Writer’s Workshop: Have you ever had a holiday romance?
My birthday is a National Holiday in our home. I even have a tiara. With a matching wand made out of an old hanger and some sparkly ribbon. And before you judge me for being a total misfit, just stop and think about it… Yeah, it rocks that much.
A few years ago, my boy and I were in the throws of his first year of residency as the National Holiday approached. Life felt exceptionally difficult since he began working grueling hours at the hospital and then was tied to a pager that alarmed every three minutes at home. The stress was slowly suffocating us as we both struggled beneath the bonds of our new reality, not sure how to settle in. So my birthday became more of a whimsical, shining beacon to look forward to than usual, for me at least. It was a guaranteed night out to dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant, copious amounts of frozen yogurt and a few presents thrown in for good measure. Because what is a birthday without presents? (And no, I am not still five years old.)
In any event, later that evening after lots of dinner and giggling, my boy handed me a deliciously wrapped gift. Tearing in with gusto, I pulled away the last of the paper to find a beautiful jewelry box – exactly what I needed to help organize the piles of bedazzles that I kept sprinkled across the bathroom counter top. But there was a problem. When I went to open the lid it seemed stuck. So I pried and pulled and wiggled it in a ridiculous attempt to get to the wonderfully velvet-lined compartments inside. Finding myself foiled, I happened to glance up at my boy. And there he sat across from me on the couch, grinning from ear to ear; obviously thrilled with the game he had created. In annoyance I demanded the key to unlock the box, but he just shook his head. And laughed in my face. I was going to have to wait until an UNDISCLOSED TIME IN THE FUTURE to gain access to the box.
Well, that was a load of crap. Are you kidding me? A LOCKED jewelry box? That was just awesome, and mean. But apparently everyone else thought it was hilarious right along with my boy. “How perfect!” my mom crowed, when I called her to complain about the cruel joke. I was not as impressed.
So I carried on with life and eventually forgot about it, mostly. I tucked the box away in the top of my closet so I wouldn’t be reminded of its secret every time I went to grab a clean pair of socks. But then over a month later I came home from a long, stressful day at the office and I found a small key hooked on the handle of the front door. With a shriek I realized it was the key to my jewelry box. So I ran to our bedroom and snatched down the box. With sweaty and inappropriately excited fingers I prized open the lid to find tickets to the New York City ballet dated for the following evening. Wait, New York? But we lived outside of Los Angeles. What the… And then I saw the note instructing me to pack my bag for a holiday trip to Manhattan. Our plane left in three hours.
The next few days were a whirlwind of reconnecting. We slept late in the mornings, we ate crepes in cafes, we walked through Central Park even though it was the middle of winter, and we ate cupcakes in bed… lots of cupcakes. We were us again, after months of forgetting.
The last night of our visit was bitterly cold, with the winter wind whipping down the street in a mischievous attempt to steal the woolen cap from my head. My nose was bright red and my eyes were glassy with the tears from the cold night air. But my hand was warm, clasped with my boy’s as we hustled down the cellar steps into the Italian restaurant the concierge at our hotel had suggested. In a moment we went from frosted breath and icy sidewalks, to cheery warmth and the tinkling of glassware. We were shown to a table in the back that was tucked beneath the eaves of the low ceiling and rough hewn exposed beams. The meal was served family style from steaming platters brought straight from the kitchen’s fiery stove to our waiting plates.
As we sipped our drinks and munched on incredible amounts of carbohydrates, I looked up at my boy and was struck anew with how much in love I was. Yes, after a handful of years together our initial crushes had turned into a much more solidified and mature love that could no more be taken away than a heart or a lung. But during that whirlwind week away from the pressures of our real lives I realized that I was also still that college coed who was knocked silly by the guy with the adorable butt and sexy glasses from across the classroom.
I will be forever thankful that my holiday romance comes home with me when it is time to say good-bye to the white gloved doormen, turndown service and chocolates on my pillow. Oh, and the cupcakes.