On Christmas Eve of 1997, I was a twenty-six-year-old singleton living in Manhattan. I'd been slaving away as a Merchandise Manager for the Gap (Kids and Baby) doing "overnighters" for the entire month of December; eleven p.m. to six a.m. shifts of merchandising magic; stocking and re-stocking, hanging and folding, beautifying the messes of merch.
The lack of sleep created hallucinogenic glee upon morning release and prompted breakfast meetings at Checkers for egg sandwiches and fits of delirious laughing. It was the happiest time of the decade known as my twenties; young, alive, and living in New York.
That Christmas Eve, we were let out early. Behind a cash register piled waist deep in unfolded heaps of clothes, I bit my nails over the expected groans from the opening shift that would find the store in such a state.
We escaped; three girls and me, wide-eyed, bundled up against the cold Manhattan air. Crouching down to lock the heavy double doors, the girls huddled above to protect me from the wind, and then we backed away to use our combined weight to lower the even heavier gate.
Standing on the sidewalk of 55th Street and Madison Avenue, the street was more quiet than usual. The lights on the buildings of Midtown were low and the nip in the air pulled us closer together.
We noticed then that it was snowing; big fat snowflakes so fluffy that their differences could be examined before they fell a top our hats, on noses, and all around.
The essence of Christmas spirit was there, pulled down to the Earth with the snow, so real you could feel it and touch it and see it as it erupted; four girls jumping and giggling and squealing messages of "Merry Christmas!" into the shoulders of our embracing winter coats.
When we released into different directions, waving our goodbyes, I smiled wide until I hailed a cab, and smiled all the way home with a heart full of joy.
The next day I awoke and took out my little dog Henry, while wearing my pajamas and puffy winter coat. Outside my apartment was a street blanketed with snow, Christmas magic embedded and sparkling in the mornings' sunlight. I walked to the Starbucks on the corner of 28th and 3rd and bought a steaming hot coffee and then spent the remainder of the day snuggled into my bed watching videos I'd rented the day before. There were no presents under a tree, as a tree would never had fit into my tiny apartment anyway; no present to open since I'd been naughty and done all of my unwrapping (sent by mom) a couple of days before.
Toward dinner time I ordered dumplings from the Noodles on 28th and ate in bed with my pup looking on. Dessert was rice pudding from the fancy deli on 31st and 2nd.
My belly was full of good food. My heart was at peace. Never in my life have I been as sure that I was exactly where I was meant to be at that very moment in time.
A Christmas blessing that lives in me today.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may blessings find you, too.