I'd been away to Texas for a few days visiting my very sick (and beloved) Grandmother, most likely saying goodbye in person for the last time. It hasn't been an easy season. I knew that when I came home, I had to pull myself together and make Christmas happen for my ten-year-old son, but I didn't realize that it would happen without me even knowing it. My husband was away for work, and I just wanted to curl up in pajamas and sleep for 20 hours.
"Do your homework, finish your homework," I'd said for the umpteenth time, to an even more than frequent rebuttal of why he didn't want to, only this time his reason was different. "I had this weird nightmare that I lived in suburbia, in a long house with a mom like _________[fill in the yelling mom of his friend's name here], and I really just want to spend some time with you. I need to go outside, I want to get my energy out." It was early in the week, and the snow was still fresh on the streets, though icy. It was dark and below freezing. "Okay, let's get dressed."
We walked from our place on East 4th Street over to Tompkins Square Park. If you looked deep into the recesses of the corners, it was surely populated with dog walkers and unofficial residents camped out at the chess tables, but it was so quiet and open that it felt we had the place to ourselves. He wanted to have a snowball fight. I said yes, despite the snow being thick ice, barely shapeable; instead we broke off ice chunks and hurled them at each other, and into the pristine snow. The giant spruce tree in the middle of the gated knoll was decorated with simple white lights that twinkled in the night sky, and it rose like a giant crooked Dr. Seuss tree against the backdrop of the Empire State Building. The more our eyes adjusted to the night, the more rats we began to notice scurrying across the white snow; one at a time, like Templeton working hard to shore up his winter feast at the state fair. They lumbered; slowly enough for my son to play Hit the Rat (he misses every time).
I got tired of getting pelted with ice chunks and seeing rats scramble for their lives, and it was then that we saw the outline of a sculpture of a standing man. I was off the hook. "Mom, hit his head and you get 50 points." That went on for a bit.
He grew hungry and asked if we could go to get some Indian food on 6th Street. "Sure." It was his bedtime, and I didn't care. We walked upstairs to one of the dueling Bangladeshi restaurants and chose the one on the right. We split a curry and a poori, and he got to tap the steam out of the round puffy bread. It was someone's birthday, so the Christmas lights turned off and the green laser went on wildly in the dark while waiters made their way to the crowned birthday girl singing a Bollywood version of "Happy Birthday, Happy Happy Birthday, Happy birthday, Happy Happy birthday."
When he went to sleep, I'm sure he didn't have visions of mistletoe dancing in his head, but at least it wasn't the scene of a looming and empty suburban landscape, so foreign to this urban kiddo who instead needed, and got his fill of salty ice bombs and rats; mediocre curry and laser lights. I guess best of all, he got Yessed for a change.