Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas for Nostographers

We've lived in our new town for two years now, and I've just started to leave behind the feeling of shock and dismay that used to strike me whenever I said my new address, a concrete reminder of the fact that we live here now, rather than there.  Though I don't feel a weight sinking in my gut whenever I say the name of my new town now, I still miss there more than I can say, for so many reasons, and especially so at Christmas.  Here are some of the things I miss the most at this time of year:

- Shopping for fish for Christmas Eve at Citarella.  It's always been traditional in my family to have smelts, linguine with aia'uol (i.e. aglio e oglio), and a salad made from dandelion greens on Christmas Eve, and it was always hard to find smelts closer to home.  And then, when I think of Citarella's (in New Yorkese, it's obligatory to add an apostrophe-s to every proper shop name, even if none is indicated), I start to think of my dear friend T. who lived a block away, and who's been dead for almost five years now.  I miss her.

- Shopping for Christmas dinner at Prime Cuts, otherwise known simply as "the Irish butcher" (or, rather, "the Irish butcher's").

- The tin boxes of Jacob's Afternoon Tea Biscuits (above) that were piled high in every Arab bodega in my old neighborhood this time of year.  Everyone has them out when you go visiting in the neighborhood on Christmas, and they are hella good.

- Walking to the Cloisters in the snow, and viewing the snow-covered Palisades.
How lucky I was to live for so long just blocks away from such a beautiful place.  The quiet that descended upon the musing, solitary walker under the snow-heavy branches of trees in Fort Tryon Park always reminded me of this wonderful song, for which you must overlook the camera and recording techniques (and some questionable notes on the piano):

- Walking to the Cloisters the day after Christmas, and getting Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas cards at half-off, and possibly one or two Met Museum tree ornaments too if I had the extra tin in my pocket.

- Singing all the Christmas Masses at Saint Anthony of Padua Church at the corner of Houston and Sullivan Streets, the same church where one of my Neapolitan cousins had attended Mass when he was working as a laborer in New York, as I found when I visited him in Italy in the late 1990s.  I would have Christmas Eve dinner with the Franciscan nuns and priests and sleep in the convent so I'd have no distance to travel for the next morning's Masses.

But missing all of these things is really missing another life, a life that I no longer live.  In some ways, it's much better that that life has now been put away.  It's not the difficulty of that life, its sadness, its loneliness, that I miss, but the shreds of color, of light, and of sound that it bore, and I miss the companions of yore, some of whom I will never see again.  There is so little of the beauty that I miss, and so little of consolation, here.  I pray every day that God will allow me and my family to plant seeds, where we live now, that will bear fruit -- seeds of beauty in a place that is starved for it -- and that, perhaps, my consolation will come in this way.


Rodak said...


Clare Krishan said...

By way of sign of hope, may I recount an uncanny coincidence that unfolded in recent days that may interest you? One of the little old ladies I escorted to our diocesan high school Christmas Carol concert was a retired high school choral director who married late into money, and despite her impaired mental abilities was so impressed by what she heard insisted on discovering the credentials of a talented female co-parishioner of ours who led the youth in their vocal gymnastics that evening. Fully expecting some hifalutin' institute far superior to her own humble beginnings in West Virginia she was startled to learn that Mrs Campbell herself came from those parts, Liberty State in Wheeling. We are blessed that her choral coaching is so courageous for she has the teens singing parts some professionals may shy away from (Britten's 8-part Hymn to the Virgin). She is so successful, a select section of voices have their own agent and they go on tour every summer with a full progam of set pieces:
This Christmas they won the local commercial radio station's carol singing contest with a rather corny but popular tune: Do you hear what I hear?

My favorite piece they performed tho' (and thus I come full circle with your Christina Rosetti post) was this new arrangement of two separate pieces:

(tho' I also favored the younger voices who were less 'regimented' than this formal high-church rendition).

The soil is fertile in Appallachia!

Pentimento said...

Beautiful, Clare. Thank you, and thank you for introducing me to this lovely piece. Happy new year.