It has been five years since I celebrated Christmas, which people find weird because my parents are the King and Queen of Christmas. Our house would be filled with holly, mistletoe, reefs, and music. You couldn’t go a second in our house without hearing a Christmas song. It was insane. We use to hold parties, which the whole town would come to. Once, the mayor even came! Granted, that was back when I lived in the-middle-of-nowhere South Dakota. Now, I live in New York City.
People always ask, “Sydney, what caused you to stop celebrating?”. It’s a hard question to answer, mostly because I don’t want to tell them the reason. You see, 2014 was a hard year for me. My sister died in a car wreck, my brother joined the army, my best friend’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. Those weren’t the main reasons. That was the year I moved to the Big Apple. I was twenty, broke, and as depressed as you could be. I don’t know why I moved. I think I needed a change of scenery, South Dakota really sucks. When I left my hometown, I was leaving my boyfriend of seven years. I had never dated someone else, it was always Henry. Henry and Sydney. I guess leaving Henry wasn’t as hard as losing my sister or seeing my brother deployed, but it impacted me more.
Every Christmas since we were sixteen, Henry and I would go somewhere. One year, we went to the town center to ice skate, the next we went to Pierre, and then other places. It was a huge thing and I looked forward to it every year. Once I moved to New York, I realised that we wouldn’t be together. I felt as if I had lost a part of me, a part that I desperately needed. But, I couldn’t have it. I had signed a two year contract on a studio apartment that I couldn’t cancel. Once those two years passed, with hardly any talk with Henry, I decided to lease the studio for another three years. I assumed he had moved on, probably with someone else.
This brings me to present day, Christmas Eve 2019. I am sitting on a bench, outside of the Bryant Park ice skating rink. My ice skates are on, tied, and I’m ready to skate, but I can’t. I don’t feel like it. My friends are already on the ice, but I chose to stay off. I sit there, watching the others. One kid is begging his father to be happier. The father looks like he just finalized a divorced. A wife or mother-figure is nowhere in site, so I assume this is true. There are people dancing to some songs near the Christmas tree. Mostly older couples, maybe one or two young ones. The ice is dominated by young couples who never seem to be able to skate well. I’m the only one sitting alone. I have only dated one person since the move, this asshole named Jerry. I broke up with him after a couple of months, when I realized I could do better than him.
I start bobbing my head to the song playing in the background, Rocking Around The Christmas Tree. This used to be Henry and I’s song. At least, people called it that because it was our favorite. I spot my friend stepping off the ice.
“Why are you so down?” Jill says.
“I’m not.” I reply.
“That’s a lie.”
“Maybe it is.”
“Tell me, Sydney.”
“I’m alone, no boyfriend, no nothing.” I say.
“You have me!” She shouts.
“Your boyfriends waiting for you.” I say, pointing to the ice, where Jill’s crappy boyfriend is waiting for her.
“Fine, you got me. Just don’t be so down.” Jill says, then walks back to her partner.
“I’m coming, I promise. I’ll be there in a minute.” I yell after her.
I wait a little, until the song ends. I remember the first year Henry and I’s tradition started, we went to the town center. There was music and activities, but all we did was dance. They played Rocking Around The Christmas Tree, on our request, about every two songs. It drove people mad. I remember them yelling at the DJ and us slipping him some cash to keep going. It was magical.
I eventually stand up and step onto the ice. It’s very choppy, so I struggle to skate.
“You suck.” Jill’s boyfriend comments.
“And you're a crappy boyfriend.” I retort.
“Sydney!” Jill yells.
“Fine, I won’t be honest. And I’m leaving.” I say. I do a lap of skating then get off the ice. I put back my skates and grab my purse. I walk over to the street and call an Uber. I sit down on the curb, checking Twitter. Someone sits next to me.
“You’ve had enough to?” He says.
“Yeah..” I say, not bothering to look up.
“I just moved here, have any tips as I struggle to survive the concrete jungle?” He asks.
I chuckle, his voice sounds so familiar, “Well, never use the bathroom in a bodega. Never listen to Rocking Around The Christmas Tree when you’re missing someone? Where are you from, anyway?”
“That’s my favorite Christmas song! I could listen to it anytime. I’m from South Dakota. The names Henry… and you’re my girlfriend.” He says.
I nearly drop my phone I’m so shocked. I hug him so tight, I swear he could hardly breathe, but he didn’t say anything. He gives me some flowers and we take the Uber home together. That was the first year, in five years, that I had celebrated Christmas.
The next year, Henry and Sydney got engaged and were married. Sydney’s brother was honorably discharged and returned from Iraq. As of 2032, they now live together in a quaint little apartment near Central Park, with their dog and son. The two soulmates have never not missed a Christmas since that fateful night, in 2019.