a child’s Christmas in Forest Park

tiny paparazza

The thing I like about spending Christmas with Joe and Jacinda and Jacinda’s family is that I feel like family, too. I’d always feel guilty about wanting to spend Christmas with them, but who wouldn’t? They’re funny and only slightly nuts like all good families are and at Christmas dinner you can have as much shrimp cocktail as you want. I think I needed all of that, this year especially, what with the not having a job and all.

That being said, I missed my family back in Queens even more so at Christmas. It’s been a little over a year since my great aunt Mercedes died, and my mom’s sister Ruby died over Thanksgiving weekend. It would have been nice to be with everybody at my great uncle Gerhard’s house in Briarwood, sitting at the small kitchen table or on the living room carpet, eating walnuts and waiting for dinner.

Instead, I visited the Christkindlmarket on Christmas Eve. I bought a heart-shaped cookie to hang on the tree. “Merry Christmas” was iced on the front. It was sturdy enough to toss in my handbag as I wandered about in the damp snow, looking for something to eat. I bought myself schnitzel and watery hot chocolate, then ended up eating my food on the sidewalk, just a few steps away from a life-size nativity scene. I didn’t think it was appropriate to eat my schnitzel in front of the nativity scene, especially since there was a man, kneeling and praying, on the sidewalk in front of it. Curious children snuck close to him, watching his fluttering eyelids and dripping nose.

After the market, I took the bus to the Museum of Science and Industry, where I’d join Jacinda, Joe, Hyacinth, Cynthia, and Missy (Joe’s mom) for a visit to look at the Christmas Around The World exhibit (read: trees decorated for almost every country). I ended up being way early, and everybody was a bit late, so I had time to wander around the lobby, pecking away at my iPhone, and looking at things in the museum gift shop. Oh, and take a picture of this gigantic Muppet-laden gingerbread house:

panorama: gingerbread Muppet MSI

The trees were pretty gorgeous, colorful and playful. Though some tree designs were just bewildering. Like, why was the tree meant to represent Guatemala decorated with burlap bags that had GUATEMALA stamped on them? I sought out the Philippines tree, and was kind of disappointed. Capiz shell ornaments, including miniature parols, were scattered throughout. Colored lights and straw hats which I suppose were supposed to represent salakots. Missy and I wondered why the Lithuanian tree was decorated with straws bent into geometric states, and we all agreed that the trees of the Central European nations were best.

It wasn’t all trees, though. There were trains, as the giant model train setup was just next to the main hall where the trees were. An engine that Hyacinth and I climbed up into, only to be surprised by a mannequin wearing a train engineer uniform. Okay, I was freaked out but Hyacinth took it all in stride. She was determined to make us all her passengers as she drove another pretend train.

And then we looked at the chicks in the hatchery. The chicks always make me feel tired to look at them as they peck and kick and scratch their way out of their shells. If I could tell these chicks anything, I’d want to warn them to go back inside where it’s safer. But if they never get out, they never get to frolic and get all fluffy and eat seed and grow up.

If there is a message to be learned here, I am studiously ignoring it.

We went to Friendship Chinese Restaurant, which was full of families celebrating the holidays. Hyacinth had a wee meltdown. Okay, two wee meltdowns, drawing the curious stares of the other toddlers in the place. Also she had pot stickers. I myself had really delicious sushi and sesame chicken and pot stickers and crab rangoon. While I had my face down in my food throughout the entire meal, I was still able to notice the cool potato basket that Missy’s dinner was served in. I love edible containers! Food served in more food! It’s a wonder I don’t eat more bread bowls.

I spent the night at Joe and Jacinda’s. After putting Hyacinth to bed, they sat with me in the living room and we turned on TBS, which was just starting hour number four of its 24-hour long marathon of A Christmas Story. We cheered when the notorious leg lamp (“It’s a major award!”) was unpacked by The Old Man, and basked in “the warm glow of electric sex”. Eventually, though, it was time for bed, so I curled up on the air mattress in the office and tried to dream about good things like a new job and health insurance.

In the morning, there were plain and chocolate chip crescent rolls, served with fancy jam that Jacinda had been telling me all about. There was this fig and ginger jam that I could not stop eating, it was so good. We all tucked ourselves around the kitchen table, and dug in. Joe poured egg nog into our coffees, and it was so good.

I’d already called my brother and my parents to wish them a merry Christmas, and to ensure that they were on their way to see Uncle Gerhard for the holiday. I kept checking Facebook over the course of the day, wishing Patrick would post some pictures from the celebration in Queens so I could know they were all enjoying being together.

I feel like I should also note that when I took a shower that morning, I backed into the shower caddy and knocked a bunch of products off it. And somehow I cut my finger in the scuffle, so Jacinda gave me a Hello Kitty bandage for my boo-boo.

Hyacinth opened her presents after a video chat session with Thomas and Jalissa, spending the holiday with Thomas’s family in the Bay Area, was opened on Jacinda’s laptop. Her computer sat on a chair in the corner of the sunporch while Hyacinth squealed and squirmed in a pile of wrapping paper. She changed her outfit as soon as she unwrapped a gray dress with a tiered tulle skirt, which seemed made just for twirling.

Thomas and Jalissa saw Hyacinth unwrap all her presents from them, then signed off. Hyacinth continued opening gifts from others, all the while keeping an eye on the “Merry Christmas” cookie I’d tucked under the tree. In my haul, I got an awesome book from Missy, and some gift cards that will come in useful when it comes time for me to buy a suit to wear to interviews. I have to confess, though, that I thought the Charlie Brown nativity scene Hyacinth got from Jacinda’s mom was just adorable. Not adorable enough to steal from a small child, but very cute.

Hyacinth napped while the adults cleaned up after presents. Joe and Missy took Doolittle out for a walk while Jacinda and Cynthia tidied up, relaxed, and started thinking about dinner. Dinner was easy – ham and a bunch of sides from Whole Foods, preceded by a tray of shrimp cocktail and crab claws. There was something about sitting at that table, cocktail sauce dripping down my arm and drinking white wine while Hyacinth, fresh from her nap and still in pajamas, practiced eating with her fork and spoon.

Stuffed with ham and salad and corn pudding and potatoes, we finished the evening with a Muppet holiday movie on cable. The movie was just okay, though the after-movie live entertainment of Hyacinth dancing around after another successful use of the potty could not be beat.


1 Comment

Filed under Christmas, friends

One response to “a child’s Christmas in Forest Park

  1. Joseline

    I’m glad you were able to have a good time. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos. It was pretty informal and Uncle Gerhard was surprisingly calm. I was expecting some gloom and doom. We did get into an argument which blew over quickly. (He doesn’t think racism exists. He thinks it’s just an excuse. ) Christmas is totally different if there are no children involved. It’s way less fun.

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