Posted on: Friday
The days creep by. The holidays approach. This year, the overall feeling in the city streets doesn't seem to match the season. The air outside is far too warm, crawling into the 60's most days, and it nudges us to spend our afternoons with ice cream in the playground rather than ice-skating in the park. Our heavy winter coats sit in the back of the closet, waiting patiently for their day in the sun. We continue to frolic lightheartdedly about the city as if the golden days of early autumn had never ended. It feels eerily similar to my childhood winters in California.
When Biet and I walk home from school, we like to play a game of counting how many vintage cars we can find. One day, after walking the long way home, across Tenth street and up First avenue, where a few of the old cars are regularly parked, she asks me what I want for Christmas. We walk two more blocks. She points out a seafoam green Ford Falcon parked across the street and I smile. I finally answer.
This year, I tell her, I want no wrapped gifts, no clothes nor books nor records nor jewelry. This year, I say, I want an adventure for Christmas, or at least to plant the seeds of adventure and hope to make one happen in the new year. I want to make a promise to one another to go experience someplace foreign, to dream big and to think in new ways about seeing the world. My heart has been bursting with wanderlust over the past few month and I'm ready to invest in experience and to embark with my family of five on an adventure like no other. It could be a vacation, or a road trip, or a wild camping jaunt through the forest or countryside, I don't know. But my soul is seeking adventure, and I can think of nothing I would love more for Christmas than to sit down and plan it out. Biet watches me and I can see the excitement rubbing off on her. Then she nods her head and tells me nonchalantly that she'll take me to Paris, where we'll eat chocolate together and watch ballet. I begin to laugh off the thought but then the image of she and I wandering the streets of Paris hits me and I have to catch my breath. She's older, early teens, and a radiant wild-haired woman with a fiery confidence and a quick wit. To imagine your children grown is at once terrifying and thrilling, and I let myself get lost for a minute in the idea of being a mother of three grown adults. Then I blink and we are walking up First Avenue, and she is four, and we're looking for old Cadillacs, and Christmas is only days away.
Early that evening we walk over to Union Square to the Holiday Market, where vendors from all over city set up booths to sell their wares. There are tables overflowing with spices and teas, handmade candles burning, carved wooden ornaments piled high, rows of hand-blown glass, and dainty charms swinging from golden chains. The tepid December air carries spicy clouds of hot apple cider through the outdoor market corridors. Eleven-week-old Levon rides in the bassinet and sleeps nearly the entire time. He is such a peaceful baby with a happy bright demeanor. He also exudes a distinct spiritual energy that you simply must experience to fully understand. I watch a sense of peace befall those who hold him, and everyone seems to say the same thing- there's something mesmerizing about his eyes. Deep blue and piercing, they catch you off guard and hold your gaze with a vengeance. Even Santa Claus couldn't look away (we skipped the long lines at the big department stores this year and took the kids instead to an intimate little event my friend Brianne put together with Little Me at Lord & Taylor) when we took Levon to sit on Santa's lap for the first time. The only child of mine to not cry upon being handed to Santa, Levon smiled and yawned and stared deep into the eyes of the bearded man... no fear, no anxiety, just a perfectly comfortable baby burrowing into the fabric of a fluffy red and white Santa suit. Quite simply, baby Levon is one of the most brilliant people I've ever met.
In the back of the market we find what we've been looking for- a miniature table surrounded by miniature chairs inside a miniature room fashioned of wood and plexiglass. Baskets of paint and glitter are strewn about the tabletop and colorful paper ornaments hang from a clothesline against the back wall. My children see the little art shack and run towards it. Lou, my little mover and shaker, has ALL of the art supplies in his corner of the table within seconds, and is happily gluing yellow feathers to a blue snowman. He has a way about him that makes you believe that he can make anything, a boundless energy and enthusiasm for building things that becomes infectious. In no time we are all sitting around the little CMA kids table making christmas ornaments, inside the holiday market, in the middle of the park, as the sun sets over Manhattan. It's all very picturesque.
The sun has set and the children's bedtime is approaching. With our freshly-glittered ornaments layed to dry under the stroller and a couple slices of pizza in our bellies, we detour down 5th avenue to catch a glimpse of the Washington Square Park Christmas Tree before heading back home to our apartment. The wind blows hard up fifth avenue, swirling my hair above my head and turning my coat into a cape flapping behind me. Lou delightedly informs me that I look like Batman, and for a couple of blocks we run wildly against the wind gusts playing Batman and Robin. As I'm running with him I think about how this is something my Dad would have done with me, and the thought warms my heart and makes me miss my family terribly.
Finally we are standing under the majestic tree, strung with lights in all her glory and swaying precariously in the wind. Surprisingly, the park is quiet and nearly empty save for a few stragglers and people rushing home from work. I've never seen Washington Square so empty, and the rareness of the situation is not lost on me. Here I stand with the tree before me, the Empire State beaming in the distance, and my three healthy children by my side, and I am so grateful. And I know Christmas is coming, but, once again, the city feels calm, warm, tranquil, and lacking the usual frantic energy which descends upon everything like a blanket this time of year.
In that moment I feel so at home, and I suddenly notice the unexpected beauty in having a quiet Christmas. I decide to stop waiting for this year to feel like every other year and accept that ease and calm can replace the excitement of the NYC streets once in awhile, and that's ok. Here we are celebrating Levon's first Christmas, and the weather is warm, and life is simple, and that's ok. Standing under the tree I get this overwhelming feeling that our family is done waiting. We've finally arrived at some unnamed destination and are ready to begin something. What that thing is I cannot say, but I do know that we five have each other, and we have the city, and we are exactly where we need to be. As the winter solstice approaches, a new season is turning over in our lives. I am so eager to see what it holds.
I stay up at night after the kids are asleep and try to read. I've been trying to re-read a few of my favorite novels, Proust, Tom Robbins, Kerouac, Fran Lebowitz. The whole apartment is still and dark except for the dim yellow glow from the 1950's bedside lamp. I rescued the funny little lamp from the trash room of our building not long after moving in to our apartment- it's gaudy curved marble base and intricate floral velum shade had resonated with me when I spotted it, and so I gave it a respectable permanent home on my side of the bed. Gaby can't stand the lamp, but it reminds me of all of the generations who lived in the building before me, and of all of the adventures that must have been had before my time. It reinforces the connection I've always felt to the past, and, like a handful of antiques I've collected over the years, sparks my imagination.
I usually get through about three pages at the end of the night before switching off the lamp and falling asleep. And then, for only a few hours out of the entire day, the whole apartment is quiet as we lose ourselves to our dreams. I dream of Paris, and Christmas is another day closer.
Posted on: Saturday
Our Inglesina film is live! It was so much fun shooting this (despite the fact that Lou had two molars break throught the night before and we were all pretty much running on zero sleep), and I'm so incredibly honored and grateful for this experience!
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