Photography by Corrie Aune.

Back when the pandemic first reared its ugly head, neighbor Linda Marie Ford wanted to help her father, Tim Ford, celebrate his 80th trip around the sun. Mindful of safety and nixing any in-person party, Ford instead saw a window of opportunity. Make that 36 windows.

At the front of Ford’s home in Lakewood are window panes, 36 of which are visible above shrubbery. Utilizing each pane for one letter or space (think TV’s Wheel of Fortune), she posted a message for her beloved father: “Happy 80th Birthday Pops!”

Ford painted the letters on copy paper, and used them over and over since, creating letters as needed — sort of a giant version of Scrabble.

And so began our neighborhood’s most interesting message board, equal parts funny and controversial, a running commentary and chronology of life these days.

Ford initially found inspiration nearby. “In the very beginning of COVID,” she says, “neighbors were sending emails saying it was their kid’s birthday and asking if anyone would like to put a sign in their windows.”   

She ran with the idea, and the grand gesture paid off: Her father was thrilled and passersby noticed the birthday wish. She says, “The best part was that we would sit out front and people would jog or walk by with a ‘Hey, tell Pops Happy Birthday!’ Pretty cool.”

Since that first successful message to Pops, Ford has sent out  other celebratory messages to family and friends, many around scholastic achievements. And some have just been for a laugh. Early last year saw a number of those: “What’s A Pig With No Legs? A Groundhog!” “Super Bowl Is A Large Bowl of Guac.” And “Candy Sale on Feb 15: Hint Hint.”

Understandably, it’s the edgy messages that get the most attention, both from those driving by and those seeing social media posts. Never one to shy away from politics, Ford had plenty to say during the presidential election. 

“Hate Never Made Any Nation Great” was followed soon after with “10 Days Left to Register — Forms Here.” A big arrow pointed to a stack of voter registration forms by her door.

Leading to Election Day, she displayed several reminders about early voting and polling places. Post-election, Ford had “One Country One Destiny” and later “With Unity We Can Do Great Things.”

Throughout, the messages have garnered attention, most of it positive, she says. But another member of the household has suffered the slings and arrows when it comes to in-person complaints. 

“Quit Whining and Get the Damn Shot!,” collected 322 likes on social media, but Ford, mindful of her innocent-bystander spouse, added this caveat: “If anyone wants to complain in person, talk to me, not Hottie Husband.”

Ford’s window messages, snark and non-snark alike, have certainly kept the neighborhood talking, but one of her favorite moments was a sweet reaction to a pre-election display.  

“When it became clear that there was going to be turmoil with the election results, I posted ‘Keep Calm and Send Chocolate!’ The kids down the block put a basket of candy on my front porch. I posted back, ‘Faith in humanity restored!’”

PATTI 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.