My father established a tradition of buying a four-pack of Cinnabons on
Christmas Eve, hiding them and then waking up Christmas morning to warm them up
and serve them with hot chocolate. It didn't matter if we had any place to go or
not, that is how we started our day.
I couldn't find the full version of this Mary Katherine
Gallagher sketch on the YouTube but it was always a favorite of mine. Rosie
O'Donnell was the host of this 1996 episode and Whitney Houston, promoting
The Preacher's Wife, was the musical guest. That film's director, Penny
Marshall, was also featured in this sketch as an older nun.
Christmas 1996 sticks out in mind for some reason. I remember
going to see The Preacher's Wife at Headquarter's Plaza in Morristown
with my best friend Jasper. I remember participating in Operation Love at the
church, helping put food packages together for needy families and helping
One delivery wasn't too far from where I lived. The recipient
was a recent widow who was waiting for her daughter and granddaughter to come
by. She and I chatted for about an hour. I don't remember her name and her face
is a bit fuzzy but I do remember how much happier she was for the company than
even for the food.
Growing up in a small town, there weren't too many places to go. We had the Alexis and Rockaway diners, Easy Video and the Rockaway Mall. Even as a teenager, kids and younger teens annoyed me so I more or less hated going to the mall.
Plus I hated to shop. I still do. Except for food. I like food shopping.
During my college years, I always waited until the last minute to shop -- largely out of necessity. My finals seemed to stretch further into Christmas week than other people so I didn't usually get home for break until the 21st or the 22nd. I didn't want to drag a bunch of presents home with my luggage and laundry so that is when I'd start my Christmas shopping. It would all be done at the mall and it would all be done within a couple of hours.
This was before I discovered the brilliance of GIFT CARDS. I've never been a great gifter.
It was always a bit trippy to come home, go to the mall and see people from high school that I hadn't really kept up with after graduation. Even in those early post-graduate years, there was an air of maturity we all seemed to have. I remember running into a couple of former classmates and being genuinely glad to see them. Either that or I was just genuinely glad that I had something more to say than "I still work at..."
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I spent a lot of time here. It was the seafood market/restaurant
I worked at in high school and throughout college. Christmas Eve was the busiest
day of the year and it was packed from open to close. In fact, there was a line
out front even before we opened.
We took holiday orders for a couple weeks leading up to
Christmas Eve and spent the night before filling orders after hours until about
midnight or 1am -- with a break for dinner of course.
Throughout the night of the 23rd and Christmas Eve, holiday
music would play over the radio. I specifically remember "This is Christmas" by
John Lennon and "The Hanukkah Song" by Adam Sandler playing repeatedly.
I looked forward to hearing them each time because they both put
a smile on my face for very different reasons and I could hear them throughout
the store no matter what I was doing.
After we closed on Christmas Eve, I'd go home reeking like fish
to a house full of family and friends.
I've been in a very lengthy transitional period between the
holiday traditions of my upbringing and creating my own. Right now I've settled
on just waiting for January but that's no way to spend the last two months
of any given year. I want to feel the magic again and for the first time in
several years, I believe I will.
The last five or six years have been largely unstable as I moved
back and forth between the east coast and the west coast in search of the life
I've always wanted to lead. I'm close. I'm finally pursuing that life. I'm
two-thirds of the way there. 2012 is going to be that year where I finally
achieve that life and establish some stability for myself in this increasingly
more unstable world. I don't know who this guy is but he's on the cover of the JCPenney Christmas catalog and he came in the mail addressed to me. I asked Santa to bring him to me for Christmas.