I'm actually enjoying Christmas in New York this year. Unusually calm for the holiday season, I find myself stopping and smelling the pine trees being sold on the street, as well as trying to observe all the decorations around the neighborhood. I don't know how or why I'm feeling so good as we end '08 (if I did, I'd bottle it and give it out as gifts), but I've decided not to seek answers, just enjoy-as to make up for the years when, in one way or another, I got "Scrooged." There were years when a setback-personal or professional (or the combo platter!)-rendered me so crestfallen that just clicking the mouse in order to shop online took a Herculean effort. Then there were the times when I had so much on my plate (again, personally and professionally) that my anxieties rocket-fueled me through the holidays, yet the 12 days of Christmas couldn't go by fast enough. I was jumping out of skin waiting for Jan. 2, when things would get back to what I considered normal. This year, there's a new normal. It began when I decided to feel lucky that I live in the place where people come to celebrate the season. I saw the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree. This is the first time in a long time that I even noticed, let alone was in awe of it. Most years I'm too busy glaring at the tourists who are in my way because they're, yes, admiring the tree. I also enjoyed listening to the carolers at the tree lighting in Carl Schurz park, and actually went to look at the windows of Saks, Bergdorfs and Lord & Taylor, instead of just catching a glimpse of each store's creations while speed walking by. My daughter's standard Christmas-birthday gift of a Broadway show is again on the agenda; this year from the nosebleeds rather than the orchestra, but I'm just happy we can still go. And I recommend ice skating at the new Polar Rink by the Museum of Natural History, at least once. Here's what I feel lucky that I didn't do: participate in the frenzy of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I actually shopped "off peak" and enjoyed buying gifts, even if, due to the economy, I could not be as generous as I'd been previously. I sent out my season's greetings without the "chore factor." And when my husband and daughter came home with the eight-foot tree, I managed to keep my good humor as my husband "did the lights." Putting them on is his thing. He's happy to do it, and proud afterward when his handiwork brightens the room, but in between when strands get tangled, bulbs don't light right away and the blinking ones don't blink, there is colorful language as well as much huffing and puffing. I drowned it all out by watching a Christmas movie, for which I usually don't have patience. Then I took time decorating, placing new and keepsake ornaments strategically, rather than racing through the task as though tree trimming were an Olympic event and I was going for the gold. As I said, I don't understand how I'm sustaining my holly, jolly Christmas mood; maybe it's because I just decided to do something different. The bah-humbug depression route and my longtime favorite: "Is it over yet?" never served me well. I'm glad that I'm giving gratitude a go. I hope it lasts, at least until next Christmas. Maybe by that time I'll have found a way to bottle it. -- Lorraine Duffy Merkl is an Upper East Sider. Her column appears every other week.
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