Passage of Christmas

By Roger Paradiso

I came home to an empty apartment. I worked on a film on the day before Christmas day. This was the first Christmas for our family since my father died in the spring of ‘79. I walked around Rockeffer Center to get some fresh air. Then I spent a sleepless night for Christmas Eve.

I woke up early and thought I should buy gifts for all my family that would be there that day. It was very cold. I decided to see what Chinatown would look like on Christmas.

The streets of midtown were quiet. I walked down to Chinatown. It didn’t get festive until I hit the West Village. I stopped in at The Church of St. Josephs on Sixth Avenue for a little Christmas mass. In my tradition, I walked in at any time and when I had enough, I left but not before lighting a candle.

I cut across Washington Square where the homeless were out and dropped some change on these poor souls. The Village was generally decorated but Sunday quiet. I was headed to Chinatown but not before a stop at my favorite Italian pastry shop, Bruno’s on LaGuardia. A delicious breakfast and I continued on my quest for Chinatown.

The smells and busy street scenes said Chinatown, but no decorations. It was nice but it seemed like another day, which it was to our Chinese friends.

I bought some gifts and wandered over to Little Italy.

Now, there was a contrast. Lots of stores open and the decorations added some feeling of Christmas Holiday to the streets. That’s what I loved about Manhattan. In about an hour I had passed through three countries. Bohemia aka Village, China aka Chinatown and Italy in Manhattan.

I remember stopping in Ferraro’s and it was packed. I went around collecting nougats and chocolates and cookies. There was a store nearby and I went in to buy a couple of more gifts. I started to feel like Scrooge waking up on Christmas Day. Now I looked forward to going home for Christmas. I stuffed my backpack with some more gits and treats and headed to my garage to get my car and head home.

In New Jersey, there was a couple of inches of snow and ice. I decided to stop by my father’s favorite park. It was called Garret Mountain Reservation. In nature, I felt some peace on this Christmas day. I needed to see snow and ice and trees with deer running around.

I walked around the pond and the fields. I think my father did some training here before he entered the army as a medic. They still had the camps structures set up and the roads. The area was called Rifle Camp Road.

I was on a passage to another life. A life without my father.

When I got home, there was a family who was hurting. I quickly got out the gifts and treats. Slowly, as the dogs jumped around, I could feel a letting go of the past and a passage to the future. I think I grew up that day. I was becoming the once reluctant man of the house. When I ran with the dogs in the frigid temperatures, I felt a peace. I took a deep breath looking at my old house.

This was Christmas. The first without my father. The dogs jumped me, and we fell into the snow. There was peace and laughter in the air.