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Sixty-Something: Rocking Around The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

T.J. Clemente

It's definitely is a thrill to skate under that large iconic Christmas tree. (Photo courtesy of the author)

I somehow believe I remember the first time I ever saw the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The whole family loaded into my dad's car and he drove us downtown past it on Fifth Avenue very slowly. I'm not sure how old I was but I'm guessing it was five or six.

I believe everyone has a story or two about visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Off hand I have these three. One has to do with my mom and with my children, one with my daughter Blair and the last one with my wife Cindi.

The first one I will share is the time I put my mother and my two daughters in my car early one Sunday morning perhaps 25 years ago and drove down to the Rockefeller Center tree from Pelham, New York. Back then you could drive down a side street right next to the tree so when we arrived I was able to park illegally but with the blessing of a cop who gave us a quick OK!. We walked down to look at the tree. The kids were probably six and eight-years-old and my mom was in her 70s. If I recall my mom had her pajamas under her full-length winter coat because she was so excited she just put on her coat. Initially we were only going to drive past it. Parking and getting out was totally spontaneous and it was very memorable.

The second memory was when I took my daughter Blair down to the big tree to actually skate there. Blair was a very accomplished figure skater in her young teens. She had won some awards for her skating creativity and quite frankly people always enjoyed watching her skate. I remember after we waited on the short line and purchased the admission tickets inside. Blair put on her skates and I put on mine in that locker room and then Blair took to the ice and started one of her routines. Within no time people cleared out of the way and Blair put on a little bit of a show with all the people watching. The best part is how Blair just enjoyed skating and was oblivious to the scene around her. I was so proud, just enjoying every turn and move that she did.

The third and last memory that I'm sharing was when I took my wife Cindi to skate for her first time ever under the Rockefeller Center tree. We did not bring our own skates because quite frankly it was a spontaneous decision based on the fact there was absolutely no one on the line to go on the ice. I know the date, it was December 19, on my birthday and it was just before closing. We had had a birthday dinner at Patsy's and thought we might see the tree. I was wearing a suit and an overcoat and Cindi was wearing a beautiful dress under a full-length coat. We rented skates and by this time they were wet from usage all night. We put on the wet skates then went on the ice. Make no mistake about it, Cindi did not skate like Blair however she loved every perilous turn and twist and I enjoyed watching her navigate around the rink realizing that at any second she just might crash. Amazingly we both made it through the skating session unscathed!

If you haven't skated under the Rockefeller tree I recommend you get down there and bring your own skates. Buy a ticket, lace them up and give it a whirl. It's not the best ice, it's not the biggest rink, but it's definitely is a thrill to skate under that large iconic Christmas tree. I believe there is a certain magic to participating in a New York moment for all those watching from the various balconies all around the rink at Rockefeller Center. It is a merry way to celebrate the holiday season!

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