Make no bones about it, Becky Gruber’s skeletons are a big hit.
Gruber’s yard boasts wildly creative and funny arrangements of Halloween-type decorations, specifically skeletons. The coronavirus inspired the theme.
Like Lee Scammel’s YouTube songs, Gary Isett’s Big Boy hoisting toilet paper or many of us with chalk art and holiday lights, Gruber chose not to wring her hands but to offer the neighborhood encouragement and gentle humor.
“I’ve always had a lot of fun putting the skeletons out during the holidays, so when we were told to stay home in mid-March, I thought it would lighten the mood and give people something to laugh at while out on their walks,” she says.
Aware that skeletons could potentially offend, she approached with caution and sensitivity.
“Throwing a bunch of skeletons in my yard during a global pandemic could have easily been perceived as being in poor taste, so I was very careful about keeping it playful… like hoarding TP, social distancing and, of course, the weird ‘Tiger King’ obsession that got us through the first few weeks,” she says.
As Gruber finished the first display, a woman pulled over, laughed and asked if she could take photos. The images were posted on the Lakewood Facebook group, and the normally — ahem — crabby and judgmental tone was supportive and appreciative.
“They hadn’t even been out for more than a few hours and already the positive feedback was overwhelming,” Gruber says. “That was toward the beginning of the pandemic when I was feeling really anxious and a bit depressed. I had no idea how much it would also brighten my mood.”
Drive, bike or walk to the intersection of Abrams Road and Anita Street, and you’ll see a skeleton gleefully sprinting away while triumphantly clutching a package of Charmin. Behind him is a bony fellow, dropped to his knees in anguish, holding up two empty toilet paper rolls, as if cursing hoarders and the bathroom tissue gods. The star of the show is the Toilet Paper Bandit.
“He seems to be everyone’s favorite,” Gruber says. “He sports an eye patch and hook, making him a true ‘porch pirate,’ the bane of this neighborhood’s existence.”
Lest you’re tempted to add to your stockpile, the TP is fake. It’s nothing more than a Charmin wrapper taped to a box.
On the other side of the yard is the Social Distance Police. Two skeletons hold hands, clearly not 6 feet apart, while a skeleton police officer, complete with a blue vest and mirror shades, runs after the couple, brandishing a baton. In another corner of the yard, two smaller skeletal figures represent Netflix’s Joe Exotic and a tiger. Gruber says her favorite is the skeleton hanging on the lamppost on the side of the house.
“That one stays up year-round, and I decorate it for every holiday,” she says. “Currently, it’s wearing a mask and holding a spray bottle since I didn’t have any empty Lysol bottles lying around.”
Greeting passersby is a little skeleton standing at the front of the display, holding a sign that reads, “Don’t be shy! You are welcome to take photos/play in the yard/pose with the skeletons (they don’t bite)/enjoy and have fun!”
Gruber says neighbors walking by tell her how much they enjoy it. One woman who identified herself as an essential worker left a note, saying that she passes Gruber’s home on her way to work each day. Seeing the skeletons always makes her smile. One of Gruber’s favorite reactions occurred one evening when she was sitting outside with a friend.
“My neighbor and I were having a ‘social distance’ drink in my front yard,” she says. “A police car stopped in front of my house, and my first thought was, ‘Uh oh. Are we not sitting far enough apart?’ The officers got on their loudspeaker and said, ‘We were just admiring your yard.’ They laughed, waved and drove off. Totally made my day.”
The neighborhood loves Gruber’s humorous — or “humerus” — display.
“I am so thankful for every single person who stops to laugh, take photos and tell me they enjoy them,” she says. “You all have helped me get through these weird times more than you could imagine. Thank you, neighbors!”
PATTIN VINSON is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for more than 20 years. She’s written for the Advocate and Real Simple magazine.
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