It’s snowing, finally. November was barely autumnal—or maybe this is our globally-warmed weather from now on. All of a sudden it’s 20 degrees out and no one’s prepared (except for my building super, who’s been sending rain forest-quality heat through our radiators since October).
One day last week the light outside was the strangest mixture of gold and silver, as if the sky couldn’t decide what it wanted to reflect. That kind of open, fresh winter morning reminds me how much I miss my parents at this time of year, when everything is cold and crisp and love and warmth stand out even more than usual. The December holiday season was much more important when I was a kid than Rosh Hashanah, which never really felt like a beginning. My mother and I would spend hours wandering through the bustle of Gertz and Alexander’s on Main Street (which looks nothing today like it did when I was 8), not buying much (I’d get a present or two—we weren’t big on that part of the ritual), and then catch the bus back home in front of Gloria Pizza. We never went in, though, because Jews didn’t eat pizza. (It had much less to do with kashrut than custom. Our food was deli. Burger King was also OK, although not McDonald's. End of story.) I discovered the wrongness of this belief later on, and went into Gloria’s occasionally when I was older—who knew it would gain near-cult status—but was a bigger fan of Barone across the street, which incredibly still stands. Barone was next to the tacky jewelry store and Woolworth’s on one side and the LIRR elevated tracks on the other, under which I once saw the tinted window of a passing black limo roll open, a hand holding an overstuffed envelope emerge, and a man in a dark suit walk by and grab the envelope without missing a beat. Thereafter I was sure Barone had interesting reasons for changing its name from “Frank and Enzo,” and felt oddly safe at its under-lit back tables.
On Main St. in December, especially when it snowed and all Queens seemed to have mufflers over its ears, the pent-up energy of the past year spilled out over store counters and through Muzak speakers and made me feel like everything could be new, even as nothing would ever change.