Bucket List ...

Lillie’s Victorian had almost every square inch decorated for the season.

Last summer I mentioned that seeing the Christmas lights in New York one more time was on my bucket list. A few months later the trip was on my calendar: a mother/daughter trip with my middle child Jill and her two daughters, plus her best friend, mother, and daughter. While Jill is an accountant by education, she could have been an event planner. Our four days, with home base in Times Square, were set with tickets and reservations. We all had the schedule.

The best preparation, however, may be side railed by COVID these days. Our two shows, Rockettes and the Tina Turner play, were canceled hours before the show time because of COVID-ill actors. No worries, Jill was on the internet and phone, booking two shows that were still a go. “Chicago” was a bit of a disappointment since it was scaled back: no set, no appropriate costumes, and the orchestra occupied the center of the stage. Basically, it was singing, dancing, with a bit of dialogue sprinkled in as the troupe walked around the periphery. We were all grateful for the night’s entertainment though and did enjoy it.

Definitely not disappointing was “To Kill a Mockingbird” with Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch. The playwriter took a serious topic and interjected appropriate humor that elicited audience laughter while not distracting from the solemn emphasis. Years have passed since I read the book or saw the movie, and the scenes that are seared in my mind were not in the play. However, the play rates a 5 out of 5 with me, as does the Gregory Peck movie.

We had reservations for all the restaurants, which were selected by recommendation or noted for specialties. Lillie’s Victorian stands out for its over-the-top decorations, which filled every wall space, completely hiding the Victorian motif. Hanging from the ceiling were more holiday embellishments. It may have been tacky, as we all agreed, but we loved it. A blowup fuzzy bear that moved its head and arms filled the back wall and stared down on us. We marveled at the hours necessary to decorate and were even more impressed that it was up and down in December, not a permanent decoration.

Walking to Carmine’s restaurant one night, Jill stopped us as she pointed, “That’s Hoda!” My granddaughter followed up with, “Don’t bother her. She’s having dinner with her daughter.” Jill backtracked, stood 12 feet from the outdoor table, and gave a small wave as Hoda Kopb looked up. She smiled and motioned for Jill to come over. Since Hoda is one of her favorite celebrities, she needed no other encouragement. A brief interchange revealed Hoda would not be at the Today Show the next morning, a big disappointment since Jill had children’s books for her to sign, but the impromptu meeting and personal conversation made up for the absence the next morning.

On a previous New York trip with Jill, we had four generations and a prominent poster to announce our status at the Today Show, so we were on camera when the crowd was shown. Jenna and Kevin took Jill’s granddaughter Austin and walked around with her. Making an early morning jaunt to stand in line for a space at the Today Show is always on the itinerary when Jill plans the trip. It is an early start, so it does not interfere with other events. A young girl standing near us had a sign announcing that she would be an intern for the show in March. Jill took a picture of her when Craig approached the girl who asked that Jill send it to her phone. As Jill was occupied with the interchange, I interjected, “So we have an in next year?”

Our afternoons were booked with a catacomb tour of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral and the guide’s thorough history of the Irish and Italian Catholics coming to NY, a horse drawn carriage ride around Central Park, a browse through Tiffany’s and Chelsea’s Market, and a walk uphill in nearby Little Island.

The magical lighting of the city made the nightly walks after our amazing dinners and plays a fitting ending. The Times Square tree with its 5 miles of lights was perfect. Standing on a low barrier was not sanctioned, but the security guards were friendly as they hurried us to take the selfie and get down. We waited for the Saks light show which was scheduled for every 10 minutes, but after 25 minutes of patiently standing, I was discouraged. Finally, a pedicab driver yelled to the crowd that it had been cancelled. It was our last night, so another trip is already forming in the text group since seeing it is a not-to-miss event. Besides, Jill has never seen the Rockettes.

The trees wrapped with white lights, the decorated Christmas trees in minimalist office foyers or outside, the big red balls and giant snowmen exhibits, the snow scenes in the shop windows displaying wares, all of it was exciting to see, especially at night. We walked miles, one day seven miles, never less than five. I may have been a few steps behind, and they may have waited at corners for me, but I asked for the subway only once!

Added to the glamour of the glitzy decorations was the lack of overpowering crowds, the presence of police and security personnel, tasty food and drinks in interesting surroundings, and time spent with family and close friends, just basking in the camaraderie and being grateful for good times. I may have said “one more time for the New York lights,” but I am up for another December New York trip or any other destination the girls choose.

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