Christmas Eve. Decades out of childhood, years after my own children stopped believing in Santa, I still feel the thrum of anticipation, a sense that something exciting is about to happen. Some of this is the thrill of giving presents to loved ones (surely my teenage daughter will like that necklace?); and the undeniable pleasure of receiving presents (my son’s giving me the Nora Ephron collected works!); and the food, that’s huge. I’m making an eggnog cheesecake and a pear upside-down cake to bring to my sister, who’s hosting us all for a holiday meal. Taken together these are rich, gorgeous, extravagant displays of love that we don’t show each other any other time of year. Alas. I’m trying to love people more all year. I’m getting to an age at which I realize that I can’t be unthinking, thoughtless. I won’t have forever with the people I love.
Here’s what can only happen in New York on Christmas Eve. My husband Dan and the kids and i had dim sum at Nom Wah in Chinatown. We went there on a whim; we had no plans and couldn’t remember the last time we’d had dim sum. Nom Wah was new to us, but it’s been around since 1920. It was practically empty, to our intense pleasure. We sat down and ordered. Sometime between the soup dumplings and the pork buns, Vanessa started mouthing something to Dan and me across the table. “What? What?” Dan said. I shrugged helplessly. Finally we got what she was telling us: Jake Gyllenhaal and Maggie Gyllenhaal and their immediate family–their mother, Maggie’s husband Peter Sarsgaard, and their two daughters–had sat down next to us. Naturally, being a New Yorker, I didn’t look around. I know how to give movie stars space! I managed a casual glance to the left and saw Peter’s close-cropped salt-and-pepper head (poor guy–he’s losing his hair.) Standing to go I finally got a look at Jake in the mirror by our table. Jake, with hair to his shoulders and a beard. “Did he look hot?” My sister Nicole asked later. It was just the right question. And you know the answer.