Xavi, V.'s son, on the look-out for Santa
Photo: Amina BalleyV. said one of her biggest accomplishments was giving her son a proper Christmas. She's not Jewish, so that's important. And it was still easy to wrap his presents because all she had to do was put him in the high chair and turn it the other way.
We started reminiscing about holidays, especially Christmas, that treacherous time when all that is missing becomes bright and clear and vicious and in front of you.
Do you have family and if so, can you visit with them and if so, do you want to and if so would buying presents break the bank and if not do you have a lover that you get to be with instead and if not do you have a friend who would include you in and if not how are you going to get through that loneliness...
Each year late November heralded the beginning of that obstacle course made from those questions that only left me wishing February 15th would finally show up so there could be a break from feeling like an utter failure at life, especially each time I saw a goddamn commercial filled with people who loved one another and I just couldn't figure how, how to get into that commercial and, really there's nothing more annoying that sobbing through a Coca-Cola commercial with no where to go.
V. fared a bit better. She had some great times. There was her friend's Gramma who, heading into her 90's and still sharp as a tack, would throw a Christmas Eve party to end all parties, with everyone, in V.'s own words, showing up with moonshine and having a blast of joy. V. always meant to head to Mass after Gramma, but with all that love and family and happiness, more prayer would only be like gilding the lily. She loved that Gramma and her friends and being home with them.
Her description of that party jogged something tucked away.
I must have been 17, maybe 18, maybe more... but not by much. None of those questions had been answered until Jutta invited me up to spend Christmas Eve with her and the small group of friends that made her neighborhood home.
I don't remember where we drank and ate and celebrated. But, as the evening drew to a close, Jutta shoved a small envelope into my hands. It was a Christmas card with $10 in it. A lot of money for a single mother working as a clerk in the 1970s to give and a lot of money for a kid supporting herself to get.
I don't remember how I got home that night. But, as I walked up Broadway or down Broadway, about to make the trek from the upper west side to the east village, I remembering feeling something I hadn't ever before, but I would have recognized it any where and I didn't even need to be in a soda commercial.
It was joy that can only come from being home with the people you love the most.
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