City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hear….
— Bing Crosby
Celebrating Christmas in Florida is a little different. Although I first moved to Ruskin in 1994, I am a child of the North. I actually like snow. I’ve spent only one Christmas Day in the Sunshine State in my life, and the awareness that the forecast calls for 83 degrees this year has been a little troubling.
Christmas for the past three years has been spent in the New York City area — truly a city that thrives on all things Christmas. “Silver Bells” could well have been written about Greenwich Village or SoHo in Manhattan. Christmas edged out even the colors of Autumn as my favorite time of the year in the city. I loved every moment of it — from fighting the crowds to get a glimpse of the window displays at Macy’s or Bergdorf Goodman, to the seemingly infinite Christmas tree street vendors to the enormous lighted tree under the arch at Washington Square Park. I even sort of liked visiting Rockefeller Center with the famous skating rink and tree, at least until the overload of tourists would drive me into the nearest quiet pub.
Prior to that, most every Christmas was spent with family in Minnesota. Somehow my mom made it all seem so magical. Despite the passing of a half century of life, she had the ability to summon up some of the magic of childhood, long after the carefully wrapped toys faded into envelopes with Christmas cards.
My mom is gone now. Although my brother and sisters still live in Minnesota, along with their growing families, I haven’t been back for Christmas.
So now it is warm and humid in Florida, and my Christmas spirit has been…lacking, to say the least. And then I woke up this morning and realized that Christmas is not — and has never been — about me. All of the things I enjoyed about Christmas were reflections of others.
In Ruskin, a group of people will be providing meals, as they always do but also on Christmas, to the homeless. Throughout the area, people will be providing meals for feral cats, they will be rescuing dogs. They will be giving of themselves to help a senior or a child or a family down the street or across the community — without saying a word about it.
Perhaps the snow that I am accustomed to just helped to clarify the reflections that I loved about Christmas. All that I love about this holiday — the goodwill towards all — is here just as it is in New York or in rural Minnesota. Perhaps, in quiet ways, it’s here even more so — there are a lot of people like Michelle and I who live far from family and so find ways to make Christmas happier for their neighbors. Doing so quietly, without judgment or expectation.
There aren’t a lot of people passing, nor children laughing, in the streets of my subdivision. In fact, I’m pretty sure I just heard the air conditioner kick on. But in the air it is starting to feel like Christmas. It’s not about me or you — it’s about who we are and what we believe.
I still believe in Christmas. I wish all of the magic of this wonderful season for you and your family.