Wednesday, December 8, 2010

O Little Town of NYC

Last weekend, with Jennifer's sister in town, we went on a little trip to go see the local Christmas tree.  It was all lit up, even in the daytime, and there was a pretty good crowd there for a Friday afternoon.  Looking at the tree, I couldn't help but think back to days when I would become excited seeing the big Christmas tree all lit up in my hometown.  I smiled, looked at my child, and thought, Wow, do you have a screwed up sense of what "normal" is.

(Above: Kyle helps us find the Rockefeller tree.)
Kyle's hometown tree is, of course, that tree.  The Rockefeller tree.  It's the skyscraper for the squirrels, covered in 30,000 light bulbs, with a star big enough to have a planet orbiting it.  People from all around the world come to see the tree, to stare, to drool, to shove others in the Christmas spirit, and to take lots and lots of pictures, most of which will end up buried on a hard drive or lost in a stack of prints in some shoebox.  To some, the tree is one of those things you have to see "at least once in your lifetime," up there with the Grand Canyon and the World's Largest Toilet.  Visiting this tree is usually a big deal, but for Kyle, it's just someplace to go on a Friday afternoon.  Sure, he enjoyed seeing it, but he's been more excited about the wreaths our landlady hung at the entrance to our building. 

My hometown tree never receives the same attention Kyle's does.  For much of my childhood, the tree stood at a busy intersection in the center of town, on an island between traffic lanes.  There were no crowds clamoring to see it, hoping to be lucky enough to get a good shot of it.  If you were close enough for a good shot of my hometown tree, you were lucky if you weren't whacked by an oncoming vehicle.  The powers that be have since moved the tree to a safer spot, inside a park that was built on the remains of a mill that had burned down.  Not exactly Rockefeller Center.  Kyle's hometown tree is surrounded by shops such as Botticelli, Coach, Kenneth Cole, and Crabtree & Evelyn.  My hometown tree now sits next to the post office and Dick's TV and Appliance.

Then there's the whole tree-lighting thing.  Kyle will grow up being used to seeing his hometown tree get lit up on national television by a mayor who's routinely courted for a presidential run (my hometown mayor would be lucky to get courted for a radio spot, pitching sofas for the local furniture store).  The ceremony includes an hour-long ice skating and singing extravaganza, featuring world-renown performers such as Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, and the Rockettes.  How wild is that?  I don't remember my hometown doing anything big for the lighting when I was growing up.  I'm guessing the tree was lit without fanfare by a scruffy, overweight chain-smoking town hall janitor who probably just plugged it in when he finished stringing up the lights.  He'd then dodge cars like Frogger, crossing the busy intersection, toward his illegally-parked pickup truck.  For the rest of the night, people in the town would drive by and say, "Oh, look!  The tree's lit!  When did that happen?  No, don't stop! We can't delay if we want to get a table at Pizza Hut!"

I'm still amazed at how many famous things Kyle will take for granted.  The Rockefeller tree.  The Empire State Building.  The Brooklyn Bridge.  The Statue of Liberty.  That smell from New Jersey.  It might take Kyle a while before he realizes just how special these places are, and how far people go to experience them.  Perhaps he will view the suburbs the way many people view the Big City.  He might get excited over the simple things, like malls with free parking.  Hey, it could happen... and if it does, I know where to find a Christmas tree he'll love.

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