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Sixty-Something: Holidays, Birthdays And Christmas Trees

T.J. Clemente

The author (right) with his wife at Rockefeller Center. (Courtesy Photo)

They are markers on our yearly calendars: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas and New Years Day. We find ourselves looking at our computer or phone calendars to see whether they will be a four-day weekend, or a midweek thing. When you are sixty-something mentioning those specific holidays many times creates a blur of visions of when you were a young child, when you were young adult and single, when you were just married, when you just had the kids, when the kids were teens, and lastly recent events on those days. By sixty-something we all have huge inventory of events that happened on those holidays - some great, others not so much.

On the East End, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are the three markers of the "summer season." They note when the traffic increased, was totally crazy, and when the traffic ends. The Christmas/Hanukkah season on the East End is actually my favorite. Because it get darks around 5 p.m. the drive both east and west from Water Mill to Montauk Village on Route 27 is of continuous lit Christmas trees on both sides of the road, with historic windmills and small shops also lit up in holiday cheer. However for yours truly the holiday season also brings my December 19 birthday.

Any birthday around Hanukkah/Christmas time is different than all the other holidays. People are purchasing gifts and attending multiple holiday parties during this time. When I was in college at George Washington University we were at the end of semester final exams when my birthday rolled around. I spent all four of my college birthdays studying or taking exams. No one could celebrate; sometimes a Happy Birthday was tough to do in the quiet of the university library. Instead of celebrating the day with a party I was cramming a whole year's of readings and notes into a desperate attempt to make up for too much partying when I should have been studying.

This year on December 19 I turn 65! That's smack in the middle of being sixty-something. That's a marker in a lifetime. 65 has a certain cache to it. There are so many more things I want to do, yet the energy to do them seems to recede with every day. It's been strange and wonderful to watch my children and other's children enter their thirties and have families of their own. One thing I have done around my birthday almost every year is visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. I have only ice-skated under it 7-8 times over the last 65 years, including on my 60th birthday with my wife Cindi.

Christmas trees for those who partake is quite a ritual. Bringing them home on the roof of the car is always a fun drive. I once bought one on Madison Avenue and 92nd in NYC and drove it to my then apartment with the top down on my then VW Cabrio convertible with people waving and cheering. I also remember having small ones when I lived in Montauk, but mostly I remember decorating full size trees when my two daughters, Blair and Schuyler, were growing up. When they were small the bottom of the tree was heavy with ornaments. As they aged the tree ornaments became sort of historical artifacts with the kids talking about the ones they made in school over the years, their favorite one and the ones they broke and when. I used to put the lights on first and watch the girls decorate. A procedure I still do with my loving wife Cindi.

I love the East End of Long Island because it has loved me back during over the last 17 years. It has placated my soul on long sails in Gardiner's Bay, great swims at so many of it's beaches and those endless drives passing the many farms and homes on my way to and from my sailboat in Three Mile Harbor, East Hampton. I enjoy the farms stands, the wineries and the yes the restaurants/ watering holes, too! Besides I really love East End lobster rolls, I cant wait until my first 2018 one at The Clam Bar (usually the first to open!).

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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