Next Door

by Joanne Jagoda


Christmas eve, spiffy in our best party dresses,

we trooped over to our next-door neighbors,

their house identical to ours,

the same stairs and doorbell chime,

except for the menorah shining on our mantel,

and the grand tree in their front window.


We loved and respected each other,

during the decades our families lived side by side,

sharing joys and sorrows over the backyard fence.

I most fondly recall Christmas eves—

graced by their enchanted tree

filling the living room with the smell of pine forests.


How we envied the perfectly wrapped presents

glittering in festive wrapping and ribbons

readied for their Christmas-morning.


We knelt at their fireplace

to see the crèche up close,

sternly admonished by mom to not touch.

The carved wooden figures, exotic and curious,

fascinated and scared us.


When the fathers toasted with shots of

Peppermint Schnapps,

we exchanged our gifts,

ate the precious gingerbread men

and festively decorated cookies,

then went home dreaming of presents,

sad because Santa wasn't going to be

stopping at our house.