Dreaming of a white Christmas? Go back to sleep! If you live in New York—or anywhere on the East Coast—you’ve probably noticed the record-breaking high temperatures this holiday season. Forget about roasting chestnuts, sipping hot chocolate and cozying up to a fireplace. Christmas Eve temperatures peaked at 72 degrees, followed by a soggy, 65 degree Christmas day. In fact, the forecast for the rest of December is an average temperature of 51.6 degrees; that’s 14.1 degrees above normal, according to a front page story in The New York Times, 12/23/15.
If only the sun would emerge during these unseasonably warm days, those of us affected by Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) could actually be cheerful. Instead our shortest and darkest December days have been mostly filled with clouds, rain and fog. Despite the iffy, crazy weather, plenty of people are out and about in shorts—with or without jackets. Plenty of teenagers are prowling the streets in sweatshirts. Getting dressed each day has become a whole new challenge for me, alternating between outfits that make me sweat or shiver. (My winter coat is too heavy; the raincoat’s a little thin, and lately I’ve gotten soaked in my mid-weight jacket. Brrr!) Restaurants in Manhattan are actually still serving people outside at sidewalk cafes; some intrepid diners even sport season-defying, short-sleeved tee shirts. Who—other than a polar bear—even THINKS about eating outdoors in December in New York City? Henry and I ate outside in November in Manhattan for the first time EVER and thought we were savoring something revolutionary, soaking in the last warmth of fall.
For those holiday-lovers and skiers who crave the white fluff of Christmas snow or crystal-clear icicles, there could be no better time to fly to Alaska or Switzerland. Otherwise snow lovers who are satisfied with the ersatz variety can enjoy “Chillin’ Out” in front of Barney’s Christmas windows, which are filled with the gorgeous glass snowflakes of glass-blowing artist Chihuly. Two other Barney’s displays have been converted into giant walk-in freezers where other artists create live sculptures. Snow-starved shoppers who venture further downtown to Saks Fifth Avenue can enjoy windows filled with some of the world’s greatest wonders: an icy Colosseum, a snow-covered Great Wall of China and a frozen Great Barrier Reef (complete with a cold mermaid). Afterwards, tired and thirsty holiday shoppers seeking refreshment, should try Serendipity 3 (225 East 60th Street, www.serendipity3.com) for the unique and legendary Frozen Hot Chocolate—a delightful and uplifting alternative to the steaming, commonplace version.
Maybe, like me, you don’t care so much about the holiday weather, chocolate beverages or window dressing—however lovely and distracting—they might be. In the end, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are all about family and friends. If your family resembles a Norman Rockwell painting (and few do), then the holidays are wonderful opportunities for bonding and celebration. If not (more often the case) then the holiday trifecta can evolve into tense, drama-filled reunions where childhood hostilities and rivalries are repeated. Or maybe, as my daughter, Sarah likes to say, the holidays are a “mix and match” of good and not-so-good times.
What happens to the empty-nesters whose young adult kids have moved thousands of miles to take advantage of career opportunities? Maybe you see them, maybe you don’t. Do they choose to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with you or with the families of their significant others? Under the best of circumstances, some negotiating and compromising occurs. Under the worst of circumstances—Henry’s and my situation this year—you don’t see a beloved offspring at all. Last year, we were fortunate to celebrate all the holidays—including our twins’ birthday—with both Max and Sarah. However, the holiday trifecta of 2013 separated Henry and me from both twins for the very first time (See “Crazy Christmas,”12/26/14 and “Endings and Beginnings, 12/27/13.) This year we’ve had the pleasure of celebrating the holidays and the twins’ December 26th birthday with our daughter, Sarah and her boyfriend, but we’re zero for four on sharing the holidays with our son in 2015.
Unbelievably, my twins turn 25 this year— a quarter of a century! More than Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m especially sad that our small family is unable to gather to share this special birthday. But young adults sometimes need to revel in their newfound freedom and experiment with making different choices. I can only hope that next year, Henry and I will not be sweating through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years AND our twins’ birthday again, hoping for a way to bring our whole family together. Maybe next year’s choices will unfold in a more inclusive way. A lot can change in a year, right?
Check out Paul Simon singing “Mother and Child Reunion:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pa5H_4lBXs
“No, I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh, little darling of mine”