I have a particular holiday snapshot lodged in my memory bank. I’m out and about at Christmastime with Johnny, my boyhood best friend—yes, we went out and played in the early 1970s, regardless of the season or temperature. My mother is putting up the outdoor holiday decorations, which included green and red tin foil squares cut to fit each window of our front French door and, too, my grandmother’s adjoining one. It is on or very close to December 15th, which was, unofficially as I recall, the earliest date that we—and many others in the neighborhood—decorated for Christmas. Now it’s before Thanksgiving.
Anyway, as if Christmas coming wasn’t enough joy for us to process, it began to snow. My buddy and I were ecstatic. A White Christmas—snow on the ground—was in the offing. Or so we thought. Snow has a habit of vanishing pretty quickly during New York City Decembers. Erratic temperature swings and rain are not uncommon. And I believe that snow from four decades ago, which wasn’t very much to begin with, disappeared well before December 25th.
Fast forward to the present. I woke up this past Saturday morning to find two to three inches of snow on the ground. Suffice it to say, it didn’t bring me the level of joy that snowfalls did in the Decembers of my youth. In fact, the sight of it in the here and now brought no joy whatsoever. All I could think about was what has become the new normal for me. I would have to both shovel the stuff and walk in it—with a prosthetic right knee. And slips and falls in the great outdoors are something I wish to avoid at all costs. But winter weather increases the likelihood of that happening. So far, I must say, I’ve been pretty lucky on that front. A couple of winters ago, I shoveled up in excess of fifty inches of the white stuff and navigated the highways and byways on foot without incident. But snow stress is all too real nowadays, and something that—once upon a time—was entirely foreign to me.
While on the subject of Christmas and the outdoors, I nearly got run over by a grandma yesterday. A motorist came to a complete stop at a stop sign, which was the right and proper thing to do. So, I decided to cross the street. Pedestrians supposedly have the right-of-way. I was approximately half way across when the formerly motionless car accelerated and whizzed just past me. It was then that I noticed its driver—an elderly white-haired woman. And she didn’t flinch. Granny was clearly unaware that I was very nearly in her path. Had she mowed me down, she would have been none the wiser—and, I have no doubt, her Stop & Shop grocery expedition would have commenced as planned.
So, I lived to tell. And I’ll tell you, too, about some local Christmas tree sellers. I like patronizing the little guys if at all possible, but these little guys left a lot to be desired. They wouldn’t quote a tree price until they saw the tree in its full flower. Despite the tree barks being colored for height identification, the prices—evidently—weren’t based on height. Instead, they were determined on the smarmy whim of the holiday equivalent of used-car salesmen. When I spied these same entrepreneurs today, they were comfortably ensconced in their plastic enshrouded lean-to and playing loud music—and not Christmas-themed. There were a lot of unsold trees there. I can’t imagine why.
(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)