New York City™ in full Christmas regalia is something to behold. Christmas lights strung up on the railings of brownstones leading up to wreath-adorned doors. Light shows with music up against the shops on Fifth Ave. Light now drifting lazily down from the heavens. Everyone slightly a bit more gracious and patient with each other. It’s a pretty beautiful thing.
Yes, you’re constantly caught in the pull between being kind of cold and wet or super hot and sweaty. And, sure, even as you’re having a lovely conversation with someone on the street, you can’t quite erase the number of horn honks and annoyed grumbles from cabbie aimed at pedestrians. Still, New York at Christmas is great.
I had the occasion to see this for the first time recently. All of my previous visits to the Second Best City in the World™ (I’m an LA kid forever) have been outside of the festive season and so I’d missed entirely what it’s like to be in the City when it was fully on display.
It was in this context that Liverpool taking on Manchester United happened. I say that instead of “when I watched the Derby” because, well, I didn’t watch it. At least not live. During the match I was on the upper West Side in a museum with my wife and newly toddling daughter being pelted by little plastic balls from the most adorable munchkin on earth.
Grateful. That’s what I felt when I checked into the match to see that we had found the the back of the net. Grateful because here I was, surrounded by a bunch of hilarious and active tykes and their equally exhausted parents at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, or CMOM for short (get it?).
I was a little bit bummed at first - my previous visits out often meant my schedule was entirely mine, meaning if I wanted, I could eat halal for every meal or spend time roaming the stacks at Strand or avoid the crowds around Rockefeller Center and Times Square entirely. I answered to no one.
But vacationing with your infant daughter means not only is your time compacted, it’s revealed to be relatively entirely not your own. My daughter developed a cough early in our stay and because of that we chose to stay in during a first full day in the City. That made things awkward - other members of our traveling party made choices to sacrifice their opportunities to see other sites and it caused some tension among people. I normally might meet up with friends or meet new ones but I took those options off the table in order to ensure that I could really soak up this experience with my family.
And so, there I was, feeling that particular itch to place my cell phone up on a ledge somewhere visible, turn the game on, and keep one eye on the phone and one eye on my daughter and wife as they made their way around the play room.
But that’s when my daughter discovered this tub of plastic balls and began throwing them at my direction. I pocketed my phone and resolved to only peek in to see the score at small intervals. No way was I gonna miss out on this cuteness.
Gratitude comes in the most surprising times. Clicking on Twitter to see that we were now up 2-1 after United’s equalizer left the result at a draw for much of the match, I was grateful. I was also grateful to be more present and to have seen my daughter smash two wooden blocks together because she licked the sound they made. Grateful to be able to be fully involved in the conversations my wife, her aunt, her kids, and my daughter were all having. Grateful to have these moments in my memory at a time when I know, all too well, just how fast time goes and how quickly things change.
I’m grateful now, in the calm before the storm of the proper series of festive season fixtures, for a club that is top of the table. That plays quality football. That is, potential fascists aside, a generally lovable group of personalities. That doesn’t induce as much anxiety around big matches as they used to.
I’m grateful for this little breath both in the league and in my life wherein I can soak in all of the goodness gifted to me. As the holidays and fixtures come thick and fast, I hope all of us here at TLO are able to appreciate the Xherdan Shaqiri-sized things in our lives that bring us great joy and peace.