December 20, 2012

Kennebec Tales: It’s all about the orange

By Maureen Milliken

This time of year is a season of contradictions.

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Staff photo by Joe Phelan This decorated triple-decker apartment building was photographed at 7:51 p.m. on Tuesday on Mount Vernon Avenue near Mill Street in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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The message is joy, peace, love and all that good stuff. But the message seems to put a lot of pressure on people.

There are the folks to whom joy, peace and love mean spending, buying and more spending. Or conversely, getting, receiving and more getting.

The expectation of what “Santa” will bring, from the littlest kid to adults who should know better — “I TOLD you I wanted the diamond earrings, and you got me this crock pot? Thanks for nothing! My Christmas is ruined” — tends to make people miserable.

Joy, peace and love? Bah humbug.

Then there are those who obsess that the message isn’t being delivered the way they’d like it to be.
The “war on Christmas” people, the ones who bristle at a cheerful “Happy Holidays,” ignoring the spirit of the greeting because they don’t like the words.

Seems like in a lot of ways, this time of year has become a battleground over expectations, fueled by intolerance and disappointment. That joy, peace and love stuff is just something on the zillion cards you HAVE TO GET OUT THIS WEEK OR NO ONE WILL GET THEM BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND THEN YOU’LL BE OFF THEIR CARD LIST AND THEY’LL HATE YOU AND MAYBE EVEN UNFRIEND YOU AND EVERYONE WILL KNOW.

I read an article this week about the Samaritans group — a Boston-area organization that hosts a hotline on suicide prevention, among other things — and their Happier Boston campaign.
One of the things they are doing to make people happy is hand out oranges at commuter train stations.

Scoff if you will. It works. The oranges put a smile on people’s face. The premise is one simple human gesture can bring people out of their self-absorbed funk and get them to see the bigger picture.
It can be a gesture as simple as an unexpected orange.

I realized I’d been thinking about oranges, too. Not in the “I need some fruit to prevent scurvy or counteract the effects of that ice cream I just ate sense,” but in the symbolic sense. I just didn’t know I was.

It happened while I was driving down Mount Vernon Avenue in Augusta just after dark Sunday night.
Anyone who’s driven on Mount Vernon Avenue knows it can use a facelift. Its crumbling pavement is a bone-jarring test of a car’s suspension system. Most of the triple-deckers and multi-family homes may have seen better days, but not in this lifetime. It’s not a reflection on the people who live there, more a reflection of the tough economic times that have hammered Augusta for generations.

When the lights come out this time of year, that changes.

Rita and Marcel Demers’ home at the north end is a celebration of Christmas color, featuring a nearly live-size nativity scene.

At the south end is the massive triple-decker owned by Roger Jean. Three generations help decorate the home.

Joining in the fun are the neighbors across the street at 40 Mount Vernon Ave., another triple-decker that rivals Jean’s.

Those exuberant displays turn our expectations of Mount Vernon Avenue on their grumpy heads.
Rita Demers takes a lot of pride in her light show, which she’s put up most years since the early 1980s. The lights go up at Thanksgiving and come down, with help from family, the day after Christmas. The nativity scene came from Sears years ago, the star from her sister in Canada.

She said a lot of parents bring their kids to take their picture with baby Jesus.

When the lights come on at each end of Mount Vernone Avenue on a December night, it’s a heck of a Christmas orange.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Staff photo by Joe Phelan This Nativity scene and other decorations were photographed at 4:44 p.m. on Monday in front of Rita and Marcel Demers' home at 210 Mount Vernon Avenue in Augusta. Rita Demers said that she doesn't have an lit Santas and a manger scene in keeping with idea that the meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan


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