I’ve been pretty Grinchy this Christmas season. I keep waiting for something to put me in the holiday spirit. It all just seems like so much bother. But this morning, I think I got a little closer to being jolly.
I was born in Hoboken and we lived there until I started second grade. (If you don’t know anything about Hoboken, or what it was like back then, watch “On The Waterfront”. It was filmed mostly in my neighborhood.) No one had artificial Christmas trees when I was small. You always got a fresh one from the guy on the corner. That’s right, in the city, you buy your tree off the street. It took two people to carry it back to the apartment building and then up the six flights of stairs to the third floor. I usually went with my uncles to pick out the tree. The guy who sold the trees would have them lined up tightly on either side of the sidewalk forming a pine scented tunnel. There would be white lights strung overhead and usually a trash barrel with a fire going inside it. To a little city girl with a big imagination, it was like walking through a magic forest. Especially at night (we went at night because that’s when my uncles got off work) and especially if it was snowing. Those trees seemed like giants to me. And the white lights were stars that I could touch if only I could climb up the through the branches. I remember the smell of the wood burning in the barrel and the sparks that occasionally drifted up like little, glowing fairies. Often, there would be Christmas music playing and a bit farther down the street, a sidewalk Santa ringing a bell; an urban North Pole.
My husband had to work form his Manhattan office today, so we drove in. He dropped me off a few blocks from my office so he could make the turn downtown. As I crossed the street, I was hit with the overwhelming scent of pine. There, on the other side of 9th Avenue, was The Christmas Tree Guy. I stopped for a moment and just looked down the long aisle of greenery. I slowly walked to the other end, breathing in the sweet, stinging balsam scent. I turned and looked back and for an instant, I was five and it was a snowy night the week before Christmas.