It was the holiday season and New York City was magical as usual. The energy and excitement of Manhattan felt magnetic. It was so attractive that it would even enchant Ebenezer Scrooge. Heavy-layered people bustled and scurried to buy those special gifts for their loved ones.
Inside a nice apartment on 410 Riverside Drive, me and my sister, Aaliyah, were in the living room filling the multicolored stockings with candy and other goodies. Christopher Radko’s Christmas ornaments adorned the white Christmas tree standing tall by the window. It was a beautiful sight as Aaliyah and I gazed at it with such delight. We felt our Christmas tree was the best one up. Then our mother entered the living room and sat down on the couch to admire the tree too.
“I love this Christmas tree!” I announced. “Our tree is the best one in the entire building.”
“Our Christmas tree is beautiful!” Aaliyah replied. “I’m going to take a few pictures of the tree with my iPhone 5 and send it to my coworkers. We’re having a friendly Christmas tree contest at the job and the winner gets a Macy’s $500 gift card.”
“I’m glad we decided to get the white Christmas tree instead of the typical green one. The ornaments really stand out!” My mother said.
Then she put on her holiday CD, and Donny Hathaway’s classic “This Christmas” serenaded the room. The song put a smile on my face and had my body moving to the rhythm.
“I love this song!” I admitted. “It is my favorite Christmas song! Sing it, Donny!”
“You are an old man!” Aaliyah joked.
“No, he’s not! This is a nice song.”
“Mommy, Aaliyah don’t know anything about good music.” I quipped.
When the song switched to “The Little Drummer Boy” by the Temptations, my mother started singing. She said this was our grandmother’s favorite Christmas song. Then my mother told my sister and me a true Christmas story about our family that took place in North Carolina. My mother was my favorite griot!
My smartphone rang. I pulled it out and saw it was my friend, Libby. I could not believe she was calling me. I went to my bedroom for privacy.
“What’s up, Libby.” I answered the phone.
Hi, hun! Happy holidays! How are you?”
“I’m good! Wow, this is a surprise.”
“I know. I am back in New York until January. I was wondering if you want to hang out.”
“Sure. I would love too!”
“Okay, I’ll meet you at Oven Brick Pizzeria downtown. I remember we used to eat there during our time at BMCC.”
“No problem! I’ll see you in a little while. Peace!”
I hurried into Brick Oven Pizzeria for some heat. My friend, Libby was at a table for two, a slice of pizza, and a soft drink in front of her. She was a cute Indian girl with long straight sunny auburn hair and flawless dusky skin tone. What I loved most about Libby was her emerald eyes. They twinkled like uncut diamonds.
“Gianni, you finally made it!” She hollered.
“Sorry I’m late, baby girl, but you know how dreadful traffic is in Manhattan.” I said.
I kissed her on the cheek and sat in the seat in front of her. I felt relieve to warm up a little in the pizzeria. Christmas music played softly on the radio, and most people took their orders to go.
“I love New York pizza. It’s good to be home.” Libby expressed. “You can’t find delicious pizza like this in Miami.”
“Yes, New York makes the best pizzas. Next summer, I am definitely flying to Miami to kick it with you on the beach. I need to experience the South Beach lifestyle.”
“You’ll love it out there.” Libby continued. “There is so much to do in Miami. I want us to go jet skiing! I cannot wait to race you in the water.”
“Sounds like fun! I need to hear exciting things. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is making it difficult for many people to enjoy the holiday season.”
“The news shocked me.” Libby murmured. “It was so sad because the victims were mostly children. I could not believe it. Yes, the tragedy damper the holiday season.”
“We’ll never know why that crazy kid killed those children and their teachers. Are you ready to go? Let us try and get into the Christmas spirit.”
We left Oven Brick pizzeria ambled side by side up the energetic sidewalk. The pleasant evening air was cool, and the ambience was upbeat. New Yorkers and tourists were in high spirits. After taking a quick picture of us standing in front of the massive Union Square Christmas Tree, we walked along Fifth Avenue. I looked up at the magnificent view of the Empire State Building. Red and green lights shone on top for Christmas, which made it looked extraordinary at night! The innovative Christmas designs on Lord and Taylor and Bergdorf Goodman’s windows impressed me. Libby and I stopped to view the Philips Electronic LED snowflake lights. They composed of 72,000 lights and 50 unique snowflakes reaching 10 stories high on Saks Fifth Avenue’s storefront. We both pulled out our smartphones and snapped some pictures of the display.
“Let’s go to Rockefeller Center!” Libby suggested. “I always wanted to ice-skate during this time of year.”
“Okay, let’s do it!” I loved her suggestion. “It should be fun!”
We hit the packed Ice Rink at Rock Center. The energy was great! The lights of Rockefeller Center were a sight to see! Libby and I whirled around and fell in the middle of the ice. A Caucasian family standing at the railings looked down on us and laughed. Libby and I also laughed at our embarrassment. We took a few pictures of the Christmas tree.
“Wow, this was my first time skating here, and it was a great experience.” I expressed. “It is nothing like it in the world! The scintillating lights of Rockefeller Center, the golden statue of Prometheus, and the energy are awesome! I’m glad we did come here, baby girl!”
“Yes, the Rink has a romantic atmosphere you can enjoy with your loved one.” Libby said with smile.
“It certainly does.” I agreed.
We locked our eyes and shared a kiss. The lights around us seemed to have gotten brighter. It was surreal!
“You’re the first Indian girl I ever kissed.”
“And you’re the first Black guy I ever kissed.” Libby smiled. “How long you wanted to kiss me?”
“Four years.” I quipped.
“You’re crazy.” She chuckled. “We need to go to one more place.”
“Follow me, hun.”
Wow, I cannot remember the last time I went to the oldest toy store in the United States, FAO Schwarz. A tall live toy soldier ushered in Libby and me. There were many stuffed animals and unique toys. FAO Schwarz had always been a kid’s paradise. There was an abundance of people and kids running around. For a moment, I wish that I were a kid again!
Libby and I rode the escalator upstairs and danced on the big floor piano. We created music with our feet as the piano keys lit up. We moved smoothly and had our own dance-off.
“You know you cannot dance better than me.” I shouted. “I’m like Michael Jackson on the dance floor!”
The vibrant colorful children danced around us. Their parents stood by taking pictures and video recorded our dance off with their camera phones. It was great! I have not had so much fun around kids in a long time. They helped make this experience in FAO Schwarz enjoyable!
Libby and I hopped on the uptown bound Limited M5 bus and sat in the back. The bus ride was eventful as I watched a drunken passenger sitting in the front entertained other commuters with his jokes, people trying to ride the bus without paying the fare, and kids telling their parents what they were going to leave Santa Claus for Christmas. It was amazing how they made the bus theatrical!
“What a day!” I looked over to Libby. “I didn’t expect to burn so much energy! Now, I feel like an old man.”
“Yes, we were very active today.” Libby said. “We took a long walk, ice skate, and dance with the kids.”
“I love the kids!” I expressed. “It’s a great feeling seeing them smile during the holidays. It felt like we were in a movie dancing all crazy!”
“Yeah, like the movie, Big, when Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia danced on the large floor piano. I’m glad we did spend some time together.”
When we returned to my Riverside Drive home, we both were ready to pass out on the couch. It was warm and comfortable in the living room. I flicked the TV on.
“What are your favorite Christmas movies?” I asked her.
“Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Friday After Next, Trading Places, and This Christmas with Chris brown.”
“Thank God, you didn’t say A Christmas Story.” I added. “I’m so tired of TBS showing that movie every Christmas. They should show all the classic Christmas movies.”
“Yeah, the Christmas Story is going to be on for twenty-four hours on Christmas Day. What are your favorite Christmas films?”
“Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Kid Who Loved Christmas, Gremlins, Batman Returns, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Also, Die Hard!”
“I like those movies!” Libby admitted. “We had better movies back then than we do now.”
We decided to watch the 2007 Christmas comedy-drama film, This Christmas, starring Chris Brown. Libby loved Chris Brown; Lauren London was one of my biggest celebrity crushes. We were eating microwave popcorn and enjoying the movie. Without her knowing, I was checking Libby out. The red designer sweater she wore did little to hide her marvelous breasts.
“What do you think about the kiss?” I asked her.
“It was good.”
“Good? That’s it.”
“Yeah,” she smiled.
“Wow. I thought it was great. When our lips touched, the lights around us became brighter!”
Libby pulled me closer to her and kissed me. “How is that?”
“Amazing, it felt like a Christmas miracle.” I joked. “I love those lips.”
Uptown in Harlem, on 125th Street, it was Christmas Eve. The sun was setting, putting on a brilliant show of reds, lavenders, and oranges above. Sparkling decorations of snowflakes and shooting stars illuminated the bustling streets. The Temptations Christmas Album blared from a vendor’s table. Hustlers were out in drove selling CDs, apparels, books, and posters.
A classical, traditional, Gospel Christmas concert was going on in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building. Hundreds of Harlemites packed the street on this cold late afternoon day. They cheered the choir and drank hot cocoa provided by local businesses. After the tragic news of Newton, it was good to see children in the Christmas spirit. They sang each Christmas song with emotion and passion that some of the people in the audience cried.
I looked over to my left and saw my friend, Joy, walking down my direction wearing a North Face coat. She was tall, light-skinned with sharp cheekbones and a superb smile. Her golden brown hair cascaded over her shoulders and Joy still had that model-like walk.
“Wow, a blast from the past!” I exclaimed. “What’s up, Joy?”
“Hey, Happy Holiday, Gianni!” Joy responded as she kissed me on the cheek. “How are you?”
“I’m fine; just watching this concert before I go home. Are you ready for Christmas?”
“I cannot wait to spend Christmas with my family. I have all their presents! I did all my shopping online.” Joy said. “I cannot deal with the long lines and crazy people. I tried Macy’s and got mad being bumped into every five minutes. It was bad and I left within an hour and went home. Actually, not being out there helped me stick to buying the essentials and not overspending.”
“Yes, I don’t have the patience to wait on lines and deal with rude people too.” I continued. “Thank God, I wasn’t in Macy’s or the malls shopping. I ordered a 55″ Samsung TV online from Best Buy for my living room. That’s a Christmas gift to myself.”
Then Joy showed me her sparkling diamond engagement ring. It was beautiful! I was so happy for her.
“Congratulations, Joy! That’s wonderful! When is the marriage?”
“The wedding is on Valentine’s Day.” Joy answered with a big smile.
“Nice! I wish you the best!”
“Thanks! Well, let me keep it moving. I’m feeling the chills. It was nice talking to you. Goodbye.
“Bye-Bye. Merry Christmas!”
It was Christmas morning, and the sunlight gave me the needed energy to get out of bed. I was glad it was not a white Christmas because I prefer sun over snow any day. I knew my mother was up because I could hear the song “Give Love On Christmas Day” by the Temptations and the aroma coming from the kitchen. After using the bathroom, I joined my mother in the living room.
“Merry Christmas, mommy!”
“Merry Christmas, Gianni. I’m making oxtails, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and rice.”
“Yes, I smell it.” I replied.
I walked over to the sparkling Christmas tree and gave my mother her two presents from me. She opened it and her brown face lit up. I knew my mother was a Barbie collector. Now she could add City Shopper Barbie Doll and Evening Gown Barbie Doll to her collection.
“Oh, thanks, Gianni. I love them!”
“I knew you were going to love those dolls!”
“Yes, they sold out online.” My mother told me. “Thank God, you were able to get them for me.”
She hugged me.
Aaliyah came in the living room and wished us a merry Christmas. We exchanged gifts. I got her Celiste black Ugg boots and a designer bag. She got me the white 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team Michael Jordan Jersey with the matching Air Jordan VII sneakers. We both loved our gifts!
“Gianni, you can take the CD out and put the TV on. I’m going to get back into the kitchen and finish cooking.” My mother told me.
“I’m going to help mommy with the food. I love making the mac and cheese.”
I flicked the television on. The NBA Christmas games just started with the Boston Celtics playing against the Brooklyn Nets. I got on my computer and wished all my Facebook and Twitter friends a merry Christmas. Many of them already sent happy holiday messages to me and posted pictures of them celebrating Christmas with their families.
My older brother, LeShaun showed up with hands full of gifts. He had the Santa hat on his head and a smile brighter than the star sitting on top of the Christmas tree.
“Merry Christmas!” He shouted.
“Well, looks who’s come in from Atlantic City,” my mother said, and she walked over and hugged him. “Merry Christmas, I’m glad you came!”
My sister wasted no time getting her gift. We all chuckled. It was Christmas, and the spirit of this day was present. It felt great to have the family together.
“Merry Christmas, playboy!” I said to my brother. “Are you ready for this Knicks/Lakers game?”
“Yes, my boy, Kobe is going to do his thing tonight!” LeShaun predicted. “I’m glad Steve Nash is playing. The Lakers need him!”
“Yes, they do.” I continued. “I hope Carmelo Anthony is hot from the start like he was when they played the Lakers at The Garden!”
“He was hot in that game!” LeShaun agreed. “If Carmelo didn’t get hurt, he probably would have score 50 or 60 points. He was scoring like Bernard King!”
We had a nice Christmas dinner as we watched the Knicks/Lakers game. It felt great to have the family together on this holiday. We ended the night by dancing to the soulful Christmas songs playing on the CD player. I wish my grandmother could be here for this moment to share with us. When “The Little Drummer Boy” started playing, I looked up to the ceiling and smiled.
“Merry Christmas, grandma,” I whispered.