Gravel in the alleyways, pressed tar in the streets, cement on the pavements leading to the doorways of the countless brownstones and establishments, all covered by a fresh powder of white. Central park sure was a sight to see, all the green was gone and been replaced by this magic white powder.
It was a Tuesday, cold as it ever was. The Depression was at its height, people scuffling and hustling to get what they can to eat. Things don’t look out that great as it were. Lost meself a brother at war, and many a friend. Digging trenches ain’t much of a work experience to have landed me a job when I got back. Here I drift therefore. Good folks out there, God Bless them all, were putting on shelters and giving us folk free meals. Reckon I might get meself something warm this night.
Where was I? Central park, yeah. Oh the joy, I think to myself, ‘man you’s getting old’. Early on before the dusk fell and the sun kissed the sky a rosy and gold goodnight, I found meself a pristine spot on a weathered old bench, many a scratch mark on it. I wondered, ‘how many a lover must have sat right here, gazing at the skies, building dreams, cuddling up the precious lives they had’. Stretching out this old and lanky body and settling in the patched up coat of mine, no money in the pockets of the fat cats at the bank could have tempted me to get up and leave.
Rolling in the snow, as cold the weather was and as harsh the economy was, dozens and hundreds of folk there was. Little ones and their brothers and sisters building snowmen, each with a gravelly smile and gravel beads for eyes, older ones building up snow forts and dousing each other with snowballs to shouts of both glee and dismay. Well this fellow here is at the station and has got a ticket for the inbound train of memory rolling through. Forty years ago I could remember my brother’s face as I smashed his favorite mug. He yelled and screamed at me while I taunted him, only to be chased outside by our father. Deciding to pick up our argument in the snow, we decided to bomb each other with chunks of snow molded to balls. After assaulting each other the animosity dissolved as quickly as it started. Realizing that a mug was just a mug, we spent the rest of the discussing pranks to play on our cousins until mama called for dinner. Next morning, my brother had a haphazardly wrapped mug waiting for him under the tree.
And there over on the frozen lake, the couples walking hand in hand, snug in each other’s warmth and the couples skating both elegantly and clumsily on the sheet of frost. Ah, yet another memory, love. Her name was Linda, and what a fine name it was I thought. The snowflakes I used to brush away from her hair were nothing to how she was beautiful to me. We didn’t need to embrace for her sight and words to warm the air surrounding us. I ain’t denying it, she was the smart one. Always had a right proper goal she did, and always kept me working up to make life better. She was the first sunbeam that kissed me face and the last star that shone in my night sky. And she still is. My Linda left everyone, and I didn’t even get no chance to hold her hand before she did, before she left me. I was gone to fight a war I didn’t understand, and she landed with a lung infection. Never goes a day by me that I wish I was there with her, or was with her now.
But I ain’t jealous of these folk, it brings this old and shriveled heart warmth to see such sights. Children and love, that’s what we all are for in me humble opinion. Sitting there till the twilight rose I finally stood up and made my way to the streets. Depressing as it were, folks did their best to spruce up things for the holiday. This night felt lighter than the other nights.
The windows of each house was alight in the golden glow of radiance from the fire in the hearth as the chimneys puffed columns of smoke to the black skies and glistening stars. The smell of pine was a distinctly enticing smell in the atmosphere. The hard and coarse pine cones on the lush green wreaths that were adorned with ribbons of red and gold hung on the doors of most houses. Families saved up for this night the best they could, as they filled stockings with candy and trifles of toys for the little ones. Impatient as they are, the warm and deliciously gooey cookies and the molten chips within them were coupled with milk to appease them and keep them at bay until the next morning. The first Christmas morning that I remember was before my brother was born. I woke up to rush to where papa had put up the tree, I remember the intoxicating and magical smell of pine and wood smoke as the now extinguished fire in the hearth sputtered. I remember the feeling of the floor on my feet as I opened my gift and stared in amazement at the wooden train set that lay in my hands.
Passing by to the various shelters constructed, I felt a welling in my chest to see the generosity in the hearts of the folks as they made Christmas as happy for us folk as much as they can. Warm soup in my hands and a dozen thanks to the kind folk, and another dozen to the Lord for bestowing this great green earth with folk as such, I made my way to a set of stairs to enjoy this warm meal.
I watched the snow fall down bit by bit, catching a snowflake in my outstretched palm. The marvelous creation, so minute and yet precise the etchings and so delicate the design. There was happiness in the air. The gloom on the streets of Manhattan had fled tonight. There was only the eternal and ethereal feeling of peaceful joy and warm love.
Hands in my pockets I passed by a church as I kept walking. Nudging the door open slightly, I was held in awe at the pure beauty of what my senses were being fed. The choir, oh so angelic and harmonious, singing together carols as the people inside sat, some in tears, some in awe, some in prayer. Taking a seat, I let the voices wash over me and take me on the wings of their harmonies. The chiming of the bells signaled the arrival of midnight. And it is this beautiful emotion that I associate with Christmas. This feeling of pure happiness….