When you go through a life changing event, the first holiday season is often like a test. There are many conflicting emotions, so much so that you almost want to just turn them all off just to avoid the clash. I can understand why some people are numb to the holidays; I get it now.
But we had a really good Thanksgiving surrounded by many cousins. The girls love having a lot of family around and it isn’t often that we can all get together like this. Geography now separates many of us, but since our parents are no longer getting together like they used to, we make that effort to keep the family going, just like when we were spending every holiday together as kids. Even with so many us together over the holiday break, it doesn’t hide the fact that there is one missing. It may even magnify the absence of one.
I visited my grandmother on Thanksgiving. Her studio apartment is always too warm, in the way that old radiators in NYC apartments sizzle and clank as the heat travels through the network of pipes. She has photos upon photos of family on every surface, many of which are old snapshots that have faded through the decades and some that are newer pictures of great grandkids. My grandmother is 92. Whenever I see her she tells me to take care of my mom the same way that my mom is taking care of her now. She tells me it’s good that I had 2 girls because they’ll take care of me too when I’m her age. She always manages to say that it might be the last time we see each other every time I visit.
After all the cousins left our apartment on Saturday, we went to our local tree lighting ceremony. I don’t think we’d ever been in all the years that the neighborhood has held them and we were surprised to see such a crowd and even news crews covering the event. Local businesses donated treats and carolers sang holiday songs. It was festive and it definitely felt like we had stepped into Small Town America (by the way, who else gets verklempt at that small biz AmEx commercial with the Simon & Garfunkel song? Well played AmEx, well played). Our neighborhood works hard to promote Small Biz Saturday and encourages neighbors to shop local – and rightly so, but in truth, many local businesses in our area have struggled with rising rents and online shopping. So many of us are trying to figure out this new economy.
I guess we’re officially in the season now, though Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier every year so it all feels a little less special now? I don’t know. Or maybe I’m a little less in the mood this year. There’s still time – 23 days to be exact – to feel that holiday magic.
Posted by Jenna | 18 Comments
These transitional season months always go by the quickest, don’t they? We’re so busy cramming in all the seasonal activities that every weekend is always accounted for. And why do we feel so compelled to pack every weekend with stuff? Because October is the month to rival all months for events here in the city. I suppose it’s the last month where the weather is truly comfortable for any considerable time spent outdoors. We nearly ran ourselves silly last Saturday trekking through all the touristy spots. Let’s check them off shall we? So we started off in the Meatpacking District, followed by Chelsea Market, the High Line, Times Square and Bryant Park. The only spot missing in this crazy town list is Rockefeller Center, but it wasn’t all our doing. We had to drop one kid off at a birthday party in Times Square, and because we didn’t want the other kid to feel so left out, we took her anywhere she wanted to go and that ended up being the Japanese bookstore across from Bryant Park.
So Bryant Park has this open air holiday market which they’ve had for years, but one year it got something of a makeover and it rebranded itself (heavily sponsored, of course) as “Winter Village“, complete with a two story, glass encased restaurant that they build up and tear down every year, over a hundred outdoor shops and, of course, the ice skating rink. I thought the opening date of November 1st last year was really pushing it; I was therefore surprised…no, stunned really, that it was already open when we were in the neighborhood last weekend. Winter Village. In October. In the FALL. I know – why don’t we skip Fall altogether and jump right into Christmas after Labor Day? Who needs Fall?? I love imagining the suits who decide such things gathered in a conference room, debating on opening dates. “Can we get away with opening Winter Village in the middle of October? Will the people riot?” $$$$$
Today is November 1st. It’s cold and rainy and quiet, and such a different scene outside from last night’s Halloween festivities. Our Brooklyn neighborhood has become somewhat of a destination neighborhood for Halloween because of all the decorations, plentiful candy flowing from those brownstones, the party atmosphere and the Halloween Parade (I haven’t been to the Village Parade in Manhattan in years). All that’s gone now and I imagine lots of families are spending this rainy November 1st like us – indoors in pajamas, nibbling all day on food, kids reorganizing and negotiating candy trades, and playing games.
Not a thought in sight about the holidays at this house. As it should be.
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Love those days when you wake up in the morning with no plans, but in a moment of spontaneity, end up having one of those great NYC days. I’ve never taken the girls to the Chinese New Year Parade and have never gone myself, though I did live in Chinatown when I was 18 and remember watching the crowds pass by from my apartment. It was raining that particular year and the memory that is most vivid is seeing the tops of all those colorful umbrellas from my 2nd story window.
Usually the thought of going to any parade is quickly chased away by visions of shivering in the cold and tethering the kids to my body for fear of losing them among the overbearing throngs of people lined up 6 deep on the sidewalk, but it was 55 degrees today. Apparently with the winter we’ve been having, 55 feels like summer.
So, about that confetti…who knew little bits of paper could be so much fun?
Happy Year of the Horse.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
It’s been really quiet this week. Just the kind of thing you need when you’re coming down from a marathon high. If I was once convinced that I couldn’t sit around and do nothing for a few days because it made me antsy, then I would tell you now that I absolutely can. I’ve slept 7-8 hours each night – still going to bed ridiculously late, but getting up at 9am or even later. The girls have too on most days except for Christmas morning, of course. It feels like a luxury, dampened slightly by all the work that I know is looming as soon as the New Year rings in. It’s pretty hard to ramp back up after you’ve had some time off.
Did you have a good Christmas? We opened presents in the morning, went to a movie, and had dinner with my parents and a cousin. Despite my best intentions, I can’t help feel a slight twinge of melancholy when Christmas day finally rolls around. It’s been like that since I was a kid. Can’t quite explain why, but it’s almost like there’s this pressure to have this perfect Christmas with the family, you know, like the kind you see in commercials because this is what we’re being shown everywhere we look. But instead, it seems to magnify everything that it’s not. Maybe it’s the fact that the big extended family no longer gets together anymore like when we were kids so you feel that absence, or the fact that siblings and other family members are on the other side of the country. Or maybe it’s because the problems and dysfunction of a family doesn’t go away just because its Christmas day. Pretty heavy for a holiday, especially for a teenager to start realizing. It’s the reason why I like the days before and after the holiday so much more. The pressure is off.
But the excitement of the kids are contagious and I don’t have to look far to see that the girls don’t feel any of the Christmas baggage that I do. I wondered about that the other week when they both refused to take a photo with Santa, who was coaxing them to come over for a visit. Granted, the illusion wasn’t convincing as I pulled a black bobby pin from his fake beard and handed it back to him, but it did make me realize that we never really did play up the Santa bit when they were younger, never left cookies out for him the night before, or write Santa letters. I never did that as a kid; I never believed in Santa and it occurred to me when the girls were giving me side glances as Santa was trying to talk to them that maybe they never believed in Santa either (but the Easter Bunny! They still both think is real).
I walked home with the kids right after the Santa incident thinking that I hadn’t done enough to make Christmas magical. I worried that they were too focused on the present giving part, but on Christmas morning they gave us boxes of the most thoughtful handmade gifts they had made for us and each other and knew that none of that was true. So yes, Christmas was really nice and now we’re just enjoying the quiet before the world wakes up again on January 2nd. Hope you are having a nice week too.
Posted by Jenna | 5 Comments
A week ago it looked like this. Yesterday? 70 degrees.
I was thinking about one Christmas some years ago when we were picking out our tree last weekend. A Christmas when money was particularly tight and I wasn’t sure whether or not spending money on a tree was something we should pull off. But we did. We scraped some money together by pulling dollar bills from our change jar and the kids and I went and bought that tree. It was worth every penny and I was thinking how glad I was not to have skimped on a tree that year.
When we pull the ornaments out of the box every December, it’s like pulling out bits and pieces of our past; some are as old as the all the years we’ve been back in NY. There are those ball ornaments we received as a wedding gift from our Portland friends; the ceramic ballerina that we bought after the Nutcracker 7 years ago; the cookie dough ornaments imprinted with the girls’ tiny hand prints that we made one year when they were small, and the vintage glass balls that I bought when my favorite antique store in the neighborhood went out of business a few years ago. We also have a striped yellow wooden tabby cat ornament that reminds us of our old cat. It’s become special in that regard. My favorite, however, might be the paper chain that Mia and I made together even before Miss C was born. It’s a bit faded, broken in some places and some of the sparkles have fallen off, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away.
We didn’t always get a tree, Mark and I, when it was just the two of us, but we started buying trees every year since Mia was a toddler. We’d keep a spray bottle of water nearby the years our cat was alive to keep him from batting ornaments off the tree. It didn’t always work and one year we woke up to a crash with the tree on the floor, bits of glass shattered all around it. We didn’t have many ornaments to hang those early years so I used to buy one a year right after Christmas when everything would go on sale at deep discounts. We’ve accumulated quite a lot since then so I’ve stopped, but couldn’t resist buying this vintage tin merry-go-round from one of our retailers when we dropped off a delivery last month.
The girls do a pretty good job of decorating the tree now and I don’t really fuss over it after they go to bed anymore like I used to when they were young and hung everything at the bottom in clusters. I like how the tree, which is now chock full of ornaments, is like a timeline of sorts. I don’t have any heirlooms handed down to me from my family and have kept nothing from my childhood. There are photo albums, but that’s about it. I look forward to passing off some of these ornaments to the girls when they’re older and have lives of their own.
Posted by Jenna | 8 Comments