Years ago I lived for a while in a second-floor apartment on West 19th Street between 8th and 9th avenues in New York City, in a neighborhood I could hardly afford then and couldn’t dream of affording now. Out the back door was a little porch which faced the rear of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which was built in the early 19th century on land donated by Clement Clark Moore, who served at various times at the church’s warden, vestryman and organist, and was — of course — the author of the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” read here by Father Christmas himself, Robert Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan:
It’s not easy to diminish Christmas. But Christmas star shines just a little less brightly this year in a world that’s lost Pete and Toshi Seeger.
Here’s one for ‘the best baby I ever had…”
An old friend and I talked briefly last night about “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It was one of the first books I ever owned, a gift from a favorite older cousin when I was 9 or 10 years old, and I’ve been in the habit of re-reading it every year at Yuletide.
Not this year. You see, one of the characters is the Ghost of Christmas Past, and if I read the story this year I’ll start wishing that such helpful spirits did indeed walk the earth.
I’d ask the kindly spirit to take me back, say, 25 years, to when my children would have been 9 years old, 5 years old and just 1 year old. As the Ghost and I gazed back through the foggy ruins of time, the 5-year-old, as I remember, would go to bed but have trouble sleeping because…well, because it was Christmas Eve. She’d wander sleepily into the room where the Christmas tree stood all merry and bright, and the colored lights would be twinkling in her eyes, and then she’d begin to sing, off-key but sweet-voiced like an angel, “O Christmas tree…O Christmas tree…”
She and her siblings won’t be with me this Christmas – they’re grown up now and their Christmas coordinates this year will be North and South and West, while I stand watch alone here in the East, sobered by reality, but still hearing that little girl’s song in my head, but still searching, still gazing skyward for signs of what Wise Men once foretold.