Christmas Past meets Christmas Present
In the nearly eight years I lived in the New York City area, I attended maybe a half-dozen Broadway shows, and a handful of Off-Broadway performances. It was a challenging time and my one regret is that I didn’t use the City more: see the plays, visit the museums, take the classes, drink in the culture. I think it’s often the case that we don’t appreciate our particular community’s most delightful offerings until we’ve gone away from them for a while. While Phoenix is no New York City – not even its second cousin three times removed – I do make an effort to “get” more culture now.
By far, the most impressive show I saw in New York was Patrick Stewart’s one-man performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In reading up on Stewart’s rendition of the more than 40 characters that filled the pages of the beloved Christmas classic, I learned that he won an Laurence Olivier Award for his London performances in 1993, the year before I saw him in the Big Apple.*
It’s fairly remarkable the details that stay with you – all those years later. At the time I saw this performance, I was pregnant with the son I would place for adoption with a wonderful family about nine weeks later. Before the show, my son’s birthfather and I went out to dinner at the TGI Fridays across the street from Madison Square Garden, the venue for the performance. A woman was dining near us with her small boy – maybe 3 years old. He was determinedly coloring the Christmas Carol-themed child’s placemat that had been put in front of him when the mother grabbed the crayon from his hand, chastising him, “Jimmy (Stevie, Timmy, Eddy…?), you MUST color inside the lines, like this.” Then she proceeded to color his placemat for him.
My son is now a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston; he will be 20 in February. Which means that little boy from the restaurant is probably 22 or 23 about now. Though I work hard to meet people where they are and acknowledge that we all have our own way of doing things, I cannot help but cringe when I remember him and think of what his growing-up experience must have been like. Chances are it was nothing like my son’s was. Eric has two loving parents, Kathy and Bruce, who championed his every effort. He has a sister who was 10 at the time he was born and is still oh-so-proud of her little brother. He has a large and loving extended family who all get together at every holiday. And I’ve been warmly welcomed into the family, accepted as just another of the many people who love this very special kid.
After Eric’s birth, things with his birthfather toiled on for a few years (to put it kindly), but I finally woke up and realized that enough was enough. I knew the only way to truly end things was to put a whole bunch of miles between us, so I came back home to Phoenix, the city of my childhood. Since my return, both my parents have passed away, I met and married a wonderful man, and I got to see Eric graduate from high school.
This holiday season is a bittersweet one for all of us here in Phoenix, though, as my husband’s father passed away on November 12th after a relatively short bout with prostate cancer. John, my husband, though not a Junior, is John #3 in the family lineage. His grandfather was John Kelemen. His dad was John Kelemen. And he is John Kelemen. And to make things even more interesting, he and his dad had the same birthday, December 13th (12/13/14 this year!) AND both his sister and his stepmom are named Gayle. In order to distinguish between my husband and his father, the family has always referred to my husband as Johnny. In order to distinguish between them with my friends and people who don’t know the family as well, we took to referring to John’s dad as Mr. John.
Mr. John was an amazing man. Charming, funny, kind, a great conversationalist, and the life of the party. He is survived by his mother, Mary, who is in her 90s and amazing in her own right. Yesterday, I helped her decorate her home for Christmas, jerry-rigging a makeshift stand for her fiberoptic poinsettia tree. Since we don’t have the base, it doesn’t light up anymore, but it’s still pretty in the way that only a fiberoptic poinsettia tree can be.
This year we’re doing the holidays a little differently, with an open house for Christmas Eve. My sister and my niece and her boyfriend will be joining our celebration for the first time. My folks have been gone for a while, but this will be the first Christmas without Mr. John. It makes sense to do things a bit differently, I think. I have this image of John’s dad and my dad, who never met on the Earthly plane, hanging out, drinking coffee, and swapping stories about their kids.
Who knows – maybe the dictatorial mom had a Scrooge experience and was eventually able to teach her son that it’s not only OK to color outside the lines – it’s encouraged. If he didn’t learn it from her, I hope he learned it from someone. I’m just really grateful for all the amazing people and experiences that have graced my life since I left New York.
[Scrooge] had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!
Make it so.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
2015 is RIGHT around the corner — are you READY? If you haven’t begun mapping out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com