“I hate Christmas in New York.”
My father muttered his message loud enough to be heard. My mother and I looked at each other, neither one of us able to pretend we were shocked by his Scrooge-like attitude. She winked at me.
“No wonder,” she said, sympathetically. Even in the 1950’s, enjoyment of Christmas in the city suffered from too many tourists and too much stress and commercialism. But even though I was a very small child, I knew my father wasn’t referring to the city’s ambience. He wanted to escape the memories of his own childhood in the Parish House of St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue. The huge gothic cathedral that so impressed his father, the rector, had somehow robbed my father of a child’s innocent pleasure in the season.
My mother suggested we leave the city and Christmas behind and get outdoors to ski in Vermont. How will Santa Clause find us in Stowe, Vermont? I was distressed to think I might miss out on that very commercialism we were supposedly trying to escape.
“No problem,” my mother assured me. “The further north we go the closer we get to Santa and the easier it is for him to carry things.” She reminded me of the pictures of the ‘jolly old elf’ with a huge bag of toys on his back that no mere mortal could carry very far.
“Who says there are toys in that bag?” My father flashed his mischievous smile. I couldn’t resist rising to his bait just as the panic rose in my throat at the thought of missing out on those gifts.
“What’s in it then, if it’s not filled with toys?” The wobble in my voice gave me away.