Now that I have a family of my own (wife, three boys), I love Christmas: getting up early, wearing a bathrobe, sipping coffee, seeing the joy on their little faces as they open their presents and all the rest of it.
But I've always been sort of the hermit type - an avoider, a non-joiner who just likes to work - and also the family black sheep/odd duck, so I spent all my early adult years trying to avoid Christmas. In college, in Vermont, I spent two of four Christmases holed up in my dorm room, or wandering around the snowy, empty campus. When I worked in TV news, I would always grab the Christmas shift, so I could say to my family: "Gee, sorry, I have to work that day."
My story begins the year after I went to journalism school. I was living with my grad-school sweetheart in Manhattan. That first Christmas, she went home to Iowa, and I resolved to stay, alone, in the city. It'll be fun!" I said to myself. Self: "I concur!" We - I mean I - could "recharge my batteries" (a.k.a. lie around like a lump), eat Chinese takeout, watch videos and generally enjoy the piquant pleasure of my own company.
Just as I was popping the first video in the machine (that dates this story, doesn't it?), I got a call. Surprise! My brother was in town, and he was looking for a) a place to stay and b) a tour guide, because he was itching to "check out New York." (He lives there now so I guess it checked out fine.)
Don't get me wrong, I love my brother. But I was craving a double shot of extra-foamy Dave time. Instead, I had to drag him all over the city and show him the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty etc.
I got into a grumpy, Grinchy mood, I freely confess. I wanted to be home, alone and horizontal, eating kung pao out of a cardboard container, my face suffused with the TV's cool blue glow.
But I schlepped him around, and we wound up shopping in a clothing store famous for its hugeness. Three storeys of haberdashery, and each room so huge that your friend at the other end of it looks like a tiny point.
Outside, in the street, I realized I accidentally left one of my gloves inside. When I told my brother, he said, very bossily and sounding not unlike our mutual mother: "Well, you have to go back in and get it."
I really didn't want to bother, but my brother insisted. I went in and asked a sales associate if he might have seen it. He was like: "Pal. Look around. It's gone." I surveyed the endless rows and racks of clothes and was forced to conclude he was right.
Outside, I told my brother I couldn't find it. He correctly concluded I didn't "make much of an effort" to find it, but, hey, it was my glove - and I was exhausted from dragging his sightseeing ass all over Hell's Kitchen and back. I stuffed my hand in my pocket and we walked along.
Later, we were riding on the subway. He'd been silent for a while. I asked what he was thinking.
He said, without missing a beat: "What an idiot you are."
Hmm, I thought. Well, the next few days should be fun.
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