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Late one summer when I was a girl, we had new neighbors move in next door to us.  I didn’t especially like them.  They kept their house dark and you never did know what was going on in there.  Even the kids were strange. 11-year old year Jerry rarely played ball with the other boys, and always had his nose stuck in a book. 


Charry was 9, and admittedly gorgeous with her long blond hair and bright blue eyes.  But she dressed atrociously, we thought, with layers of crinolines, big skirted silk and satin dresses with bows and ribbons and embroideries. – And this when the rest of us dressed in precursors of Gap Kids, at best. As you can tell, these new people just didn’t fit it.


Mostly we all ignored them, and months went by. Soon it was Christmas.  My parents were a little conservative about that.  We put up the tree and other decorations on Christmas Eve and took them all down January 2nd, without compromise. Keep them up an extra day?  Never!  But our newest neighbors seemed to have time schedule all their own. To start with, days went past Christmas, without any noticeable decorations or lights. Still dark.








                                                       Eastern Rite


But then, just before January 6th – “Little Christmas,” we later learned, the Orthodox Rite Christmas – a miracle happened.  A real miracle!  Just like that, the house was ablaze with lights like you never saw.  And what was most incredible was the tree.  Oh!  That huge, blazing, fabulous Christmas Tree! 


Just when everyone’s trees were down or coming down, their’s went up, and it was more glorious than any I had ever seen.  It was so fantastic all us kids peeked into the front windows just to get a look it, soaring up the top of the ceiling, with all manner of decoration on it.  Different kinds of decorations, such as we had never seen before.


The mother came out and even invited us to see the tree, which sat in its own big vat of water and was cared for daily.  There we saw generations of ornaments lovingly brought to the United States from Russia, carrying with them all the memories and history of their family and land. 


Here were little delicate ornaments with openings you could look into and see a whole village story unfold! Tiny dolls dressed much like Charry with carefully ironed bows and flowers and dresses.  Things you wouldn’t expect to see on a tree back then. Tiny toys with all kinds of moving parts. Jewelry with beads that dripped over the pine leaves and gave even more color and delight.  Well, the splendor went on and on. You could spend weeks, maybe months, and still not fully experience it all.


And perhaps that was the idea.  Because the Eastern Christmas came and went, but the Tree remained.  January came and went, and the Tree remained.  Other neighbors became concerned.  Some called it a fire hazard. Others used it to remind everyone how weird these people were.


                                                     A Forever Tree


February set it with all its ice and snow and blustery weather, and the Tree remained.  But by now, it had become a curiosity.  School kids would come into our neighborhood to sing Christmas Carols in front of the house, totally freaking out my brother. Somebody reminded that “For everything there is time,” and the time of the Tree was up. But, it wasn’t.


February ended and March began. It was still cold, but cold enough for a Christmas Tree? Week One came and went, but the Tree remained.  Week Two did the same.  But then…just as mid-March settled in tightly, the lights went out.  The Tree, in all its glory, finally came down.  The ornaments were all hand-wrapped and put away for another day.  Pine needles were carefully swept out.  And the house was silent, dark once more.









“Well, it’s about time,” my mother said, as my brother sighed relief. Kids stopped coming around harassing. Christmas was at last past. And you’d think, by then, you’d be glad. But I wasn’t.  I wasn’t glad at all. Not only that, but I seemed to develop a whole new respect toward these new people. I mean, image!  People who pay no attention to what other people say, and just keep up their Christmas Tree as long as they want.  Well, it could have gone on forever.


But of course, it didn’t.  It has been years since we’ve seen that family, but we still exchange Christmas Cards with Charry, who lives in California.  I suspect her present day Tree comes down in very neat conventional time frame, like ours.  Nice trees.


   —But oh! I don’t think I will ever forget that Christmas Tree that stood almost forever years ago.  Being different, I learned, can be a wonderful thing!

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Monday, November 30th, 2009

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