Christmas 2008 was memorable. The hardships endured by so many that lost jobs, lost nest eggs, lost faith in so much that made this country great overshadowed that annual break from the grind we all go through. It seemed like the message and practices of past generations were embraced. What really mattered was being with family and friends. This couldn’t go on forever, right? A new year, a new president, a new way of life waited just around the corner. New is good, or at least I embraced that thought. I embraced it not just to get my fix of optimism that keeps me going, but I had no more room in my head for nonsense, fear, and hard realities.
I noticed hearing a lot more “How are you holding up?” around the Holidays then “How have you been?!?”. I was great. I was phenomenal. I had hid the engagement ring I was giving my girlfriend Christmas morning in the top of my closet behind the sweatshirt I never wear. I was overflowing with joy and happiness for a moment I waited a lifetime for , and fear and compassion for what so many people were going through. I didn’t want to be that guy, the guy with blinders on, the one that was pigheaded and out of touch with reality.
Laying on the couch watching t.v. and trying to avoid the news, I second guessed myself a couple of times. Fear wasn’t going to win. Fate, destiny, luck, call it what you will, the tough times that had touched many lives had grazed mine. I couldn’t pull back and hide, I had to move ahead and live.
Christmas eve that year was spent in my hometown of Garden City, out on Long Island. At the 7 o’clock mass the smiles weren’t as bright as past years, and the pews were much fuller.
Dinner with neighbors later that evening had a somber mood for the first few minutes, until the third generation showed how easily the word Santa can throw a kid into a frenzy. “We’re all together and healthy.” It was true. We laughed about the same stories from growing up, we all had fun looking out the window and pointing at the red nose that just sped by in the sky, and we all caught up with where life had taken us in the past year.
My mom knew what Santa was bringing Lindsay the next morning. She didn’t make that much eye contact that night. I blushed more than I usually would when asked what I got my “special lady.” Is it shiny? Yes, it is.
The last time I couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve was probably when I knew Santa was putting an Atari console with Space Invaders and Asteroids under the tree. I thought that was a torturous night. I’ll take the anxiety over how to use hyperspace on a joystick over playing out the proposal anytime.
All of a sudden it was Christmas morning. Life was going to be different, and there wasn’t a newscaster or politician, or financial expert, or anyone that was going to stand in the way. On one knee I charged ahead, and took Lindsay with me.