Thursday, December 18, 2014

I met New York in March of 1977. I was on a high school trip to participate in the Model UN. It was during the Beame administration and the city was rough, dirty, harsh, and amazing. 
The cabs looked like this then. The best cab look ever. 

I had been through a lot in the recent years , particularly for a high-school kid. All of the conflict, the sadness, the anger, the fear- it was all absorbed by this city that was bigger than my life and my problems. It was the first place I had ever been that made me forget what I had come from. And what I had come through. I hated to leave but I knew I would come back. Somehow. 

After three years of marriage I finally managed to talk JW into going. It had been almost 10 years since I had been and I was in need of sharing my love for NY with him. I couldn't wait! I had shopped for some new clothes for the trip just so that I wouldn't look like I stood out as a tourist. 

Allow me to stop here for a moment to clarify something. I only consider myself a tourist in places that I visit infrequently and that I do not love. I am a visitor in places like New York, the Blue Ridge, and Williamsburg. In Cooperstown I am a future resident. I will walk confidently with a camera in hand and still be able to offer directions to poor, confused tourists who don't know uptown from downtown. 

So off we went on our first trip together to New York City. I wanted to share all the joy of the city with JW and he was certain we were about to be mugged. We stayed at the Edison, which, in its prime it had been home to both George Burns and Gracie Allen and Jack Benny and Mary Livingston. Neil Simon sat in the cafe and wrote plays. The Edison is now a historic hotel, but when we stayed there it hadn't yet achieved its proud status. It was old, run-down, and a little creepy. 
But I didn't care- I was back with my old friend NY and enjoying every bit of the reunion. JW and I were young and so much in love-- little did we know we weren't alone! I was actually expecting our first child. 

It was many years until we returned. This time, though, we returned with our two children and my sister. Seeing the magic of the city through the eyes of my children was such a blessing- the Radio City show, crowding around a table for a slice of pizza, the amazement of FAO Schwarz, and Central Park-- oh, memories that are with me every time we visit now.  

Many trips have followed- too many to count. Thankfully JW is as fascinated with NY as I am. He loves the walking, the museums, the history. We have been to NYC in every season, and practically in every month. 

Except December. Until now. 

Every season there is beautiful in its own way, but this time, this visit, held its own magic. Never before having been in the city when The Tree was lit. (We have been there in November, just before Thanksgiving. The Tree was up, but in scaffolding while the lights were being attached.) Never seeing it in full-on Christmas mode. Never being in Macy's when Santa was actually in the store. My heart filled the moment we circled Manhattan and aimed at Queens for landing and it stayed full even after we returned home.  

I've seen New York handle financial challenges. I've seen it deal with visits from multiple heads of state at the same time. I've seen it in mourning. Our family raced there as soon as we could after 9/11 just there. To put a few dollars back in the economy and to show it our love. We respected the losses too much to go to the World Trade site; that was for those who had suffered personal, family loss. We waited until after the families had said their goodbyes and went down on our next trip. That's how we love this city. We've celebrated wins and ignored losses in the old ballparks and the new ones. Mayors have come and gone and some can't go quickly enough. Decade after decade I have remained loyal to this city, this entity. Going back at a time that had all the beauty of the most beautiful season and all the ugliness of racial unrest New York. For if any city can handle millions of tourists and a handful of protestors, NY can. If any city can rise from the ashes time and time again, a little unrest isn't going to slow it down. 

So going back to New York at Christmastime was like going home for the holidays for me. It was like visiting that old friend that you have been through so much with- the one who you may not always agree with but who you always love. The one who you want the best for and are thrilled when you get to witness those "bests." 

I mentioned in my last blog that there were three main things I wanted to experience on this trip:
1. Snow
2. Bell Ringers
3. Santa

Well, it snowed. It did. The first night and into the next day. I am not kidding. The kind of snow that sticks to your clothes but not the streets. The beautiful flakes that whirl and dance and tickle. Yep. Check #1 off the list. 

There were bell-ringers. A lot of them. And they were great! The Salvation Army's bell-ringers do not dress up as Santa, but they team up and choreograph dance moves that are fantastic! Fun, entertaining, happy. Check bell-ringers off the list. 

As for Santa, that's a story that will only be told in person. Kids get on computers and I, like my friends at Macy's, want to preserve the magic. But if you find yourself in New York at any time between the day after Thanksgiving and December 24, go to see him at Macy's. 8th floor (he has to be near the roof for quick access to the sleigh) 

So "Merry Christmas," New York. It was great to be back. 
Thanks for the wonderful welcome and we'll see you next time. 
And by the way, nice job on the tree.

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