New Year’s Eve Was Only the Seventh Day of Christmas. Remember, There Are Twelve
The year 2017 may be over (good riddance to it) and today may be the national holiday of New Year’s Day (big whoopie). But it’s only the Eighth Day of Christmas.
As the song says, those days number twelve.
The first day of Christmas did not begin auspiciously. A brief flurry was in the forecast, with some more substantial snow, maybe a few inches, predicted for further south. But just as we were finishing breakfast and packing for the mid-morning drive to catch a ferry across the Long Island Sound, the sky clouded over and those brief flurries turned into a blizzard.
I have subsequently been assured by the authorities who oversee these matters this unexpected white-out was “a fast-moving storm.” And, in fact, just about the time I gave up on our 1:45 p.m. ferry reservation and re-centered our hopes on finding an unreserved spot on a later boat, the puffball snow drop shut off as if someone had turned a spigot and the sun came out to take a good look at the atmosphere’s recent accomplishment.
“We’re going!” I announced, rousing the troops with my MacArthurian declaration.
Making our reservation might be a long shot: It’s a two and a half hour dash under normal conditions, and the interstates might not be fully plowed, or plowed at all. But — as I said — at the last moment the snow had stopped falling.
The highways were far from fully plowed, at one point we were trapped behind a trio of enormous snow removal tractors, resembling leftover mechanical monsters from the Star Wars franchise, one for each lane. And even when we had left the snow zone behind (most of Connecticut barely had a sugaring), all those other savvy Christmas morning travelers who had been unable to leave off as planned because of the snow — like us — was now jousting for road room. When after a burst of lane-hopping speed just beyond New Haven we reached the Bridgeport exit, I declared an optional traffic-laws zone, ignored a half dozen red lights, and arrived at the Long Island Ferry check-in only a few minutes late. With the ferry still looming visibly dockside, surely our persistence would be rewarded now.
A brat with a device in his hand, but no car-side manner, barely glanced at our printed reservation and told us “to get in line” — behind people who did not have reservations for the 1:45 ferry.
“But we have a reservation!”
“There was a snowstorm in Massachusetts.”
“You’re way over the cut-off time.”
Cut-off time? The phrase was new to me. Is that the time when I cut off your ear?
Somehow despite the travesty of the customary-unfriendly line, we made it onto the boat, the last of the small cars in the small-car spaces, our back bumper licking salt from the Long Island Sound. Crossing the frigid water we didn’t rock the boat, but the boat rocked us, lifting its flanks to the sky from the swells left behind by that fast-moving storm.
Still, we reached our destination, had a great Christmas dinner, sang the old songs… And this was only the first day of Christmas.
What was this day like? It was sort of like a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas we drove from my brother’s house in Suffolk County to Riverdale, the northern tip of the City of New York. My son taking the wheel for what is always a dilatory business, this was pretty much a vacation day for me. Anne’s elderly parents were waiting for us, perched in their comfortable armchairs like, wait for it, two turtle doves.
We ‘ordered in’ for dinner — is that the expression? (the other expression is ‘nobody cooks in New York City’) — from a Chinese restaurant and a sushi place. I have noticed that no family group of American diners numbering more than two (and some fewer) can agree on eating the same thing. A couple of years ago we watched an endless parade of bike-riding delivery guys streaking down Lexington Avenue to bring Saturday night chow to all the apartments on the East Side.
For entertainment on this Second Night we watched, for maybe the 20th time, an incredibly sweet and clever short film version of Dylan Thomas’s incredibly nostalgic and brilliant memoir, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Fortunately, some family groups are able to watch the same thing.
On the Third Day of Christmas (and the second day in Riverdale) a longtime family friend of my wife’s clan, a world traveler and bearer of good tidings, paid a holiday call to Anne’s parents. A trio of their house guests, my wife, daughter and self, sat in on our visitor’s this ‘state of the world’ message and brooded over this mixed report (families rising; cities sinking) like — you’ve guessed it — three French hens.
Eh, bien. C’est la vie.
On the Fourth Day we were on the road again. Departing New York after the morning commute but not quite soon enough, we arrived back in the Boston sphere of commuter influence at an hour early enough, one would have hoped — especially on Christmas week — to escape the ‘evening’ commute. But, no, evening starts early (well before the hasty departure of the wintry sun), and plenty of that metro-traffic was already revved up and waiting for us.
Anne’s device led us through the Blue Hills, and we arrived home in time to make acquaintance with the deep New England freeze that in our absence had preserved every snowflake from the Christmas Day blizzard, and I was surprised to find our bird feeder not completely emptied.
If there were four calling birds about, I did not see them.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas, we went back to our routine, a day of work and a visit to the gym afterwards, even though the ancient course of the holiday still had a week to run.
What did we have to show for this day? Five gold coins?
On the Sixth Day of Christmas, the weekend had arrived so no one went to work, but the glowering sky and persistent cold kept us from whatever festivities might be on offer. Our outings were of the accumulative sort. Between shopping for our screen appetites, movies and TV series at the library, and for healthy food at the expensive food store, I have no doubt we acquired the equivalent of six geese-a-laying. Actually, we roasted one of them for dinner.
On the Seventh Day, the punishing and enduring cold promised to have us once more swimming upstream. Not only was it Sunday, but the widely celebrated folk holiday of New Year’s Eve, so we ventured forth despite the cold to dine with a friend. Our children having departed in days past for their own lives, our little party was still four “swans” short of the necessary social swim. I suspected, however, that if we made it home in time to watch the silly descent of the infamous ball, there among the crowd we would surely find our swans swimming happily along, their long graceful necks pointing to the future, assured of the effect of their personal charms, graceful white tails trailing obediently behind.