Unwrapping hope for Christmas in April

Street Stories

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — The Correira’s evergreen was big when they started their Christmas tradition about 20 years ago, but now it’s twice the size, symbolizing 65 feet of hope.

It is Christmas in April on Frenchtown Road, where some 4,000 lights are casting a glow on the neighborhood.

Nine-year old Jenna Cullen lives up the street.

“It looks really nice and it looks bright and it kind of like lights up the street,” she said through a face mask that reminds everyone it’s not Christmas.

Thanks to Jenna’s father, who made several wooden hearts that are decorated with messages on a nearby fence, there’s also some appreciation mixed in with the twinkling lights.

And it all starts with a brief conversation in the Correira’s living room.

“We were sitting on the couch one day,” Andy recalled. “And we were thinking of something to do.”

“I said, ‘Why don’t we light the tree?'” his wife Bonnie said.

“She said we should light it in recognition of all the first responders,” Andy added.

When they moved into their home about 20 years ago, the tree was a big one – maybe about 30 feet tall.

About three years later, they strung a bunch of lights and started a cookie swap with their neighbors that, over the years, has grown along with the spruce, from about 50 to more than 100 participants.

The tree sprouted so tall that they now need a 75-foot bucket truck to adjust the lights and add new strings around Christmas for when Santa even stops by.

The goal of flipping the switch now is to help us think of happier times, while also saying “thank you” to COVID-19 focused first responders, like Jimmy Gallagher’s mom, who works at Kent Hospital.

“I think more people should be doing more things showing that we care about the people who help,” Gallagher said after bringing a heart to attach to the fence.

While December is seven months away, Andy points out there are similarities to the holiday season, including gratitude and the spirit of giving.

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas,” Andy said. “But it’s a different feeling. A feeling of hope.”

They are hearing about the impact on social media and from strangers who drive by the tree and the hearts.

“Everybody going by, blowing the horn,” Andy said as someone honked again. “Just like that. Strangers going by.”

Sometimes, before the sun rises.

“We heard three honks and said ‘What was that?’ at 4:30 in the morning,” Bonnie said. “I think that’s big. That we can make them smile. That we can give them the hope that we will get through this.”

There’s room for more hearts, with the Correiras hoping to fill another 50 feet of fence.

“We’ll keep going,” Bonnie said. “Until this is over.”

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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