It was an unusually balmy night in late November when families in the "Astronaut Section" of Hauppauge, likely figuring out how to reinvent turkey as an evening meal for the third consecutive night, were delivered a pleasant surprise.
To say it was a complete surprise would be inaccurate, as printed flyers advertising the event had been spirited into mailboxes the day prior. That it came to a successful and dynamic fruition in a neighborhood that had known few such prior precedents certainly proved a welcome surprise to this author.
So it was that at twilight on November 26, midway along the gently sloping descent of Atlantic Place toward Grissom Way, the eyes of over a hundred expectant Hauppauguians and their guests, from ages 2 to 92, came to be glued to the Christmas displays of the Calvacca and DiFranco families, and the stately evergreen tree straddling their bordering estates.
To say that the mere act of beholding was all to be done there would be committing a grave injustice to the magnitude of this event. Atlantic Place was closed from Orbit Lane to Grissom Way and became a community playground for the night. Cookies, pastries, coffee, and other refreshments were available for general consumption, and a raffle of Christmas gift items was being plied with tickets through the crowd. A bouncy slide was provided for the common enjoyment of the younger members of th crowd, and perhaps a few of the older ;-) Above the din of general conversation, merrymaking, and neighbors meeting neighbors anew, Mr. Calvacca proved an exuberant and capable Master of Ceremonies.
In the moments leading up to the lighting of the tree, the crowd's excitement was palpable. Many called for its expedient lighting while others remained in silent expectation for the moment of electric magic. Then came the countdown five...four...three...two...one, a few moments of pause, whereby we held our breaths, and then if seemingly by spiritual invocation, each of the sparkling stars within the majestic arbor sparked to life, accompanied by renewed refrains of Christmas to herald its arrival.
Prior to the momentous event, Santa's helpers had been moving throughout the crowd, with the arrival of Santa himself to follow the lighting of the tree. The evening then began to gradually wind down, though with many remaining up until the bewitching hour to signify the importance and enjoyment of the occasion.
This author's sincerest thanks goes out to the Calvacca and DiFranco families, and all those who made this wonderful community event possible. To this very night, the star atop the sturdy tree remains as a reminder of the efforts contributing to that very night, and the warmth which it continues to share with our neighborhood.