‘Tis the Season?

tis the season

“‘Tis the season to be jolly,” yet politically correct. Do you remember a time, long, long ago, circa 1989, when you could actually say “Merry Christmas” in school? Do you remember when classrooms were decorated with Menorahs and images of St. Nicholas? If you went to school in the South, some campuses even displayed nativity scenes.

I chuckle to myself. I was even in the school chorus and we sang “Silent Night” to close out the annual holiday show. I was a mean soprano back then. Fast forward 20 some odd years later and there is hardly a trace of holiday spirit in schools. It’s a touchy subject. The First Amendment has risen from the ashes.

In my household, we didn’t celebrate Christmas like most of my friends or neighbors. We didn’t have a tree. Santa showed up maybe once or twice (I think my dad got a promotion one of those years). Each year, we celebrated the holiday by going to midnight mass as a family. Not a whole lot of fun for a 9 year old.

If my school didn’t take the time to provide gifts, most years I wouldn’t have received any material gifts. I am thankful for my health, family and friends. Though when I was 9 years old, I wish my parents could afford that Tyco electronic train set, along with every He-Man, Thunder Cat and G.I. Joe action figure ever created. Like most children in America, I didn’t ask for much.

When Santa didn’t deliver, I assumed he discriminated against Haitian people. That was how I coped with his unexplainable absence in my life.

Today, when I think about the holidays, I think about the people, the memories, the laughter and fellowship. Those gifts are priceless. But when you are in middle school and even many adults think that’s a crock of you know what. “You’re just being cheap!” So maybe I will spoil my kids with presents and expensive toys during the holidays, or maybe I’ll take them to midnight mass.

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Brother Toussaint’s Day Off

It felt soooo good to sleep in this morning. There was no alarm clock blaring at 5 a.m. Instead, I actually got up on my own. The apartment was lit by natural sunlight. I walked over to the window in our living room and stared out at a peaceful scene on Broadway. Hardly any cars were out. Very few pedestrians walked about. The city the never sleeps, was taking a power nap.

Even though it was my day off, I still had business to take care of. Today was an opportunity for me to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. With my Monday-Friday schedule, it can take months before I can actually leave work with enough time to run any meaningful errands. Most days, I am in the building before the sun rises and won’t leave until after the sun has set.

Because the doctor’s office was in no man’s land, between 11th and 12th Avenue in Midtown, I decided to take a cab. Flagging a cab today was effortless. Cabbies were essentially fighting for passengers. When I jumped in the car, my driver had this look of relief, as if I had saved him from drowning or took a bullet for him. He asked me in his West African accent “Is today a holiday?” I replied proudly, not because I am Jewish, but because even on my day off, I had an opportunity to teach someone. “Yes, it is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement for Jews.” I sat their proudly, with a huge grin on my face, like Akeem in Coming to America. The driver bitterly replied, “Didn’t they just have two days off last week? I am Muslim, we only get two days off all year, this is…

I quickly interjected before he could complete his thought, “The corner of 54th Street and 11th Avenue please!”

I guess one man’s day off, is another man’s off day. I gave him a 20% tip.