Note: This post originally appeared on author Andrew Q. Gordon's blog on December 22, 2013.
One Christmas, though, stands out. Because Nick’s mother and I divorced when he was six years old, we had to share him on the holidays. Usually, I got Nick on Christmas Eve and his mom would take him Christmas Day. One year when Nick was in high school, all the forces aligned to make it a very special Christmas Eve for just the two of us.
It’s seldom we can have the luxury of not sharing our children with others, especially on special occasions like Christmas. But this time, this Christmas Eve, it was just Nick and myself. I will always hold this memory close and dear to my heart, not only because it was just us two, but because of the magic of what we experienced.
We started off with a nice dinner in the Wicker Park neighborhood. But then we headed downtown to south Michigan Avenue to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) perform Tchaikovsky’s the Nutcracker Suite. That iconic music was so wondrous and evocative, transporting us both to a yuletide realm that harkened back to both of our childhoods.
But then the CSO broke for intermission and did an even more amazing and interesting thing—a holiday twist if you will. When the curtain rose on the second part of the program, the CSO performed in conjunction with a jazz orchestra Duke Ellington’s own riff on the Nutcracker Suite, a vibrant and totally original take on the original.
It was an amazing night of music and togetherness. Nick and I returned to my apartment in the Ravenswood Manor neighborhood, where he stayed over, to be picked up by an uncle in the morning.
We exchanged gifts before going to bed. And Nick gave me one of the best gifts I have ever gotten—he picked his three favorite books and gave them to me. There was To the Lighthouse, All the King’s Men, and Light in August. The gift represented a common bond—a shared passion for reading and great writing. And it was simply a very thoughtful gift that I will always remember. And that Christmas, circa 1999, was one I will always treasure.