I have posted this one three times since 2009 and I never tire of it … the images, the fabulous memories, and the unmatched wonder of a child’s world all grown up.
Enjoy if you will my first Christmas re-run.
Today I give you my homage to the magnificent edifice of Rockefeller Plaza and my cherished memories of the Radio City Music Hall.
As a child, I cannot remember a Christmas when we did not go to The City, walk around Rockefeller Plaza to see the tree, and the show at the Music Hall.
I cherish those moments spent with my mother, Mary Fois, and her two friends, Josephine Chiappe and Beatrice Napoli. These were my mom’s cohorts, confederates, her closest and dearest friends, and they were, among the six women who became our chaperones, the greatest fun to play with.
The Radio City Music Hall was to my mother the holy grail of events. Not wind, nor storm nor dead of night could keep her from her appointed mission, to herd eight to ten children with her two girlfriends as point and rear guards to the Christmas and Easter shows at the Music Hall.
It was not “are we going this year?” But “on which day are we going?”
We gathered at dawn with blankets, pillows, coffee, hot chocolate, and buttered rolls, and took the long subway ride from Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center. Soon the early hour and the motion of the trains, lulled us to sleep, resting our heads on each other’s shoulders or their laps.
With a round of hands clapping, we woke at our destination, yawned and rubbed our eyes … we were almost there.
Walking towards Rockefeller Center was always a delight. We were no longer sleepy or hungry and turned slowly in a circle to capture all the sights and sounds around us.
Rockefeller Center is an art deco marvel consisting of nineteen commercial buildings covering eleven acres in midtown Manhattan from Forty-Ninth Street to Fifty-Second Street, from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, with smaller buildings in a rectangle.
On the first floor of these buildings are exclusive shops, their windows lit up and decorated for the holiday season. The tall building in the middle, Thirty Rockefeller Plaza, or as it is called, 30 Rock, looms over a golden sculpture of Prometheus which sits below the giant tree as a symbol of opulence for tourists and native New Yorker’s to enjoy.
Inside the open rectangle of buildings is the ice rink, and on the street above, a balcony with a steel railing. We ran around the circle above the ice-skaters, mesmerized by the sights, the music and the smell of the fresh chestnuts, the three mothers “simply could not resist.”
At Christmas the tree-lined pathways of the arcade are decked out in their holiday finest and lead to the giant tree in the middle and along the pathway from Fifth Avenue, the row of Herald Angels.
The Radio City Music Hall …
Hundreds of excited children and their parents mulled in the enormous vestibule of the theater enjoying the spectacle of it all.
The huge triple wide staircase lined with thick, rich carpeting, the sparkle of the chandeliers, the vendors selling their wares, the beautiful color program guides the parents purchased for each child, ushers dressed in formal wear and the giant Wurlitzer organ playing holiday tunes.
We whispered reverently, our eyes transfixed on the ceiling. My mother grabbed my collar. “Will you get a move on. I want to get orchestra seats.”
The majestic stage is encased in a dome in shades of gold liken to a sunset, a golden curtain across the back. The rows of seats curve upwards from the bottom of the stage … over five thousand soft, wide seats that push back for comfort.
The three women rushed to the middle to give each of the children, even the shortest, a grand view of the show. Carefully the mothers took hats, gloves and coats and began folding and stuffing clothes in their large bags. For an added measure they put pillows and coats under the shortest children and stashed the rest under the seats.
The Christmas show at the Radio City Music Hall is an extravaganza of incredible proportions with live animals onstage and the Rockettes in synchronized, syncopation, organ music and a movie.
We sat in one long row with the three mothers positioned at the beginning, the middle and the end. It was hard not to admire their organization, their stamina and the den-mother patience with each trip to the bathroom, spitting up, the constant and persistent flow of questions, giggles, interruptions and tantrums of eight children aged six to twelve.
As the show began to unfold, we became uncharacteristically quiet and still. Not wanting to miss one second as the stage moved up and down in three parts, revealing Christmas scenes like real ice skating, the Nativity with Joseph pulling Mother Mary on a real donkey, and a giant tree, rising from below to the squeals of the audience.
In the darkened theater we sat mesmerized by the sounds, the lights and the best of all, the Rockettes as they slowly began their final routine; arms and legs in perfect unity, kicking one, two and three … one, two and three … kicking and circling … kicking and fanning the length of the magnificent stage … adults and children, babies and old women fascinated by the perfection in their dance.
There were three more trips to the bathroom with the youngest children as the Wurlitzer was winding up intermission. When we heard the announcer warn the audience to come back to their seats, each child got the second half of their chocolate bar. Then the final delight, a full length movie.
My fondest memory, the year White Christmas premiered at the Music Hall.
Thanks to Peter Allen, a wonderful Broadway entertainer and many of his friends and patrons of the arts, the Music Hall was saved from the wrecking ball, saved from the same fate as the old Metropolitan Opera House, and preserved for generations of adults and children to enjoy.
My trio of angels …
In Loving Memory, to Mary, Josephine and Beatrice.
Your image lingers, like the twinkle
Of freshly fallen snow
Always new, always beautiful,
My trio of angels. Together again.
From the pest, la “rufiana,”
Tell me, who was your angel … that one special
person who remains in your heart?