New York seems to be hungry for light this year. I don’t think the Christmas tree in my building’s lobby has ever gone up, fully decorated, the day after Thanksgiving. And the week before Thanksgiving, I heard a woman on the bus wondering, rather hopefully, if the snowflake over Fifth Avenue had been lit yet. There’s a store on 5th at 57th with a wall of white and gold lights framing the entrance. And for the first time ever, I wonder (with WNYC) how Jews deal with the nine nights of Hanukkah gifts—eight dredls and a Wii box?
I remember the first Christmas lights I saw in 2001, festooning a tenement fire escape in the far West 40s. They were really early. But I, who never greet this season with undiluted joy, said a loud internal “YES! We will shine this year, no matter what!” I wished for snow to cool the smoldering rubble in Lower Manhattan, and I vowed that from now on it would be different. I would be different.
Well, we’re nine years older now, me and the world and the city, and it is different. The solstice—the resting time, the bottom of the light, the onset of the cold, the hard time—is coming on faster than usual. The light this year is a little like a last hurrah, “the Christmas before . . .” like this October, heart-breakingly blue-skied and golden-leafed, felt like “the autumn before. . . .”
Next year, I suspect, everything’s going to be even more different. The future is starting, bigtime. It’s visible on the horizon like the Visigoths outside Rome.
I feel bad about all this until I look at the holly and the spruce. If I squint, I can actually see for a minute that they’ve survived all this before, and they’re still here, still beautiful, and maybe that’s the meaning of the season, that things can and do blossom in the snow, and so can we. . . .
And then I go, yeah, there goes another rubber tree plant…
Well, it’ll all be over in a month.