Monday, December 08, 2008

One person's tree is another person's shrub...

So who watched the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center last week? I almost missed it, because earlier in the evening, I went out to eat with my mom and stopped by Petsmart for a few things, and somewhere along the way, we both realized that the Rockefeller Center tree lighting was on TV. I thought it would be over by the time I got home, and that would’ve made me sad. (That would’ve actually made me sad – unlike decorating my Christmas tree by myself… which is NOT, as Tim the Misery Monger has tried to convince me, a harbinger of seasonal sadness. :)) But when I got home, I checked the TV listings and noticed there was still a half hour of the Rockefeller Center show left to go. I was like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol –

Me (throwing open my window to look down onto a snowy street): “You there! Tivo! What time is it?”

Tivo (dressed as an urchin and wrapped in a torn shawl): “Why, it’s 7:30!”

Me (tossing a shiny coin to Tivo so he can buy himself something pretty): “Then I haven’t missed it!”

I really do miss Christmas in the northeast… it’s never seemed quite “right” here in Texas. But I guess it depends on what you grow up with – if you grew up in Texas, it must seem quite normal to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt on Christmas Day and feel the warmth of the sun and go for a bike ride. But for me, Christmas should be more like, “heavy wool coat, ice-cold wind, and a sled ride down a hill.”

And no one does Christmas in the northeast like New York City. I can clearly remember the first time I experienced New York in December. I was a senior in high school, and I was in the madrigal group that year – an a cappella singing group at my school. We’d been practicing our Christmas repertoire since October, and when December rolled around, we finally had the chance to sing in various venues around Northeast New Jersey. And then one Friday evening, we all piled into a bus and headed into the city… and even though I’d been to New York dozens of times over the four years I’d lived up there, I had never been into the city at Christmastime. My friend Ali warned me that the Rockefeller tree was less impressive in person than it was on TV – and to be honest, she was right (she called it the “Rockefeller Christmas Shrub”). And yet, when we reached the tree and filed off the bus and grouped together in front of that Christmas Shrub, it was pure holiday joy. We sang for a good half hour, with an appreciative crowd gathered around us… I can’t even remember if it was cold – it was too much fun to worry about such things.

Afterwards, Ali and I wandered the holiday-light-bedecked streets, stood in awe of the intricately-decorated windows on Fifth Avenue, popped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, found a tiny little bookstore where we wasted some time browsing, and then met up with everyone else for a holiday show called “The Christmas Revels.” It was an audience participation show, where everyone was invited to sing along with the carols and dance in the aisles – so technically, we could all say that we’d literally sung and danced on Broadway. It was a perfect evening, and even after all these years it remains one of my favorite Christmas memories…

Of course, the good thing about seeing it on TV is that the Rockefeller Christmas Shrub looks like a more impressive tree when it's onscreen... I guess the camera really DOES add ten pounds... or a couple hundred...

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