Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas in Brooklyn

I had four Christmases in Brooklyn, the last of which was at age three.  My parents and I moved to West Palm Beach. FL in August of 1973.  I've cursed them ever since.  Not really.  Well, at times.  Usually due to the plethora of warm Dec. 25ths I've endured.  Today, 12/25/16 is no exception if the weather forecast is accurate at the time of this writing.  I've carped about this before.  What do I expect from a tropical environment? But I do remember 1983, when it was in the mid 30s on Christmas morn. Ahhh...

I had been back to Brooklyn at Christmastime in the early years, but never on the Eve or the Day.  I always wondered about it.  How exciting it must've been.  Not just because it was cold.  Christmas was always anticipatory and unbearably thrilling when I was a boy, but I'll bet the homey, warm atmosphere in the borough would've made it near perfect.  I love old neighborhoods. They seem to breathe, pulse with life.  Have a soul.  Reflect their residents' (and their progenitors') cultures.  Especially in Brooklyn.  A real communal feel, even with that guy down the street you never really got to know but saw every day.  I do remember (some of my earliest flash of memories) the block parties, when everyone came out of their brownstones and talked about everything under the sun and shared laughs and tears.   At Christmas, I imagined neighbors would sample each others' cookies and complement their modest outdoor displays. Electricity in the air.  Hard to put all of this into words.

My old N.Y. neighborhoods, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, were largely Italian.  I know that racism brewed under many a surface.  Those thoughts sober my flights of fancy.  But in some 'hoods red and yellow, black and white could all mingle, respect their differences, and even learn from each other.  I hope this still exists, and thrives.

Maybe my thoughts are insular, born of some fantasy.  Maybe my idea of Christmas is some misguided, secular nonsense.  Even devout Christians seem to forget why and what we really celebrate.  I've never lost sight of that, meanwhile enjoying all the cheesy earthly elements.  I grew up with my own Christmas tree in my room, and can recall learning Bible verses by its twinkling lights.  My mother telling me that I'd ruin my eyesight.

I did create my own happy Christmases, even in the midst of my parents' stormy, disintegrating marriage.  Even as I walked outside, blinded by sun rays, hit with wet warm blanket humidity on Dec. 25.  Donning shorts and playing basketball with my buds in my SoFL 'hood   And I always wondered how they would've been had I grown up in Brooklyn.

Merry Christmas.


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