Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Little Christmas Miracle

Christmas time is really a wonderous time of year. Ever since I was a kid, I felt that "tingle" inside of me from the first week of December up until the big night, Christmas Eve. The television commercials, Christmas music on the radio, Its A Wonderful Life, Charles Dickens, St. Nick, the colorful lights and the smell of pine, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or in my case an oven's broiler, all seemed to lift everyone's spirits and put everyone in a more cheerful mood.

Today, as an adult, it still gives me the chills, and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I still cry at the words, "Everytime a churchbell rings an angel gets its wings". The lights give living rooms all acorss the world a warm glow, and the smell of the heat beaming from radiators across Brooklyn bring me back to my grandmother's dining room where we would feast on an assortment of fishes...squid, octopus, shrimp and spaghetti. It just tasted better on that day, and still does, in my Aunt Rosemary's place in Ridgewood, NJ. She took over after my grandmother passed away in 2000.

This year, the family welcomes two new miracles, my son Hudson Antonio, named after the famed yet derided Dutch explorer born to an English family, and a famous Italian who I'll get to later, and my cousin Elizabeth's soon to be born son Michael Anthony, not named after my brother who will swear it so. We will also hold an empty place in our hearts for our family's matriarch, Margaret DonDiego, who passed away last January, after one last Christmas Eve with her family. Margaret was my grandmother's sister, and the last surviving Dondiego of the Greatest Generation, when she died at the ripe young age of 91. She will be missed surely, but her absence will not be total, as we know that she, and the rest of her siblings remain with us, especially at this special time of year.

So as the holiday approaches I have a tale I'd like you to focus on, and remember, when you're feeling down, when the holiday passes, and when things return "to normal". It began Thursday morning, a bitterly cold morning and my first day back at work after spending a few days home sick with a sinus infection. I picked up my wife at the day care center where she drops off our children, and we drove down the 30 blocks to where we work. Upon getting out of the car, we do our morning ritual. "Ridiculous" could be one word to describe it, but for those of you who read my blog for the fashion and style advice, well, you understand. We get out of the car and in the bitter cold I pose for my wife as she photographs me for posting on a few men's style web sites. We usually take a few shots before plopping the camera back in the bag to finish the shoot in my classroom. Well on this day, when my wife grabbed the camera out of my bag, my wallet spilled out along with it, unbeknownst to either of us.

As the day went on, a co-worker came to my classroom to ask if I would like soup from the local diner at lunch. It was Split Pea day, and it was damn cold, so the thought of the hot soup going down at lunch was exciting to me. As I reached into my bag for my wallet, my hand found nothing. Perplexed I searched my desk, and then called my wife, to ask if she had taken it for something. No luck. I guessed I left it at home. Upon returning home and not finding it, I was devastaed. I knew it must have fallen out when the camera was stripped from my bag earlier for our "stupid" photo shoot. Inside my wallet was my MetroCard, my insurance cards, my bank card, my ID, $35, and most importantly a check from work that I wanted to use for some Christmas shopping. Sure, everything but the cash could be replaced, even the check. But that would take up to 8 weeks, and waiting that long for something I had planned for months gutted me. Even with the Christmas music, and its spirit in the air, I was down in the dumps.

I brought it up to my kids in school, and offered them a reward if they found it. Some of them laughed and said, "Why would I return it? I'd keep the money and run off!" they joked. But it made me think, what would stop someone else from thinking tat, and DOING that. OK, running off may be a little extreme, but for a 13 year old kid, $35 is a lot of money...and who knows what could be taken from the bank card? I'm not religous at all, but very superstitious, and lit my St Anthony votive candle. St Anthony (San Antonio de Padua) was my confirmation saint, chosen because of my grandfather, Antonio, for whom my son is named. He is the patron saint of lost causes and lost things, and he has never let me down when I would ask him for help. EVER. But as Friday night came to an end, and I ripped the house apart to no avail, and the wallet was still gone, I blew out the candle with marked dejection.

So, Saturday morning rolled around and the weatherman was calling for snow. My wife had taken the kids and went for our weekly Italian food shopping ritual early, so she could be back in time to get us a prime spot on the left of the block (because plows always plow right) and we could hunker down. When she left, I went downstairs to check our mailbox in our apartment building. Two bills and a Union newsletter. I brought them upstairs, placed them on the kitchen counter, sat and watched Manchester City throw away a two goal lead, and then a 3-2 lead, only to finally pull out a win in Mark Hughes' curtain call. After the game, I decided I would hit the gym.

As I left I noticed that the mailman's cart was sitting outside the building. Hmm, maybe the bills were from Friday and I just forgot. Eh, I blew it off, went to work out and returned 2 hours later to watch the Rangers whoop Philly. As I entered the building it dawned on me that sometimes packages get delivered at a different time and maybe one of my many eBay purchases (this is how a deal with my "habit" now, buying less, searching longer and paying well below market rate for men's clothing) had been shipped here instead of my work address as I usually indicate. I opened the box, and there was a brown parcel...what I thought were pocket squares from Kent Wang that I recently ordered. I got in the elevator, pressed the "4", tore open the parcel, and then I saw it. MY WALLET!! With a Christmas wallet had everything in it that it had when I dropped it...the cash, the check, my ID, my bank card, EVERYTHING. I was moved, again, to tears. Not only did someone pick it up, but they took the time to mail it and stand in line at the Post Office (which in case you didn't know is RIDICULOUS at this time of year) fill out a card, and send it to me; all without letting me know who they were. No return address, no signature on the card, even a burry postmark...

So as the Holidays approach, and you gather around with your families, I hope you think of this good deed, this genuine act of kindness that some stranger, who did not reveal him or herself, did for me. Try and keep that thought as the winter turns from a warm gathering of friends and family to a cold January, and an even colder February. Keep it in your minds as the flowers bloom, the sun shines longer, and the temperature rises. Remember this as the leaves fall once again, and the snow returns. Remember that we are all capable of doing good, and that this holiday gift, this Present, can be something we can do all the time, to make this sometimes cruel cold world, a better place.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! Thank you king stranger, thank you Aunt Margaret, Gramma, Papa and God Bless Us, EVERYONE!

This is what good deeds do to people...