December 19, 2008
That's the view out my window. We can see the back of the buildings across the courtyard as the whole of Hoboken fills with snow so thick it turns everything grey, white and black.
At Christmas time in Hoboken the greys are broken by trees filled with colored lights. There are lights on the handrails going up the stoops; there are wreaths on doors. Every business has a sign that says "Merry Christmas" and the churches hold out welcoming candles. I'm in the mood for Christmas this year. Looking out my window, I'm happy to stay inside and watch the whirling snow.
It seems to me that as deep winter sets in, the few days of lights, parties and well-wishing are especially comforting. I pull out my Christmas music and dream of sugarplums and eggnog (the real stuff, not out of a package) as Joan Baez sings to me of the infant in the manger, and I think about what Christmas is all about.
I think I escaped the orgy of materialism that characterizes Christmas for so many. I've got nobody to ask for a gift, so I buy little things for myself that I really want, telling myself that it's for Christmas. My grandsons always ask for cash, and they clean up at this time of year. They get little gifts as well, of course, and every aunt and uncle sends money, so they can buy what they want. I'll spend the few days with them--Elias turns 14 on the 23rd, and we usually go out to his favorite restaurant and have Chinese food that night. Christmas Eve we have seafood, as a nod to the boys' Italian connections, (besides, we all love seafood), and we have a tree. No doubt where they live there will be a great deal of snow, so they may make a trip to Hunter Mountain to ski. Christmas Day will be quiet, and we've been invited to a friend's house for the feast. The new tradition of potluck for holiday meals strikes me as not only appropriate, but a beautiful way to bring guests into the festivities.
The season is profound, spiritual, and even romantic--as long as you're not making it about how much you have to do, how much you have to spend, how much you have to cook, even how much you have to decorate. I won't even open the little box of ornaments I've saved for some 40 years, but I'll think about how pretty everything looks anyway. I'll feel the peace of the season, and the hope for better things ahead.
After the new year, the country will really begin to feel the pain the mismanagement of our precious optimism and talents has wrought. From all accounts, 2009 is going to be a difficult year for all of us. But not today, not this Christmas, not if we can only recapture the spirit the season exists to engender.