понедельник, 10 декабря 2012 г.

The Mermaid Tree

By Carol Clarke Slamowitz

For those who are willing to make an effort, great miracles and wonderful treasures are in store.
~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Interfaith families can understand the minefield the holiday season represents. My husband is Jewish; I was raised Catholic. We have decided to give equal representation to both Christmas and Hanukah in our home. The holidays give us a perfect opportunity to share with our children the traditions we had been brought up with and to create traditions of our own. We had a designated corner for a menorah, dreidels and Star of David and another corner for a small tree, lights and nativity. The kids learned the story of Hanukah, the prayer as candles were lit on each of the eight nights, and how to spin the dreidel and play for gelt (chocolate candy coins). Our tiny tree was weighed down with innumerable preschool-produced ornaments. Wrapped presents were tucked beneath. We set up our nativity and the kids learned about the birth of Christ. We stood in line every year so the kids could tell Santa how good they had been and about the presents they hoped to receive.
This year, shortly before Thanksgiving, the kids decided they wanted a "real Christmas tree." Our little Charlie Brown tabletop tree was no longer adequate? Would this disrupt the delicate balance of religious equality we had created in our home? Baffled by the kids' insistence on a "real" tree and convinced they were simply brainwashed by the rampant commercialism of the approaching holiday, we packed the kids, dog and turkey into the car and headed to Carova Beach.

We discovered Carova Beach by accident. This quiet, off-road community is located nine miles off the asphalt of Highway 12 in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and is only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles or boats. Carova is home to wild horses that are believed to date back to the time of the Spaniards. At the time, our Jeep's four-wheel drive was broken and friends suggested we contact a realtor for a free ride up the beach to look for the horses. Carova consisted, in the mid-1990s, of 300 homes and seventy-five year-round residents. The volunteer fire department and a row of post office boxes constituted downtown Carova. We were captivated, and by year's end we had purchased a lot on a canal and began building a small cottage. This became our family retreat, wild horses running through the dunes and wandering in small herds onto the long stretch of beach. A quiet place, where more often than not, we'd be the only people walking the beach, looking for sea glass and other beach treasures. We hoped to find peace there this year as well.

The kids quickly became distracted with Thanksgiving and Marc and I decided to address the "tree dilemma" later. Thanksgiving weekend flew by. We took long walks, visited our beach neighbors, and read in the sun. Soon it was time to go, and I began the routine of packing up and closing the house. My husband and daughter took Mojo (our Golden Retriever) for a last walk on the beach.

My daughter returned, and with eyes shining announced "Mom! We found the coolest thing on the beach!"

"Where is it?" I asked, imagining a myriad of beach treasures already scattered throughout our home. Seashells, sand dollars, dried seahorses and hundreds of pieces of sea glass. "It was too big to bring back to the house! Hurry!" Now I envisioned less common treasures: a barnacle-encrusted tree branch, washed-up sharks, stingrays and turtles... and only hoped that whatever it was did not smell too bad as we still had a long ride home. My husband threw a rope and tarp into the back of the car and the three (Mojo too) led her brother and me over the dune.

There on the dune lay a beautiful six-foot Christmas tree, fresh cut, its boughs pushed upward as if still wrapped in protective netting. "We found it at the tide line being tossed by the waves. We dragged it to the dune and waited to see if anyone came for it." The beach remained deserted. "Is this okay?" I asked him over the kids' heads. "I guess we were meant to have a tree this year. How else can you explain this?" he said.

The tree (plus forty pounds of sand) was unceremoniously tied to the roof of our car for the trip home. We dubbed it "The Mermaid Tree." A stand was purchased, and unexpectedly we had more than enough of the kids' handmade ornaments to fully decorate the stunning fir. This brought to mind the parable of the loaves and fishes or the scant amount of oil that brought forth light for eight incredible days. We tied yarn on sand dollars and toasted mini bagels. We had to put those high before Mojo ate them all! Our daughter made a Star of David from aluminum foil and we placed this at the top of our tree. Lights twinkling, the house filled with the smells of Christmas. The tree became a representation of all of the things that made us unique and bound us together as a family. It was a balance long ago achieved in our hearts. We have always been unconventional. We do believe in Miracles. The Miracle of Hanukah, the Miracle of Christmas and The Mermaid Tree.

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