Quitting Christmas. And what I should have told you sooner.

At 3:07pm on a Monday afternoon, while sighing restlessly alongside other anxious Target customers, I quit Christmas.

I realized I had ruined Christmas. Straight messed it up. Mangled it. Done it a disservice. Boxed it, botched it, in a way I never thought possible. And so there, with my hands full of snowman-decrepit cards that prove to be the only thing left when you shop the week before and a slew of sweaters I never actually needed, I placed my basket on the floor and I walked out of the store. I quit Christmas on the spot.

This is the point in the post where I apologize profusely to Target store employees for being "that" girl and overdramatizing my quitting of Christmas to the point of leaving stale merchandise in the middle of the floor for y'all to pick up. I am sorry. Very sorry. It was necessary for the completion of this blog post though.

The last few days have carried a melody of heartbreak that I never knew existed.

A tragedy 30 miles away. Hands I’ve once touched entangled in the devastation of an atrocious shooting. Twenty children pulled out from this earth before they ever learned the fine art of tying shoes and spelling bees. Our worry heightened. Our safety shattered. Our conversations inflated with gun laws and mental health,  and someone always trying to edge out the last word on Facebook, when we all might need to hush and stay silent for a while. We’ve never been the quiet nation but maybe we should learn?

The tragedy huddled us closer. The closeness of holidays made our hearts a bit weaker. Because lights are hung. And stockings won’t be filled. And Tonka trucks and toy  dolls will stay in the closet or be returned to the stores instead of being wrapped & tucked beneath an evergreen. It’s too much of an image to handle. It is a watercolor of the mind that will break you on the spot if you think too long of it.

But why now, and why this season, did we think that it was time to hold one another closer? And send cards in the mail. And hang ivy. And sing songs. And understand this mythical “reason for the season” that becomes all too cluttered by our shopping experiences and to-do lists that grow longer as the holidays grow near. And why now, do we shower the children will love and toys. And we scour the world for that perfect way to say “I love you” with a diamond or pearls. And we finally take a little time off.  And we breathe for five minutes before we start furiously plotting a newer year.

Why now? Wasn’t this the forgotten purpose of our yesterday? Wasn’t this the reason for even being here in the first place?

I think if Christmas had legs, it would walk right out the door. It wouldn’t come back.

I think if Christmas had fingers, it would head to AT&T, buy a phone, and make a Facebook. It would pounce up screaming in ALL CAPS on the endless statuses of people complaining or forgetting their children to voice their latest of opinions, and say, “Get off the dang phone and just go clutch someone, would ya?”

We are in desperate need of clutching. Of holding one another closer in a way that was more fierce than yesterday. Of facing one another to admit how hurt & broken & damaged we are. And admit how we screwed up yesterday but, as long as Tomorrow comes to visit in her bright red cape, we should start over. We should be closer. We should not worry so much about our image or our status or our need to always be right and just unplug long enough to see the pain in one another’s eyes. It’s there. It’s living. It’s bright. And it stitches every carol with a feeling of falsity. Because our troubles won’t be miles away. And we have to just face that. We have to just work with that. And, whether we think it or not, we are strong enough to over come that and make it through the troubles.

It is not a season to be merry and bright, so much as it is a season to finally admit to someone else, “Look, I need you. I need you on every one of my calendar days. And I love you. And I should not have waited for the stores to don red & green just to write that in a card to you. And I’m scared. Really. Petrified. Really. Because our world seems pretty broken. And I realize I cannot fix that. But I want to do better for you. Is that ok with you? I. Want. To. Do. Better. In. Loving. You.”

Tomorrow I might slide off the calendar. Tomorrow I might not be here anymore.

I don’ t want it to be the lights & the trees that convinced me to find you in the mess of this crowd, pull you out, tell you loud:

This life, I never understood it.

There was so much pain, there was so much hurt.

But you were always good to me.

And you filled me with a joy that felt like foam overflowing the mug.

& I’m Gonna See You Soon

& I Miss You Like Heck Already

& Be Good Until We Meet Again

& I’m Sorry, I Should Have Said This Sooner, But You Made All of This Worth It

& Just Hold Me Now, for the moment you have me, and Make Me Feel Like I Did You Right.

And tonight we’ll catch the Christmas lights and remember a day when we treated them like fireflies.

Drive slower tonight and suck in the beauty that is living on lawns and awnings these days.

The World, she’s holding something peculiar to her bosom right now like the locket a shy girl held to her chest all the days of 1942.

 A sacred kind of time where fragile instruments—xylophones & harps & the high notes we rarely talk about, sitting on the fringe of Baby Grand pianos—get unbuckled from their dusty cases to be the centerpieces of Christmas songs that sit in our throats but once a year.

It will be gone soon, so suck it in.

Suck, the way you once sucked hot chocolate from your crazy straw on the Day You Realized Life was Designed to Turn Color with Heat.

Before. It. Slips.

Slips from the back door, out the side window where the wind chimes hang.

Slips like the wayward wafting of the aroma of Grandma’s pies just the year after no one could find her standing by the counter, checking the timer against the pulse of her wrist.

The season missed her that year. The season wept to the tune of Oh, Holy Night that year.

The World, she’s allowing this crazy, little thing to conspire where suddenly the December Air is hoisting up Certain Lines of Songs by the waist as if they were the ballerinas meant to steal the final curtain call in the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center. The Waltz of the Sugarplum Fairies. Up, up in the air they go.

“Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” “From now on your troubles will be miles away.”

Lines I never thought to believe in, with a fist to my heart, until the red cups came out and the wicker of the lawn reindeer caught frost in their limbs each morning.

It is a 31-day span of time made for Joy, made for Simplicity. For the stripping of the garland off the staircase to find we should have been giving to one another all along.

Should have been waiting under the mistletoe for you long before we tacked an advent calendar to the wall and pulled “Elf” out from hiding.

Should have been holding, long before Bing Crosby bellowed over shopping mall speakers that it was, in fact, cold outside. Too bad we really cannot stay. Too bad we have to go away.

Love sits heavy on custom cards these days—the one time of year where we might still think to use a stamp, lick an envelope and send pictures we took of our children on the beach in August, before that growth spurt in October, sailing into hands of Postmen who dream of the paperless eCards they’ll send when they get home.

Memories remind us what it was like to believe in something

Just Because.

Just Because

it was some sort of thrilling to believe that 32 hooves would shuffle on our chimney tops when the Sugar Plums fairies started dub stepping in our heads.

Just Because

it was more exciting than anything to don a bright red coat and a muffler between our hands, trying Sky High Kicks in Central Park before the Radio City Spectacular confirmed every ounce of our dreams to be a Rockette one day.

Just Because

there was something peaceful about changing out of the holiday dress to wear a bed sheet around our torsos and sit down, Indian-style, to hear about a story of a poor boy, born in a manger to two peasants. And we whispered into the ears of one another, “Did she say Frankenstein? Who’s Myrrh?”

Something peaceful in the chance to put down our chocolate-covered pretzels to cup a Linus-like message in our hands. Good News. Great Joy. Cupped in our hands, wishing we could feed something as magical as this to the reindeer.

It will go quickly. Slip away quietly.

In one week we’ll watch the trees—flopping and folded—as the doormen carry them out to stack beside the sidewalks of a New York City that loves the way people look to her for the holidays. No one hosts a Christmas party the way she can. Denver would admit it. Chicago would call it a fact. And San Diego sits, holding his breath, wondering if NYC will remember to send an invite to his door.

Perhaps it is the Christmas season, or maybe it’s all of life.

Regardless, it will slip through the fingers. Unpredictable. Quick. But beautiful if you stop to see the lights.

The way they cascade the limbs. The way they can take a home, full of hopeless bodies that don’t know Family the way they know the first few lines of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and somehow make anyone want to come inside to see if magic hangs on the brows of the bodies the way it hangs from the beige shutters.

That’s the hope in it all. The delicacy. The possibility. The chance to believe.

That’s the season. That’s life.

It’s all just the chance to find some sort of reminder to hitch to our hearts like the star on the tree: It sure is wonderful, all of this, and some kind of rare we should talk about more, when the white lights take you in to be held by a hope you never knew you could hold.  

Have Yourself a Teary Little Christmas.

So Once Upon a Time, Charles Dickens kidnapped a little girl. That’s right. He swooped right in and kidnapped her with a Hardcover Classic.

He kidnapped her eyes. He kidnapped hours from her day.  He kidnapped her soul. He kidnapped her imagination. He kidnapped just about everything of hers with a single story about a grumpy old crank and a visit from three ghosts.

Ever since that point where I discovered the ghosts & their visits & the lessons Scrooge learned, I have wished for my own kind of encounters. My own Christmas Past & Future to come knocking at the door to show me a thing or two. I am 22-years-old and still wondering, how would the Ghost of Christmas Present manage to break into my Bronx Apartment to get to me if he needed to? Should I leave the gate open for him? Can he use the fire escape?

But, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I have had three visitors this Christmas Season. Three Very Distinct Visitors who have delivered me a great deal of Perspective. And so, on a Christmas Eve where I cannot muster up a single syllable about Gingerbread Cookies, Mistletoe or the Grinch, I will tell you the story of these Three Visitors and the Difference they have made to my December 25.

The Waltz of the Snowflakes

I was not expecting Them. I wasn’t prepared for the first visit.

I had just settled into my seat, smoothed out the creases in my new black dress and eagerly awaited the rising of the curtain. It was the same scene, I have seen it dozens of times. The beginning overture, a little boy and girl peeking through the Grand Doors to see their giant Christmas tree.  A party scene. A crazy uncle. And the giving of a single gift. A Nutcracker. To Clara.

And then they came, as if they had watched the ballerinas emerge from the wings and felt inspired. They emerged from the wings of my eyelids. They emerged like Petrified Munchkins who had needed some serious coaxing from Glinda.

The Tears of Christmases Past. I knew it immediately.  

Throughout this whole holiday season I have been absolutely captivated by the little girls I see in passing who wear the Great Big Winter Coats with the Leopard Fur Trimming and Oversized Buttons. Fifteen years ago, I was one of those little Girls. Coming to New York City in my Big Girl Winter Coat, going to see the Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet. And now I am two years past two decades, Finding my Way on these New York City streets everyday. Putting on a black coat and a Pair of Black Heels that some younger version of me would have adored finding in her dress-up closet.Clicking those heels all over this City. Finding a way to call it Home.

And so these Tears were a visit from the Christmases Long Ago. The ones with leopard winter coats. American Girl Dolls tucked under my arm. A JC Penney Catalogue to keep me captivated for hours. A cup of Hot Chocolate. Staying up for Santa. A reminder that at any age, and with any winter coat, if you put on your child-like sunglasses you will see the season better. It will glow with a red & green goodness.

Deck the Halls

Yes, yes. They came again during a round of Deck the Halls. I get it, I cry a lot.  But it doesn’t really bother me. Once I get over the anxiety of typing a new, fresh sentence about an instance where I cried Once Again, I get over it. I reach into myself, pull out the “Crier” baseball cap, and plop it on my head for the world of the internet to see. I think it is o.k. to cry. I cry over good things. They are Worthwhile Tears to Me.

So back to those halls, the ones we decked. I was standing next to two women. Each holding their babies and a massive bag from Santa Claus. It was the only gifts they would receive for their children this Season. Donated Gifts from the Santa’s that roam this earth. The women in this Bronx shelter are homeless. Some have no family. Some have no education. Some are pregnant, some of them already have a child clinging to their side. But regardless of what they have or don’t have, they are beautiful women. Strong Women. Women who get up every single day and they face life, and I think that is a very daring and admirable thing.

And so I was not surprised when the Tears of Christmas Present showed up, wedged in between a Fa & a La. A reminder that I so often greet, that I don’t really need much for Christmas. I am happy. I am healthy. I am surrounded by people who love me. Above all, I am lucky. This Season has been the most challenging of all. To see how the Poverty Finds its Way to the Christmas Tree before Santa. But it has also shown me that Christmas is not about the bows or the gifts we give. You have heard it 1,001 times before, 68 times from Charlie Brown and 29 times from the Grinch, but hear it from me too. Let’s not focus in on the Presents but rather on our Presence this Christmas. Let’s gather the Memories, Moments & Peace into our arms like the World’s Most Skilled Holiday Shoppers. This is the good stuff. This is the great stuff.

I wish you could meet these women. I wish you could have joined our round of Christmas Carols. You would have shook hands and wished a Merry Christmas to one another. Then you would have smiled, at the simple realization that we are not so different from one another. That Differences Fall Away with a Single Exchange.

A Silent Night (or traffic jam, whichever you prefer)

The first time he saw me I was completely fine. Just another girl tapping her fingers against the steering wheel, waiting in a traffic jam.

The second time he pulled up next to me, it had already began. The Tears had begun travelling down my face, making their way over the humps of my cheeks. This time he stared a little longer. Gave me a half-smile.

The third time his blue truck pulled up to my green CRV, the last time, the Doors had opened. The Big Green & Sometimes Hazel Doors had opened for a slew of tangled, salty tears to break out of their hiding spots and barrel through like Black Friday shoppers.

This time I smiled back. Tears & All. Sending him a salty mess of a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

There is a few things that I cannot tell you:

One) Why a Stranger prompted these tears. He was probably nearing 50, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting to go back to work.

Two) Whether these Tears were of the Past, the Present, or the Future. All I know is that they were Tears. Tears I must have Needed.

But I will bask in the things that I do know. He had a kind smile. I really did want him to have a Merry Christmas. I hoped he was heading somewhere wonderful in the days ahead, a place full of Good Food & Family.

He was a stranger. Oh, oh, My Favorite! And yet he took me with my tears. He didn’t shake his head and turn away or switch over lanes to avoid the Girl who Cries in Perfect Traffic Jams. He smiled. Countered my Salty Wishes with a Somber Duplicate.

And this is how I hope the holidays will be for all of us this year. A time to spend with one another. Be it at a Homeless Shelter in a round of songs or around a tree in our homes. Be it in the middle of a crazy traffic jam or in the stillness of a Silent Night. With Friends. With Family. With Strangers. With Lovers. Wishing one another a Merry Christmas. Regardless of who they are, homeless or housed.  Where they are, From Italy to the States to everywhere in between.  Or How they are, Grinchy or Clausy.

This is what I pray for you. For me. For All of Us. Teary-Eyed or not. Lonely or not. Full or not. Happy or not. Holy or not.

A Merry Christmas to all. And let’s top it off with a good night.

Lacing up my sugarplum fairies’ shoes

This time 13 years ago Santa was coming. He was loading up his sleigh and my toys were in his satchel ready to nestle themselves under the Christmas tree. I had set out the cookies for him and a carrot for Vixen (well I did not like Rudolph).

This time 13 years ago I was prancing around my house in a tutu, probably pretending to be Clara from The Nutcracker as I waited for company to show up at the house. I kissed baby Jesus on the forehead as I passed him on our table side nativity.

This time 13 years ago, the magic of Christmas was snug in my heart and no one, absolutely no one, could take away from me the sugarplum fairies that were dancing in my head.

This Christmas season was not all that there for me. Sure, I went through the motions of shopping for everyone on my list, sending out cards, wrapping gifts and baking cupcakes, but the magic that usually accompanies me throughout the 25 days was just not there.

It is not a Scrooge feeling, it is just a different feeling.

As we get older the holidays become more stressful , covered like a sheet of snow by other things that must still take precedence in our lives. The work load. The final tests. The finances. Before we know it, it is gone. In the blink of an eye, the season ends.

24 hours left, a giant Christmas Eve party and a Christmas morning gathering before the season will make its way to the back of the calendar once again.

If you have not already, steal the season back. Don’t rip it from the heart of little Cindy Loo Who like Mr. Grinch but sing your own Who song. Make your own Whoville, someway, somehow.

Let’s acknowledge those who have given us gifts this season. Give gifts to others with every intention of goodness in our hearts. Say Merry Christmas to perfect strangers. Say a prayer for those who may not have as happy of a holiday this season. Light candles. Sing carols. Realize that Christmas is not a noun, it is verb.

Christmas is giving, sharing, loving, spending- not money but time- singing, dancing, recognizing the reason for the season.

Let us refocus for the last 24 hours. Forget the lists that were not quite finished, the gifts we simply could not get our hands on this year, the mounds of calories we are nervous about consuming and just let Christmas take its course. Just let Christmas fill us with wonder and excitement and all the feelings that we once had as little children.

So wait up for Santa. Listen for bells. Go Christmas caroling. Put on your tutu. Fall asleep tonight with visions of sugar plums rocking out in your head.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.