I am trying to create new traditions in NYC. It is somewhat bittersweet because my traditions in Chicago were so rooted in friends and family. I don’t have my own place so my decorations are in storage and I don’t have my own tree. My “godparents” gave me ornaments and nativities from Germany. A friend gave me a Russian doll. Friends of the family gave me an ethnic nativity. I have my beloved Snoopy ornament. It is these memories that I must re-create in NYC. I miss the time spent with my “big brother” as we would decorate the tree, catch up and discuss our lives and hopes for the New Year. I miss the look on my nieces and nephews faces as they would visit the first weekend in December, look at the tree, and shake all the presents guessing wildly. By the end of the night, “where is baby Jesus?” He is always removed from both nativities.
To get my Christmas tree fix, I decided to stop by Rockefeller Center, reluctantly though. What is the big hubbub? Just a tree. Well, it is stuff like the tree in Rockefeller Center that you won’t see any other place in the US. First, the history of the Rockefeller tree started when workers constructed the building put up one un-decorated. From that small gesture, we now have a fabulous pageantry of lights and Christmas spirit. The promenade and all around is a winter wonderland. My only regret, too many people. Being in NY is like dating someone who isn’t monogamous. I wanted to revel in the beauty of the tree, but so many people! I walked away wanting a more intimate experience and ended up at Bryant Park – not nearly as many people and a cute tree on display. I watched the skaters – a New York only sight. You see kids, teens, adults, seniors from all races and cultures having a wonderful time on the ice. So much so, I wanted to give it a go and I can’t ice skate. The laughter, backdrop of the tree, smell of hot cider and merriment reminded me why I love this time of the year. It also gave me hope that I would make new traditions in my new city. They may not be the same as the ones I had in Chicago, but they too will become near and dear.
My family’s Christmas tree has evolved over the years. As a child, we had the artificial pine about six feet tall. I remember being about 5 or 6 and mom said we would make our ornaments this year. She took cardboard and cut it into stars, bells, and trees. We had glitter (red, gold and silver) and glue to decorate the cut-outs. She put yarn through them and we hung them on the tree. I loved that tree with our handmade ornaments and too much silver tinsel. One year, we tried to string popcorn around the tree. That proved futile because we ate most of the popcorn and didn’t like getting pricked by the needle to string it together.
In my teens, we went to no tree just lights, but still festive. During my junior year in high school, mom and dad had us gather in the living room. After years of renting, they wanted to buy a house and that required saving for a down payment and making double payments on debts to clear up credit. Because of this, they said we would not receive Christmas gifts that year. I don’t recall being mad or disappointed. I knew my parents worked hard and provided for us, so if they said this was necessary it had to be. That Christmas morning, my sisters and I walked to the kitchen for Christmas breakfast and what did we behold?! There was a small jewelry box at each of our seats. Mom and dad bought us gold rings with our birthstones. The rings weren’t very expensive and they probably came from a discount store. However, I was never as appreciative of a gift as then. Mom and dad said, “We don’t want the first time you receive jewelry to be from a man giving it to you with ulterior motives.” My sisters and I would sleep and shower with the rings on. My mom had to tell us to take them off for bathing, dishes and bedtime.
When the nieces and nephews came on the scene, the tree returned. However, there was the mystery of why all the ornaments on the bottom of the tree where broken or missing. One nephew, at the age of two, decided the bulbs provided good kicking practice. He would lean against the wall and kick the ornaments as if trying to get a field goal. Until he was older, we stopped putting ornaments on the bottom of the tree.
He was also the one that would tear the edges of all the presents. To this day, I wrap presents in old boxes because even as a teenager, he still peels the edges of all the presents. A few Christmases ago, this almost backfired on me when my six year old niece opened a present and thought I bought her a set of kitchen knives. The look on her face was priceless and it’s a story that gets repeated each year.
Now the nieces and nephews are older, things have changed a bit. I still put up my tree after Thanksgiving, but they don’t help in tree setup. Since the threat of ornament loss is over, a few years back I bought nice ornaments. A friend (that has been like a brother to me) comes over and makes my tree beautiful. The nieces and nephews look forward to seeing my fabulously decorated tree and it gives me time to catch up with a dear friend.