By Karen Zautyk
We were driving past Riverbank Park on Passaic Ave. near North Midland the other day when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a Christmas tree.
So, you may ask, what’s unusual about that? It is, after all, Christmastime.
Yes, but this wasn’t your typical pine/spruce/fir on someone’s lawn. It was a slender sapling of unknown variety, standing in the middle of the park, and adorned with tinsel and garlands and ribbons and bows and bells and lots of glittery ornaments.
It was shining in the morning sunlight.
In the spirit of the holidays, somebody had decided to turn what had been just another park tree into a special bit of magic.
“The Mystery Tree,” we named it, and started making inquiries around town as to who might have been responsible. No luck. And then we heard from Mayor Alberto Santos, who knew the answer: Mujeres Valientes (Brave Women), a West Hudson cancer support group.
He referred us to Emma Quintana of Kearny, who founded the organization in 2003 and who noted that Mujeres Valientes had donated the tree to the town in 2011 “in memory of those suffering from the disease.”
This is the first time, though, that it has been decorated.
Quintana said that, at one of the group’s meetings, someone suggested a field trip to Manhattan see the Rockefeller Center tree, but other members thought it impractical, especially because of the masses of people who’d be crowding the streets.
Then came the idea: “Why not decorate our own tree?” Mario Santos of Newark, who lost his wife, Lucy, to cancer several years ago and who is an honorary member of Mujeres Valientes, donated all the decorations. These include some lovely, silvery angels – in memory of his own lost angel.
Santos, along with Patricio Sierra and Emma’s husband, Jorge Quintana, did the actual trimming. How did they reach the top of the tree? we asked Emma. Did they drag a ladder to the park?
Nope. With ingenuity, they found a few long branches in a nearby pile of Hurricane Sandy debris and used those to lift the garlands and ornaments to the highest twigs. (Guess Sandy was good for something.)
Last week, at our invitation, Emma Quintana brought several group members, and the mayor, to the tree for a celebratory photo op.
And she offered information that if anyone is interested in learning more about Mujeres Valientes, the group meets at 7 p.m. the last Friday of the month at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. Before we left the tree, we took note of the permanent plaque at the base. Beneath the group’s name, it reads: “Live – Laugh – Love.”
Positive thoughts. Beautiful thoughts.
As beautiful as a tree adorned for Christmas.