To the north, our neighbors had strung colored lights that transformed the bushes between their two entrances into carousel horses that pranced with the breezes. White and red poinsettias filled urns beneath the columns at their gates. We remained in darkness.
Along the street on the south side of our complex, strings of white lights wound upward around eight palm trees three stories high. Under the fronds, the lights were strung tightly together, resembling a circular box encrusted in jewels. The fronds burst from their box laden with lights. We remained in darkness.
"I don't know. I'll have to check with the Buildings and Grounds Committee. What's been done in the past?" the new manager said.
It wasn't his fault. He was our second manager in eighteen months and didn't want to piss anyone off. The manager who'd run the place since it had been built had retired after thirty-two years. Under his watch the Christmas decorations - always the same - had gone up like clockwork: white lights at the street, around the lamp posts, and on top of the guard house; wreaths on the doors of the buildings and on the columns at the entrance; garlands along the railings; and a decorated tree in the garage. The green garlands had begun to turn brown and the tree had grown tired, but no-one complained.
"Mr. Thomas bought a lot of new decorations last year," I said, "but I don't know where they are." Mr. Thomas had been hired next and fired after eighteen months. His decorations from Home Depot - purchased with funds from the annual budget - included three-foot nutcrackers, manger scenes, menorahs, and new garlands.
"I think they were disposed of," the new manager said. In other words, the staff probably took them home.
"May I put something on the landing of my floor and in the garage and first floor lobbies? I've done that for twenty years."
"I'll go out on a limb and say I wouldn't want to disrupt a twenty-year tradition. Go ahead."
I put out my bowls of glass balls and wrapped the front staircase in a garland of berries. The outside remained in darkness.
A week later, the Building and Grounds Committee put up wreaths on the doors of the buildings and on the cement columns at the street entrance. The outside remained in darkness.
One of the Board of Directors took matters into his own hands. He purchased $500 worth of white lights, which the staff strung around the lamp posts and guard house.
It looked like the same disheveled tree we'd seen during the thirty-two years our first manager had reigned. Apparently it passed the Building and Grounds Committee's requirements.
Wishing all of my readers happy holidays with those you love and a healthy 2016!