Children can be heard decorating the lobby Christmas tree as I write. But that is not the “main tree” reason for this column (though I wish the lights would include a string of solid-colored ones to warm up the obligatory white kind. And not so many lights or ornaments that the tree is obscured, as they’ve mindlessly done to the majestic Rockefeller Center Tree.)
And children trimming the lobby tree under doorman Michael Kearney’s thoughtful direction recalls my Minnesota childhood when the kids also shared in “un-trimming” the tree on Twelfth Night, or as soon as it began to get dry. Children partook in many a task in an often multigenerational household where there was always room for one more, including this half-orphaned child. And everyone did get along. Church-going and tee-totaling habits likely helped.
Lessons to learn there in a society which has become ever more segregated by age and in multiple dwelling places like ours. And it’s standard practice in faith and other groups concerned with “nobody left behind” and “inclusiveness.”
And now to the city’s most meaningful and serenely beautiful seasonal trees which get “left behind” because so few know the reason for these illuminated balsams gracing Park Avenue islands from the 50’s to the 90’s. These trees, which so magically light the night, are called the Park Avenue Memorial Trees. And they are there to honor all the service men and women who lost, and are still losing their lives, in this nation’s wars. Shamefully, this information hasn’t been “hot copy” for news outlets for a very long time.
Well, that’s got to change. The whole world needs to know that this New York City Christmastime tradition was begun by several Park Avenue mothers, led by Mrs. Stephen C. Clark, whose sons made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II.
And I’m reminded of the following so related and memorable quote from Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “When children lose a parent, they are called orphans. Bereaved spouses are called widows or widowers. But there is no name for those who lose a son or daughter, because the loss is beyond words.”
But these mothers somehow channeled their beyond-words grief into a memorial for their cherished sons and for all service men and women whose lives were lost in this nation’s wars. The illuminated fir trees they planted on several blocks in December of 1945, were also a welcome home visual for New York’s returning veterans. And this magnificent tradition has thankfully continued and expanded over the years through private donations under the auspices of the Fund for Park Avenue Tree Lights. (www.fundforparkavenue.org)
And it’s also inclusive, honoring service men and woman from every ethnic, racial and religious background. And the islands now include illuminated Hawthorne bushes to commemorate Chanukah.
But media, elected officials, faith, civic and veterans groups, must be reminded to really get out the word. Ah, and do go there after sundown; maybe sing some peace and good-will songs. And may the able-bodied enable those who are not, to share the experience.
“Inclusion” and “no one left behind” are surely what “love one another” is all about – all year.
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