, arranged quite artfully over the white blanket that was our front lawn, an entire cast of winter and Christmas characters. There was a taller Santa and not far from him was his friend Frosty. A wooden Rudolph, decorated with red ribbons around his torso to match the vivid red ball on his nose, was closer to the road – I guess to guide the way to guests off the street. Surrounding him was an entourage of smaller reindeer.
At this point I was doing a lot of simultaneous blinking my eyes and shaking my head. But, feeling chilly, I turned to go back to the house. That's when I noticed the four magnificent pine wreaths, decorated with poinsettias, encircling each of our four outside light fixtures, on each side of the front door and the garage door.
They definitely had not been there yesterday.
When my husband went around to our neighbours to ask if they were missing any Christmas decorations, none said they were, but each one responded with a version of, "But, aren't you … Jewish?" To which he replied affirmatively.
At breakfast, we were all scratching our heads. When I told my friend Lili a while later, she, being a conscientious lawyer, asked, "What if it's stolen property? Maybe people in your neighbourhood are missing these wonderful decorations that they obviously paid good money for!"
That sensible conjecture led me to call the police, and a constable was summoned to our home. After some clarification of why I had called, he said, "So, let me get this straight. You want to report a gifting, not a theft?"
I suggested that perhaps these items had been stolen and perhaps someone was feeling very sad right now without their Christmas ornaments. He sighed and phoned his precinct to check if anyone had reported stolen Christmas decorations.
Apparently, nobody had called in any thefts of Rudolph, Santa or Frosty.
I caught a gist of the conversation from the other end – was that laughter? A guffaw? – there was some silence on our constable's part, and then some rolling of his eyes.
After he hung up, I had to give him a formal statement.
Then he went outside with a notepad and pen to inventory the "crime," sighing and reluctantly trudging along our property. I could hear him muttering as he wrote, "One four-foot Santa, one four-foot Frosty the Snowman, one Rudolph."
And so it went.
When he was finished he came back inside and I asked him if he was going to round up the goods and take them with him to the evidence room. I didn't watch a lot of TV police shows, but I was pretty sure they all had evidence rooms.
This impressive looking 5-foot-4 gentleman looked me squarely in the eye and said "No."
Five-foot-3 me replied, "What am I supposed to do with them?
No reply, just another square look in the eye.
To which I said, somewhat lamely at this point, "But we're Jewish! These don't belong to us, and you can see they're expensive. Somebody is missing their ornaments!"
A slight pause, maybe another sigh, and then he replied: "Lady, if I were to cram my car up with these ornaments and take them down to the precinct, I would be the laughing stock of the entire unit. I'm not taking them."
And so it came to pass that we acquired the honour of having the most attractively decorated Christmas home on the street. I have to admit, those precious creatures really did brighten up the neighbourhood, and they made me smile whenever I drove up to the house.
After the New Year, some neighbours dropped by to say, "Uh, if you're not going to use them, would you mind if we took …" and we very happily shared our dubious loot.
I confess that one of the wreaths is still in our garage, a memento of sorts. And one of the Santas now lives at our cottage. Every year our grandchildren take a picture beside him and we can see how much they have grown.
My son once stood him up on our cottage roof. I can't imagine what the canoeists and kayakers thought as they passed by on the lake.
We still haven't solved the mystery of the Christmas gifting. Nobody has ever fessed up. So to whomever was responsible, I say thanks! And to my neighbours and family, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year and God – or whomever you believe in – bless us everyone!
Marilyn R. Kogon lives in Kingston.