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Our cul-de-sac is different from any other in the development: all our homes were built at the same time. So, there was no suffering through construction noise and dust, because we all moved in about the same time in 2006. From the time I invited everyone for a coffee and dessert gathering shortly thereafter, we were sure to be friends. And out of that friendship, an annual event is a highlight of the year for many of us.
A year or two after we all had moved in, our next-door neighbor (whom we call Mr. Mayor, since he often spearheads activities), suggested at one of our periodic neighborhood gatherings that the neighborhood do some subtle decorating for Christmas. His idea was to wrap a cord of white lights around the trunks and in the branches of the oak trees which were planted in front of every house. Most people loved the idea; I was uncomfortable at the thought, since I had never “decorated for Christmas.” No one made a fuss about my decision, but the first night the trees were lit off, ours was the only home, sitting sad and lonely in the dark. It was like a statement that white lights don’t really signify anything. The next day I went tearfully to our neighbor across the street and asked if her husband could help me string a set of lights on the oak tree. They were delighted to help, of course, although my husband grudgingly stepped in, too.
Since then, the number of decorations has grown exponentially. Mr. Mayor has bought and painted several wood lawn decorations over the years; most of them are placed on other front lawns along the street. Many people put up their own outside house lights and decorations. Santa Claus, moose, elves, reindeer, and sleighs line the street. Jerry helped me build a Chanukiah, and the other Jewish neighbors did their part, a giant Jewish star at one house and blue lights in the windows at the other.
Our street became famous! Whenever someone would ask where we lived, “Lemon Grove Drive” would elicit oohs and aahs. If they didn’t know the street, we only had to say we decorate the street for the holidays and we would see smiles and hear words of admiration.
A couple of activities especially make our holiday time special. One is that we have a gathering with yummy food and drink on the night of the “light off,” December 1. We also have a white elephant giveaway. Those who get creative get lots of laughs. We love that time together because it’s unlike any other gathering during the year: we gather to celebrate our friendship, our commitment, our joy for being alive. We know that we can go to each other for help when the unexpected strikes.
The second-best part is the effort to decorate the neighborhood. Originally Mr. Mayor insisted he could do it himself. I would see him from my office window, sneaking down the street with strings of lights in hand, and would immediately run to my husband to tattle on him: “Gary’s at it again!” Jerry would go out and help, and eventually rounded up many of the other men to help out, too. Now we have a voluntary crew that pitches in over several days to decorate. It is not only a work group; it is clearly a bonding event. Jerry was delighted when Gary/Mr. Mayor called him his “right-hand man.”
So on December 1, our annual light-off evening, we will gather together for food and drink, and to celebrate that for one more year, although a couple of spouses who’ve passed away won’t be with us, we can express our gratitude, camaraderie, and love for each other.
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It’s now December 2, and our celebration is over. We had delicious food, great stories, and lots of hugs. The warmth and connections to each other were deeper than ever. And I’m ever so grateful to be part of this community.
[I wrote about our neighborhood a couple of years ago, and this is an update.]Published in