The Gift of a Great Neighbor
Passed from one home to the next, a box of ornaments reminds a family of the bonds around them
My kids sit in Gee’s living room and reverently lift antique Christmas ornaments out of a wellloved cardboard box. They gasp when they discover a tiny stuffed cat. They giggle at Raggedy Ann, who is a foreign character to them. Gee stands beside them, quietly explaining each treasure. She tells me that she and Tom built their ornament collection piece by piece during each year’s after-christmas sale. She smiles as we leave with the box. Her precious heirlooms, gathered over
Nicole Burrell is a Reader’s Digest reader from northern New Jersey.
a lifetime, have found a new home.
We first met Tom and Gee in the early days of our marriage. Someone had been returning our garbage cans to the garage each garbage day, and Jim and I had wondered who. Then one day we spotted him: an elderly man who lived across the street.
I baked cookies and left them on a stool outside the garage with a thank-you note. When we got home from work that day, a typed letter had replaced the gift. The letter was from Tom and explained how he had come to walk the neighborhood on garbage day, returning cans for people he barely knew. Back when he’d been fighting a war I wasn’t alive to see, his young wife, Gee, had found herself