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Thoughts on the holidays

December 19, 2012

The trees near my office are wrapped tightly in blue lights. It’s surprisingly impressive and despite the fact that they went up just after Halloween (too early in my opinion), I am struck often by their beautiful simplicity.

The carolers on the subway are good and plentiful. It seems that all the best subway performers come out this time of year. It’s actually enjoyable when they enter the train, and I notice that even the toughest looking folks crack smiles.

Hearing those old songs really does take me back. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” conjured up an unexpected memory of one of my own saxophone solos at a school holiday concert. It was a nice memory and one I hadn’t considered in some time.

I miss those holiday concerts, and boy, I never thought I’d say that.

For me, there is something about the holidays that make me nostalgic for the days of youth. There was never a more exciting time than Christmas when you were a kid. Days off from school and presents galore! Who could argue with that?

It makes me think of the Christmas decorations housed up in the attic at my mom’s house during the year. We would carry them down in big boxes sometime in mid-December. I had a nutcracker collection that would be proudly displayed on the mantel above the wood-burning stove. I remember that everything was cold to the touch.

We used to always cut down our own trees and they almost always had a Charlie Brown Christmas vibe. Early on, I remember being struck by how much more fun it was to decorate the tree than to take it down. It was a deep thought for a small brain.

The night before Christmas, we would leave out cookies and milk and I would lie in bed just aching to go to sleep. I would stare straight up at my ceiling and try to think of anything but the next morning and the slight possibility that I might hear a bump of a sleigh on the roof.

My ears strained at every small noise.

In the morning, I raced to the top of the stairs and, from high above the room, looked down at all of the presents neatly under the tree. I remember thoughts of pure joy as I scampered down the stairs to grab my stuffed stocking off the mantel.

The cookies and milk would always be gone. Of course.

Later in my life, holidays got to be a little more stressful. When my parents got divorced, I remember really hating the fact that I had to travel on Christmas Day, and I have a sad memory of driving with my dad to meet my mom in a bakery parking lot in New Jersey. I vividly remember getting out of one car and into another. A strange hand-off in a foreign place.