Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kicking the Holiday Spirit into High Gear

I am so full of the Holiday Spirit, I may just pop in a shower of candy canes, evergreen boughs, Advent Candles, and mangers...

And, I fully cop to being as infatuated with the commercialized, secular Holiday joy as I am with the quiet, the still, the deep...the miracle that happened in that little town of Bethlehem, and what it means for the universe, and for me personally...

This weekend has been full of moments celebrating both, and now as I turn my gaze three states away to "The Heart of it All", I'm ready to get my Christ-Mass on straight through to Epiphany! Fair Warning: this blog post, and the one after it most likely, are going to be happy, fun reports of my festive activities leading up to Christmas. There will likely not be as much reflection as you're used to, but there will be quality writing, and lots of fun pictures! Plug in your Christmas lights, make a mug of cocoa or tea, and dream a little with me...

On Friday evening we were lucky enough to celebrate two holiday parties with wonderful people, and even better, wonderful cats at our first stop! With cookies, dips, meatballs, and mulled wine in our bellies, we didn't even have time to catch the Visions of Sugar Plums before we drifted off to sleep.

On Saturday my husband and I got our shit together and flew out of the house in an uncharacteristically quick fashion-we had a date with a train that only comes one day a week, for one month a year! We made it to the uptown platform at the 2nd Avenue-Lower East Side station just a few minutes after two. I feared we were too late, until I caught the intoxicating strains of swing music blaring out across the platform. This was no scratchy boombox either: a band with a standing bass, a trombone, a snare drum, a trumpet, tambourines, an old-fashioned microphone being crooned into by an amazing vocalist, and a lively group of period-costumed dancing fools made the passageway impassable! The excitement was contagious as the music went from fast to slow and back again, and the dancers switched in and out with auxiliary performers in the crowd, dipping and swinging till the lady's skirts stood out straight from their bodies.

Then I heard a sound unlike any I had heard before, magnified in the confined space. I turned to the center track, where the V train once started its run, and there it was! The Vintage Train! CIRCA ROUGHLY 1920!!!! Complete with Christmas bows and wreaths on the front and back, it rattled and roared into the station to cheers, and one ecstatic Omily!
The band tried to make itself heard over the commotion, telling the jovial bunch what car to get on if we wanted in on further musical fun, which, of course we did. But it took some doing to cram all of us, and all of those instruments, on to a single car, and the confusion gave us a few minutes to explore a couple cars. Steel fans hung from the ceiling, and the original ads that had graced the trains when they stopped running were all still in place.
Finally the conductor, dressed in the uniform befitting the time period of his train, started yelling, "ALL ABOARD!" We squeezed through the doors between cars, and grabbed a seat, more to put our coats and bags on than anything else, and the train rattled off uptown. The band kept playing, and the dancers even managed to constrain their choreography to support a few swinging couples. Between each station we would pass a point when the lights would flicker out for a few seconds, and the fans over head would cease whirring, not that we could hear that part because, with the joyful attitude on board, just about any change in the train elicited excited cheers from the passengers.

Each time we pulled into a new station we had the pleasure of seeing the confused expressions of the passengers awaiting their normally scheduled M train. No one could hear the announcer telling us what stop we were in, but that wasn't a problem because the band would accompany their instrumental musings to sing the name of the station in time to the music.

The train rolled all the way out into Queens in what felt like record time. At 23rd-Ely Street, the Conductor made his way into our car to personally kick us off while the train turned around to go the other way. The bigger instruments and their musicians were permitted to stay, but we were treated to a parade up the stairs and down onto the next platform by the brass and percussion sections while we waited for the train to come back. The husband and I got off the train on the first stop in Manhattan, since we were on our way to an art exhibit at the Japanese Society at 47th and 2nd. I was so sorry to see the train go, especially as the band had just broken into a beautiful rendition of "White Christmas." The singer's beautiful voice carried into the station until the train's last ribbon-bedecked car disappeared into the tunnel. I heaved a sigh. I felt like I could have ridden the Vintage train up and downtown all day long!
The exhibit proved to be well worth the sacrifice though, and it was a great way to unwind and warm up after our adventures. We ate a Japanese lunch complete with hot sake, and though we had considered doing some Christmas shopping to wrap up the day, decided to just head on home for the night.
Sunday opened with a trip to the coffee shop, and Church, as always. I put together a list of last-minute purchases and to-dos for our own Christmas party that evening, and ran off to the 2:30 Aerial class, the last before a waaaay too long break for the holidays. I picked up six bottles of wine (and a new corkscrew) on the way home, visited three stores on the hunt for baby candy canes, and finally started braising fennel, slicing bread, and mulling wine much closer to Party-Start time than I had envisioned.

The letting go I had practiced when I thought I wouldn't find the candy canes to garnish the Irish coffees stood me in good stead, though, when the guests started to arrive before the fennel was done, and before I had done anything with my crazy hair. We all relaxed into a happy routine of eating, drinking, and merry-(craft)-making. A blizzard of love buried our seven-foot Christmas tree. Truffle, the cat, is doing her part to dig it out, sending drifts of exquisitely cut snow-flakes to every corner of the apartment.
A Charlie Brown Christmas played as we lingered over the last of the mulled wine, and when Linus said, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." We all paused to hear the Mystery, the Miracle, perhaps to you the Myth, about a birth that had been prophesied for centuries, about a young girl who did not know man, a star that led kings and shepherds to a dirty, smelly, stable, where the Prince of Peace, God incarnated, lay in the hay, by the side of his exhausted, awed parents.

As we snuggled into bed at last that night, we embarked on a guided meditation that took us into the skies: We were the snowflakes, dancing and cartwheeling with our brethren in the clouds...when the clouds opened up, we tumbled, flew, and glided down over Brooklyn, ever so slowly, finally settling on trees, eye lashes, tails, windowsills, cars, and sidewalks. Cozy and close, knowing we were a part of something so beautiful, and so much greater than ourselves...

Merry Christmas.

Live Omily,

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