I never went to see the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I never took a carriage ride in Central Park. I never even went ice skating in Rockefeller Center. But as my third Christmas in Colorado approaches, I’m missing New York more than ever, even more than in summertime when I can’t go to the beach.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m blessed to be living in a little town that looks like a story book, especially at this time of year. And it’s surrounded by gorgeous, snow-covered mountains. I dreamed my whole life of living in a place like Manitou, and am grateful to be here.
But for 35 years, New York City was only a 40-minute train ride away, and it was rare that I didn’t make it there at some point in December. Growing up, my family would go every single year on the day after Christmas. It was less crowded, but still felt like Christmas, because the whole place was still decorated, and because for my family, going to the city that day was like an extension of Christmas itself.
There was something about going to the city at that time, that washed away everything else that was going on. For one day a year, time was irrelevant and the world was magical. The air was crisp or cold, sometimes downright freezing. The wind would be biting or not so bad, depending on how many skyscrapers surrounded you. Lights were everywhere. The shop windows were works of art.
And then there was the smell. Nothing else in the world smells like New York City at Christmas. It’s a burning smell, a mix of chestnuts and cigarettes and gasoline and cold and energy. It is indescribable, and it is intoxicating.
My very favorite moments of those trips to the city were the ones I took for myself, when I’d breathe in that scent and look down at the ground. I don’t know why the city sidewalks sparkle, but it’s as if someone poured glitter on them. So once a year, no matter how much life had changed, I could have that one same moment, where I stared at the ground and breathed it all in.
My best friends from New York posted a bunch of pictures from their date to the city the other night. They were all bundled up and looked cold but happy, surrounded by so, so many lights. It looked like the city the way I always remembered it, and my heart ached to be there with them. I knew that they were having a night they would never forget, because that’s what New York City gives you without fail, every single time.
I miss it. I miss being only a train ride away from my favorite city in the world. I miss the bar crawls where people would come from different states just to roam around the Village and have weird drinks.
But I also know that if I ever moved back to New York, I’d miss Manitou so much, as well. That’s a pretty amazing conundrum to have.
I didn’t get to visit NYC when I went back to New York this past March. Next time, a city visit is in order. And I’ll appreciate in a whole new way, the place that for 35 years, I was blessed to have as a virtual backyard.