Heartwarming Holiday Story 2021

It’s late Christmas Eve and you’re searching your freezer for an Amy’s Vegetable Pot Pie that you remember buying but not eating. It’s raining. The radio is on. Ella Fitzgerald is singing about Frosty the Snowman.

You remove a bottle of Tito’s Handcrafted Vodka, see that it’s empty and put it into the recycling. There’s another bottle that’s unopened. You place it on the kitchen counter. You find a half bag of ice that had thawed then refroze into an unusable glacier. It goes into the sink. Then you rummage around, behind and under a pack of Kashi Blueberry Waffles, a bag of snow peas, a bag of Brussels sprouts, a bag of sliced mangos, an opened box of Mrs. T’s Cheese Pierogies and some garlic bread. A tub of Land O Lakes butter with the kneeling Native American maiden falls out and barely misses your toe.

Your cat, Charlie walks in to see what the commotion is about. He sits down next to his food dish and looks at you. The radio is now playing Tony Bennett’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” In the living room, the radiator wheezes and clangs. 

You continue rummaging, until finally you realize there’s no Amy’s Vegetable Pot Pie. You must’ve already eaten it. Your stomach growls. You’re about to slam the freezer door shut when you spot a small Tupperware container. On its masking tape label, in your wife’s neat, loopy handwriting is ‘Christmas Cookies 2019.’

You take the container out of the freezer with both hands and shut the door with your shoulder. A refrigerator magnet clatters to the floor. Charlie meows. 

Christmas of 2019 was the last Christmas you and Lucy had spent together. She died on March 15th, 2020. So quickly and unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm that you’d been numb with shock before becoming catatonic with grief. Lucy’s brother had to handle everything. The memorial service was well attended and on Zoom—as everything suddenly was. Lucy would’ve hated it. You couldn’t look at the screen. Instead, you stared at a sesame seed caught between the S and the X of your keyboard.

The DJ announces in his FM/sandpaper voice that he has time for just one more song before midnight and plays some New Age-y version of “Carol of the Bells.” Rain pounds against the windows. Charlie comes over and winds himself between your legs.

You place the Tupperware on the kitchen counter and open it. There, nestled between two sheets of parchment paper are Lucy’s fig cookies. Cucciddati. Sicilian for Christmas. Your favorites. There are thirteen of them. Unglazed, and topped with thinly sliced almonds instead of the typical rainbow nonpareils that Lucy had said should never appear on desserts for adults.

You remember the two of you buying the figs in the cookies at the Union Square Farmers’ Market. You remember the vintage sunglasses Lucy was wearing. Cat’s eye with rhinestones in the corners that sparkled in the late afternoon sun. She fed you one of the figs on the cab ride home. You remember the yielding sweetness of its flesh against your teeth, the grittiness of its seeds on your tongue.

Funny, you hadn’t found the cookies before tonight.

You get a plate and a glass from the cupboard. The plate is white and square. The last of a set of four Lucy had bought at a restaurant supply store on the Bowery. There’s a chip on the edge you never noticed before. You fill the glass with chilled Tito’s. 

You place one cookie on the plate, burp the rest back into their Tupperware time capsule and tuck them into the freezer for next Christmas and the Christmas after that. For twelve more Christmases yet to come. “Carol of the Bells” ends and the DJ says it’s midnight.

“Merry Christmas, Lucy,” you say. You lift your glass of Tito’s and wait for the cookie to defrost.