In all my years, I’ve only missed Christmas in New York twice — and I am a man who has survived 44 winters.
The first was six months before our oldest child was born, and we were advised by our doctor not to make the trip. The second was in 2004, when I was charged with putting out the very first issue of Yes Weekly just a few days into the coming new year. In both instances I felt a man out of place.
Because I’ve been doing the same thing for Christmas my whole life: We get together — me and my sisters and my parents, all the aunts and uncles and cousins and sometimes a few randos thrown in for good measure, since the day I was born and for at least three generations before that.
When I was little it was at the big house my grandparents lived in. Now we bring it to an aunt or uncle’s place, where we tell the same stories and eat the same food and reaffirm the ties that bind our family.
We’ll have something to talk about this year, too. Tragedy. Aging. Death. It’s been a tough one for the clan.
These times of pain, too, are part of our custom, as much as the meatballs and antipasto.
Last year at this time I was at a crossroads, with a job behind me and uncertainty ahead when we made the trip up to New York to reconnect with our people.
Those annual gatherings somehow put everything into perspective.
My own little family is well into our Christmas traditions — by the time this newspaper hits the streets the first toys may already have been broken. We’ll pile into the car in the dead and dark morning hours and be in northern Virginia by sunrise. On Christmas morning we’ll steal into Manhattan, early enough so that we’ll have Times Square all to ourselves. I plan to overeat this year, so there will likely be a couch nap at some point, and we’ll stop and see old friends and familiar places along the way.
I know there won’t always be Christmas in New York for me. Already my family has fragmented well beyond the borders of the city, and it won’t be long before everybody is… somewhere else.
It’s the way of things: All moments eventually come to pass. And that is the reason for Christmas.