Every year, my boyfriend and I went to New York City to see the tree at Rockefeller Plaza. It was a tradition we enjoyed because it made us feel completely caught up in the Christmas spirit. Besides, my family has a long history at Rockefeller Plaza.
My grandfather was a foreman on the construction crew at Rockefeller Plaza. My mother grew up in Astoria, Queens and remembers shuttling over to Rockefeller Plaza to go ice skating. Years later, my mom and dad shared the magic of Rockefeller Plaza with me for the first time on my thirteenth birthday. I was amazed by the size of the Christmas tree and the size of the pretzels served up hot and fresh by the local vendors!
Years later, I dated a man who shared my appreciation for Rockefeller Center. We live on Long Island, so it’s just an hour or two away. On our first date to Rockefeller Plaza, we had to park blocks away just to get there. Throngs of people surrounded the glittering Christmas tree as we held hands and nibbled on huge, salty pretzels.
Afterward we went to Rosie O’Grady’s Pub for an irresistible, old-fashioned Irish meal and drinks. We were laughing, snuggling and having a great time together. The bartender commented to my boyfriend, “You’re a lucky lad!” My boyfriend never forgot that statement and later named his boat, “Lucky Lad”.
Because we had such a wonderful time, it became an annual tradition. Each year was special but none was more memorable than December 24, 1998.
It was Christmas Eve and I was feeling rather unsure of the world around me. My boyfriend and I had moved in together. Now he was my fiance and I was nine months pregnant. We were both unsure of the world around us since we had both been divorced before. Both of us were embarking on new territory together and were nervous about the future.
I was going through a high risk pregnancy with a heart monitor and working full-time. We were both unsure if I would be up to the trip this year. At the last moment, I asked my fiance to take me to New York City just to look at the Christmas tree.
When we arrived, a parking place was waiting right by the Christmas tree. Nobody else was in the streets or looking at the tree. The tall building smiled down at us with glowing yellow windows. The silent streets welcomed us to walk up to admire the tree.
As we walked along the lighted pathway through Rockefeller Plaza, we spotted a lone security guard. He smiled and turned his back, giving us complete privacy by the Christmas tree. We held hands and I leaned against my fiance, suddenly knowing everything would be alright.
We looked at each other and marveled at the fact no people were here on Christmas Eve. In years gone by, we were part of a huge mob. This year I was completely safe because there was nobody to jostle into me or bump into the baby.
Quietly we strolled along Rockefeller Center, enjoying the silence in the middle of the city. A disheveled-looking man sat on the curb holding a Polaroid camera. We figured it must be a slow night for him so we purchased our usual photo for $10 instead of $5. He thanked us and we still display that photo in our den today.
After taking a picture, we walked over to world famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral to say a prayer. The first time I visited this breathtaking cathedral was during my thirteenth birthday. Tonight my prayers were more intense than ever. I wanted my child to be born healthy, I wanted to live through childbirth and I wanted the man I loved to marry me. Somehow the silence around me told me anything was possible.
Today I still love the magical Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s a decade later and now I get to share the magic of Christmas with my beloved husband, my stellar son and my delightful daughter. Just as the silence promised me in 1998, every year gets better and better.