By MJ Miller
Each of us has our own magical holiday memories. It might be the charm of a small mountain town, blanketed in snow. The quirkiness of colorful lights strung upon a desert saguaro or palm tree. The cozy warmth of stockings hung by a blazing fire. The lighting of the menorah. The aroma of holiday baking. For me, though, it was always Christmas in New York City. Holidays in New York held a special kind of magic.
As a little girl, dressing up in my red velvet dress, slipping on my Mary Janes (ironically enough) and heading to Lincoln Center to see the Nutcracker. My sister and I, holding on to my mother’s hands for dear life as we made our way through the bustling holiday crowds on the sidewalk. Waiting our turn to cross the wide avenue and climb what appeared to us as the endless steps leading to the magnificent theater. Taking our place in the elegant red velvet seats, then realizing we’d have to sit on our knees to see over the giants in front of us.
The Nutcracker was always extraordinary. A timeless story set to a brilliant composition by Tchaikovsky, and the grace and athleticism of the very best dancers in the world. The costumes themselves were enchanting with all their lace, sparkle and tulle. Yet the moment we waited for with barely contained excitement was the tree. A forty foot spectacularly adorned Christmas Tree that magically arose from beneath the stage. As a child, the Nutcracker was the essence of holiday magic.
Afterwards, there would be hot chestnuts, hot chocolate and giant soft pretzels from the cart waiting at the foot of the concrete steps.
There were other holiday delights to be found during our holiday excursions to the big city. Ice skating at Rockefeller center, a spectacular holiday movie and of course, more hot chocolate. If we were lucky, and behaved, she would take us into FAO Schwartz to play with the toys. Just like the Tom Hanks movie scene with the giant piano. Though I don’t remember a giant piano, only huge displays that made us believe were walking right into Santa’s Workshop. Then there was Macy’s. There was literally no place like Macy’s at Christmastime. Because everyone knew that’s where the real Santa could be found. It was always my mother who brought us. A girl’s day out.
Christmas in New York exemplified holiday magic for me. As life moved on, I got older, and the distance grew as we moved across the country. Yet I never lost my yearning for those early years of holiday wonder. With that in mind, when my husband and I had the chance to take our own two little girls to New York for Christmas, we made sure they had a taste of the magic. What we never expected was the magic the girls created themselves.
I’m not sure which I loved more, my own childhood memories, or the delight it gave me to see our daughters make their own. Watching our five-year old daughter experience the thrill of climbing those steps at Lincoln Center. Showing her how to sit upon her knees, just as I did to overcome the blockage of the large bald head in front of her. Sharing the same childhood wonder as the dancers glided across the floor. The astonishment on her face when the tree began to rise from below the stage was priceless. As was the extra magic she made when she met the Snow Princess. Something I never did.
Our three-year-old daughter had her own magical day, all snug as a bug in her new winter coat from Macy’s, wearing her new spectacles, her wonderful mop of curly hair blowing in the breeze. Her cheeks red from the brisk air, she couldn’t keep still as she skipped and ran up to Rockefeller Center tightly gripping her daddy’s hand. It was there she had a chance encounter with the most fabulous of film critics, Gene Shalit. It seemed he was stopped in his tracks by her cuteness as he was leaving Rockefeller Center. She had no idea who he was, but with the snow dusting his signature handlebar mustache, might she have wondered if perhaps he was Santa’s Helper? After all, it was Christmas in New York and anything was possible.
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