I don't know that I've ever lived anywhere that got quite so serious about the wreaths and the lights and the inflatable snowmen. I assume this says more about the neighborhood I inhabit than the city per se, about a climate so mild no one minds clamboring along the roof and you can send a team of men with strings of lights up into the branches of a hundred year old tree until it glows like an omen. In any case, I'm very fond of it, of the sleighs, of the topiary reindeer, of the half-dozen half-height trees made of lights wrapped around the inverse cone of a planting form. I like the huddle of light-up plastic folk clustered on the railing of a second floor balcony, and I like the person seen through a different second floor balcony slowly getting dizzy spiraling lights around their tree. But what I love, more than the larger than life Santas (sometimes three to a block), is one Swiss Avenue house on a corner lot.
It's grand, as all the Swiss houses are, the main structure three stories of brick with a two-story addition all white and windows and colonnades with plain capitals. It reminds me of a great slice of wedding cake attached to the house, but its owners have interpreted it differently. This year, like last year, like perhaps a great many years before, they have dropped a meter-wide red ribbon from the eaves to the ground and belted the whole rectangular box with another length of ribbon. Where the two cross is one of those giant car bows, maybe even too big for a car, and a gift tag to match. The tag obscures the view from the second story windows and reads, "Merry Christmas" in big letters, and "David and Jean" in a smaller script in the corner. I wondered the first year if the addition was a gift, or maybe the whole house. I thought about my godfather who hangs a custom-made vinyl banner outside his home every time his son John returns. But it seems clear to me now that it is David and Jean wishing us a Merry Christmas, their names as signature rather than address. And I find the whole thing so charming—so clever, this giant white box—that more than once I've considered veering from the sidewalk to knock on their front door, to say what I think every time I walk by, "And a Merry Christmas to you, David and Jean. Merry Christmas to you."