By Cynthia Robertson
When Bob and Christine Ford wanted to start a family five years ago, they started looking for a different neighborhood. They’d been living in Hillcrest, but they needed a safe, neighborly place away from high-speed traffic and all-night sirens.
The Fords fell in love with the house at 7976 Laurelridge Road, and they decided to make it their home in San Carlos. With quiet streets and Dailard Park to walk their Lab-Dane mix, Rex, they felt at home. Their house wasn’t the only thing they fell in love with; the residence has become known for something of a local landmark: their massive pine tree. They have to stand with their necks craned to look straight up at their 90-foot-tall tree. That’s taller than the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree.
On a recent cool, rainy night, the Fords warmed themselves in front of the fireplace. Christine held their two-month old baby Andy. Their two and a half-year-old Robbie sat on the couch busy with his child-sized tablet.
The tree outside sparkled with lights, a star atop it that could be seen for blocks. When the Fords flicked on its lights that evening, all the neighbors turned out for it in their front yard, some of them bringing cookies and cake.
The tree is, in many ways, a gift by the Fords to the neighborhood.
Larry and Mary Sdao, neighbors who live across the street, remembered that the older ladies who had been the previous owners of the house would recruit neighbors to distribute hundreds of invitations to the tree lighting. They obtained a city permit to close off the street. Everyone enjoyed hot beverages and cookies, and children were given a Christmas keepsake.
But some of the tree lights had been cut accidentally 10 years ago when the ladies hired someone to trim the tree. So they just had the lights taken down completely.
So the tree stood barren and dark at Christmas time for five years before the Fords moved in.
To the gratitude of all the neighbors, the Fords revived the ceremony, even after a contractor recommended they remove the tree entirely upon moving in. They got the 90-foot giant up and running again, to the tune of $750 for trimming and $1,200 to string on new lights and take down old broken ones.
“The lights themselves cost $500,” Christine said, with Andy lying asleep on her shoulder. “But we knew we just had to light the tree again.”
Gene Schwartz, owner of Arbor West and a resident in the neighborhood, helped give the tree new Christmas life.
“Gene and his Arbor West people have been super,” said Bob Ford. “They come out every year to check the lights at no charge.”
Christine went to sit by Robbie on the couch. “It’s been worth the money to keep the tradition,” she said. “The people are so thankful. They send Christmas cards with stories of how they appreciate it. One lady with her young daughter gave us a poinsettia this year.”
The Fords had a big crowd this year, “wall to wall,” Bob Ford said, “to watch the tree lighting.”
For the Sdaos, the tree represents bringing all the neighbors together.
“What’s wonderful is seeing long-time and new neighbors young and old and lots of new babies gather together,” Mary Sdao said.
Christine said that their family has fallen in love with the neighborhood.
“We wanted to give back and decided re-lighting the Christmas tree would be a way to do just that,” she said.
—Contact Cynthia Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org.