Scene: 3 AM, on a squeaky pull-out bed in the living room of the condo, Kira is coughing next to me. The street light from Braddock Park spills in through the high windows, and my body is rebelling against such sleeping conditions at such an advanced age. My mind races to decipher the unlikely predicament in which I find myself, and a Christmas song plays quietly on the stereo. How did we ever get here? I haven’t been this disoriented in the condo since the party days of my youth, following a holiday get-together that found various friends strewn about the place, groggily waking in various states of togetherness.
On this morning, Chris and his four-year-old slept soundly in the queen bed of the bedroom. Kira had insisted we give it up after the boy went in early and we stayed up to talk. Now we were stuck on the wire-springs of the pull-out couch, not getting any quality sleep, and doing our best to stay warm. Another coughing fit woke Kira, so I got up and put on some tea; she swears that a hot cup of the stuff, along with some honey and cinnamon, quells any cough. I poured her a mug, then dove back under the heavy winter blanket and prayed for sleep to return.
Sleep did not return until the baby was already up, but he stayed in the bedroom peacefully occupied with headphones and a cartoon while his Daddy slept. I was in no rush to move, so we stole a few more moments of fitful shut-eye before finally giving up the ghost of meaningful rest.
Kira and I rose, and eventually everyone joined us so we could head off to brunch. The day was brilliant – sunny with blue skies – and after brunch we saw Kristen and Julia off, then Chris wanted to take Simon to Harvard. There’s something very touching about a father showing off his Alma Mater to his son.
Thanks to the Red Line issues on December weekends, Kira and I had foregone what had become a favorite component of our Holiday Stroll: a trip to Cambridge. We hopped in the car Chris ordered and averted any T snafus, thus enabling us to keep the tradition alive. We would be able to browse the shops between Harvard and Porter Squares after all.
On good days, the universe will deliver an unexpected gift to those of us who may have thought such a delight had passed. On that morning, we arrived in Cambridge, bid adieu to the last child of the Boston Children’s Holiday Hour (which had somehow lengthened into a weekend), and Kira and I set off in the direction of Porter Square.
We stopped in our usual haunts, then had a final pho meal to close out the weekend – a neat little bookend to mirror the start of the whole thing. I reminded Kira of how our soup time on Friday had kicked it all off, and how we would look back at its quiet and calm with fondness when things were hectic and crazy. We had a second moment of similar quietude now, and embraced it. We lingered there, not wanting to go back to our real lives just yet, trying instead to stretch Sunday just a little longer. It turned out that our Boston holiday adventures were not quite over for the year.
Ever since she returned from Florida to the winterscape of Boston, Kira has been wanting to go ice skating. Still traumatized from an ice skating incident at Schenectady when I was a child, I’ve always politely encouraged her to do so, with someone else. On our first few holiday strolls, we would somehow end up passing a make-shift skating rink, where people were giddily gliding by, enticing Kira with their fluid motion and seemingly-easy turns on the ice.
I was never fooled.
On our most recent holiday excursion, we passed a rink at Government Center. Entranced, Kira watched the skaters go by, while I looked around for some sort of hot toddy stand (to no avail). We didn’t get into the skates then, and I thought we had escaped the scene for the season.
After making our way to the Red Line, knowing we would need to shuttle-bus it beyond Kendall, we did that damn thing and rode the bus to Charles MGH, where we hopped off and took a leisurely walk along the antique stores and gift shops near Beacon Hill. The best holiday strolls are the impromptu and unplanned ones. We crossed into the Boston Public Garden, and the little pond in the middle had not been drained. A thick layer of smooth ice lay darkly and expansively before us, and a few people rushed by on skates, and off them. Kira squealed with delight, and I knew this was her destiny. She hastened onto the ice, carefully sliding along in her sneakers and begging me to take a picture. She beckoned me to join her, but when I looked at the edge, I could see water coming up through cracks in the ice, and the thought of crashing through and having to walk all the way home in freezing wet shoes kept me off of it. Kira didn’t mind – she took a few spins and had her ice skating moment.
We crossed the bridge and looked at the lights beginning to come out as the sky dimmed. It was a perfect holiday afternoon, and a lovely end to our holiday weekend. We traveled along Newbury for a bit then crossed over to Boylston. At the Lenox, we paused for a fireside break and one last moment of peace and holiday contemplation.
That night, I would return to my quiet life: a still house, a Christmas tree that Andy had installed while I was away, and a comfortable bed.