Every year, I painstakingly set up my miniature holiday village and blanket it in ankle-deep “snow.” It’s a fresh snow that falls on Christmas Eve before the bobcats have a chance to scrape the sidewalks. The village is heavenly but this year it’s been scarred by recession.
My mini-village has much in common with ours. It’s a zoning-free hodge-podge of out-of-scale structures sitting inches apart. This resulted from my mixing styles and sizes from three different Holiday Villages into one composite community.
The fire station towers above the houses, while the music shop dwarfs the cathedral. The largest structure is a two-story Irish pub – a perfect stand-in for Doc Ryan’s. Doc’s is one of three Irish pubs in the village, which is Forest Park-like, if you consider there are only 16 buildings. This is the first year, though, they’ve draped their walls with banners advertising drink and lunch specials.
All the buildings are glowing except for the country chapel. Its lights are being retrofitted with the new curly-cue bulbs. Green technology is also displayed by the majestic rotating windmill. It’s electric-powered, though, and actually leaves a tiny carbon footprint.
It’s easy to tell where the one-percenters shop and play. They peruse the upscale boutiques and browse the village’s only bookstore, which stuffs its shelves exclusively with Irish histories and mysteries. At the one-percent ice rink, a well-dressed couple glides endlessly over the surface, their elegant warming house just steps away.
The 99-percent skaters don’t glide at all. They stand in fixed skating poses on what looks like a cheap mirror. Near their rink is a once-thriving Christmas tree stand. This year, there are no customers. The merry young man, his arm thrust through a fresh wreath, strides from the stand and the couple cheerily lugging home a tree. They both fell from the box and are on permanent disability.
Normally, jaunty figures like these would be strategically scattered across the village. This year, most of the residents, with the exception of the rich skating couple, are densely occupying the swanky business district.
Apart from businesses, two churches and a fire station, the town has only two houses. The 99-percent house is in foreclosure and features a sign that warns it’s been winterized and the toilets shouldn’t be flushed. The other homeowner keeps his lights on 24/7 and has two of the town’s 12 evergreens gracing his front lawn.
Some encouraging signs still remain. There are no empty storefronts. And the dad with the moustache skipped the occupy protest to build Frosty with his two sons, in a circle of light cast by a barn. That’s a blessing of the recession. It has restored appreciation for simple family fun. Plus, dad is totally freed up after all those years as assistant at the Christmas tree stand.