News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

Christine Kazarian, foreground, and her mother April Kazarian were Decatur newcomers who say they are 'enjoying every minute' of decorating their Sherman Street Southeast home for Christmas.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Christine Kazarian, foreground, and her mother April Kazarian were Decatur newcomers who say they are "enjoying every minute" of decorating their Sherman Street Southeast home for Christmas.

Merry & bright
Newcomer and her mom
bask in spirit of season

By Patrice Stewart∑ 340-2446

This holiday season, the Kazarians are decorating and celebrating more than ever.

Perhaps it's because the mother and daughter each sold their houses in Florida and found a new Decatur neighborhood that they love — and that decorates to the max.

Perhaps it's that Christine Kazarian, 38, wants to see all the holiday lights she can. Retinitis pigmentosa is slowly stealing her vision.

Christine Kazarian's vision is slowly deteriorating because of retinitis pigmentosa. She and her mother will be hostesses at the home of Rex and Sharon Rankin at Saturday's Decatur Christmas Tour.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Christine Kazarianís vision is slowly deteriorating because of retinitis pigmentosa. She and her mother will be hostesses at the home of Rex and Sharon Rankin at Saturdayís Decatur Christmas Tour.
Or perhaps it's that her mother, April Kazarian, 60, who worked in real estate, happened to find the perfect place for them to live while on the Internet searching for historic areas.

Now they have joined other residents of the Albany historic district in buying fresh greenery, putting up lights and decorations, and planning to serve as hostesses in Sharon and Rex Rankin's home during the Historic Decatur Christmas Tour on Saturday. They've even had an open house to meet their neighbors and served foods of Armenia, where Christine's great-grandparents came from.

For several years, the Kazarians were settled near Orlando in Mount Dora, Fla., which had a similar historic small-town feel, and April remodeled a 100-year-old crackerbox-style house there. But they were tired of Florida and hurricanes and decided they would sell both their houses and look for a new area and house to live in together. Christine, although considered legally blind, can still distinguish objects. She is matter-of-fact about her eye condition and for years has been planning how to handle her situation.

April grew up in Tennessee and North Carolina, and she wanted to see the seasons change again. Neighbors in Florida began planning a move to Boaz, where they had friends, and encouraged the Kazarians to look at Alabama, too.

First they checked on Guntersville and Gadsden, as well as Thomasville, Ga. But during their Internet searches for historic houses and neighborhoods, the name Decatur kept popping up. "What's Decatur?" April wondered. She checked the city Web site and real estate sites and hooked up with agent Anne Crane who she said was helpful in the historic neighborhood quest.

"As soon as my house sold, we came to Decatur to look at places to live," said April. That was in June, and by the end of July, Christine's house also had sold and they moved into the house they bought on Sherman Street in Southeast Decatur.

They had several criteria: they wanted a warm, historic neighborhood but a house that didn't require a complete renovation; an area with a variety of cultural programs but high-tech, too; a major medical center nearby, such as the Eye Foundation in Birmingham; and a major airport nearby to accommodate Christine's love of travel and their desire to visit the two sons/brothers living in Colorado and California.

"I like the fact that here we're close to downtown and shops and restaurants," said Christine, with plenty of other choices available on the Beltline. "And we're thrilled with the neighbors — it's a real settled neighborhood where everybody knows each other." They said home prices are good here, and the stable, not transient, neighborhood emphasizes family values.

Earlier, they were busy trying out all the local restaurants, getting acquainted with the Farmers Market and items such as muscadines, and going to a pumpkin patch to purchase a dozen pumpkins for their extensive Halloween decorating. "We'll probably decorate for Valentine's and Easter, too," said April.

They heard about the Christmas decorating in the historic districts, "although we had no idea what that meant, so we might have gone overboard or we might have not done quite enough," said April. They ordered lots of fresh greenery, bought lighted outdoor spiral trees and other lights, and are hoping to cut their Christmas tree from a tree farm.

And they have learned that you can't put poinsettias outside in Decatur, as they did in California and Florida — at least not when the temperature is dipping below freezing.

Christine, who was a pre-school teacher for years, as well as an administrative assistant in Silicon Valley, Calif., hopes to take up her museum-type volunteer work again. She has always been interested in violin, piano, guitar, painting and pottery, "although I can't determine colors as well any more." She wants to do more traveling, too, while she still has some vision.

April hopes to find work after the holidays, perhaps in sales, an area in which she formerly worked. Meanwhile, they've been getting used to the slower pace here, which Christine said is quite different from Silicon Valley's attitude of "go, go, go, get it done."

They meet lots of people while out walking their Schnauzer, Rosie. Lately, they've been checking out the decorations during daytime walks and then driving around each evening to see what lights and decorations have been added.

"We're inspired now, because we have three winners in the decorating contest living right around us," said April. "We decorated because we wanted to be part of the neighborhood — and we're enjoying every minute of this."

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