All I want for Christmas Eve

22 Dec

A silent night isn’t exactly my idea of a swell Christmas Eve.

I’d much rather be spending it with this (shall we say, colorful) crew.

COVID makes that impossible this year. Which breaks my heart hugely. And pisses me off about as much.

Christmas Eve morning I am supposed to be waking up at my brother Joe’s place in Queens, as I have every Christmas Eve morning since moving to Maine a quarter century ago. After a hearty breakfast (Joe’s awesome pancakes if I am very lucky) we would be getting into his car and driving over to Cypress Hills Cemetery, on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Inside the cemetery gate is a small wood and metal trailer where the man selling Christmas wreaths to mourners like us keeps himself warm. We always buy a wreath from this man but I do not believe he has once recognized us as the regulars that we are.

After storing the wreath in the trunk of Joe’s car it would be time to place our bets on how many minutes it will take for my brother to find his way to our parents’ gravesite. Cyress Hills is a sprawling, difficult-to-navigate cemetery and it is not uncommon to become hopelessly lost inside it. My wife Joan (did I mention that she would be with us?) is the official timer, she in the front passenger seat next to my brother, I in the rear.

Lately Joe has been winning our find-the-family-grave wager with great frequency. I suspect he may be practicing by visiting mom and dad when I am not around. Which could, depending on your view, be considered cheating.

By around noontime, after additional graveside visitations with other beloved family members nearby, we would be getting back to Joe’s neighborhood and doing last-minute Christmas shopping. By this I mean mostly last-minute gag-gift shopping for our godchildren Joanna and Alec, often at the “As Seen on T.V.” display at the CVS. Once we have all laughed our way through this ridiculous ritual it would be time for Joe and Joan’s annual tug-of-war on the subject of lunch, my wife being very much pro, my brother strongly not so.

“I’m saving myself for later,” he tells her, year after year after year after year.

“Later” is, of course, the traditional Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, which takes place always at Aunt Anna and Aunt Rita’s apartment in Queens, beginning at around four or five o’clock and lasting late into the evening.

It is a night that I look forward to all year long. And silent it is not.

Nor should it be.


8 Responses to “All I want for Christmas Eve”

  1. Pete December 22, 2020 at 11:53 am #

    You are all looking good šŸ‘šŸ‘

  2. Charlene December 22, 2020 at 2:00 pm #

    I hear you. We’ll miss all that noise too.

  3. Claudia Risbara December 22, 2020 at 3:40 pm #

    Sweet and bitter. A novel Christmas story. Pun intended.

  4. Geri Finn December 22, 2020 at 7:07 pm #

    I can certainly relate. Thank you for reminding me I am not alone in my memories of Christmas past. Lets hope you get to make more memories, and create more traditions in years to come.

  5. LeAnne December 22, 2020 at 7:10 pm #

    Sorry to hear–and I agree. For logistical reasons, we can’t do the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, so several years ago, we started doing it on the Solstice. Last night we did a zoom version–first making the food and delivering it to 7 nearby friends and neighbors… simplified (ten fish) but way fewer courses than usual (with reheating instructions as needed). Perhaps you have some willing NY relatives who would cook along with you and then get together virtually? Or could you entice some neighbors to take part? We had a lovely time–so nice to connect with folks over a meal.

  6. Joanne Gray December 22, 2020 at 11:05 pm #

    I’ll be alone–no daughter and her family coming to Maine this year. Ugh.

  7. Joanne Gray December 22, 2020 at 11:08 pm #

    I’ll be alone. No daughter and her family in Maine this year. Ugh.

  8. Claudia January 3, 2021 at 4:59 pm #

    3 generations of Haases in one home. Too much food. Too much anticipation from hyped-up young ones. Missed it so much.

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