To be frank, a big part of me dreaded this Christmas- my dad was so completely plugged into this holiday. First, tradition for as long as I can remember had us with him on Christmas Eve at a big family party where we'd exchange our gifts and eat too much and stay up too late. And then, since my Dad was never one to say no to fun whenever and wherever he could find it, he'd crash Mom's on Christmas Day, pulling up in his rusty truck with a wreath lashed to the bumper. It always amused all of us, my mom in particular, how it never even crossed his mind that his ex wife of more than 20 years would mind him turning up during the cake/coffee party of the evening. And the magic of it was we'd all end up having an awesome time, playing board games and laughing more than should be legally allowed.
And on top of the Christmas-specific memories associated with my Dad, New York in general seems haunted with him. When I was in LA, it was not abnormal to not see him- he didn't live in California. But now that I'm home, every tree and street corner and store front is fraught and festooned with my Dad- here's where he used to get his bagels, here's where he got into a fight over a parking space with some lady, here's where he took me to learn how to drive and on and on and on. So reality has been creeping in. And Christmas seemed like just one more giant reminder that he's not here.
But then there's this lovely symmetry. As my Dad leaves us, Gwen enters. And somehow, seeing all her firsts takes some of the sting out of the things that were his last. Whenever I found myself foundering these past few days, I was able to find an anchor in that little elfin face with its chubby cheeks and oddly wise smile.
And so Christmas somehow managed to be Christmas, and I was able, after all, to count my blessings and look to the new year with anticipation and hope.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for being you.
Meeting the Big Red Dude:
Many generations of children have posed on these steps!
With Uncle Joe: