You Can Go Home Again and Again— Especially at Christmas

It Was and Remains “A Wonderful Life”

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On Erie Street in Rochester, New York (December 2017): Herbie J Pilato (center), surrounded by life long friends James Mancuso (left) and Gary Sanfilippo

A few years back, I returned to my hometown of Rochester, New York for Christmas. I had not visited my old stomping grounds, and in the right frame of mind, in a long time.

Christmas 2017 was the right time.

I had just sold my new biography of Mary Tyler Moore (Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Story), and a few other freelance contracts had come through, while a few more were waiting for me upon my return to Los Angeles (in January 2018).

In December 2014, the last time I had visited Rochester at the holidays, was the complete opposite of December 2017. In 2014, I was littered with anxiety. My spirit was broke, spiritually and financially. I was in survival mode.

Consequently, at Christmas 2017, I was ready for a nice, nostalgic, relaxing and enjoyable vacation, and I received one.

Although I caught a little cold a day or so after I arrived, the warmth of love, friendship and family had an overwhelming healing effect that soothed my spirit and ultimately my physical being.

Sounds dramatic, uh?

Well, it was just like that.

I’m a sensitive sort, and I tend to reminisce about the past more than I should, but this time, I couldn’t help it. And my present life experiences were so perfectly matching my past life experiences (so to speak). And it just all seemed to fit, in the most wonderful and uplifting ways.

And that happened from the moment my flight arrived at the Rochester International Airport, where my sister Pam retrieved me, and then drove me back to her home where I stayed until a week or so after Christmas.

In 2014, I remained mostly inside my sister’s house.

In 2017, I was out three times a day, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, visiting numerous friends and family members for various retro excursions.

There was the visit to Rochester’s famed Rocky’s Grille on Oak Street in Rochester, with two of my best friends from childhood. After chowing down on a delicious bowl of pasta and tripe (like only Rocky’s could prepare!), we drove up the block to 33/35 Erie Street on which stands the solid-red-brick house that was my home for the first 17 years of my life.

As we drove down Warehouse Street towards that wonderous homestead, it began to snow…that gentle kind of snow, where the flakes are paper-thin, if falling from heaven itself.

We took pictures and laughed and the butterfly feelings of being at the right place at the right time were resplendent and abundant.

A magical moment of many more to come.

There was the evening dinner I shared with two other dear friends, one of whom was one of my first “true loves,” this time, from 8th grade.

As the waitress arrived to take our order, my former flame, now one of my dearest friends, turned to the female server and said, “You know, Herbie and I have known each other since we were kids. In fact, we dated…and he gave me a ring and everything.”

The moment she said that I reached into a carry bag that I had brought along, and pulled out that very same ring as if the moment had been planned by the Universe.

This was not something I had set up with the waitress. My 8th-grade sweetheart did not know I had brought the ring, nor even assumed that I had held it safe all these decades later.

In fact, both of my dinner companions were in utter shock upon seeing the ring, while my former childhood love screamed out, “You KEPT it!”

It was a was blessed moment, made especially so as my dear friend was just recovering from breast cancer.

The entire evening was a Christmas miracle. Yep. That’s what it was. A Christmas miracle.

A few more little wonderous events and circumstances occurred that seemingly were orchestrated by angelic forces.

There was a visit to the Marriott Airport Hotel in Greece, NY (a suburb of Rochester), where I had worked as a bellman/van driver/PBX/front desk clerk over a three-year span.

That day started out with a wild little wink from the Universe when I, dressed in a purple sweater, had breakfast with another friend at Wegman’s Supermarket in Webster (another suburb of Rochester). As it turned out, my friend had “received the memo,” for she, too, was outfitted in a purple sweater.

A few hours, upon my jaunt to the Marriott, I had noticed the lobby and motif of the entire hotel’s interior had been remodeled in, you guessed, it shades of purple and violet.

But beyond that continuing odd coincidence of hue, I wondered if any former co-worker/friends were still employed at the Marriott. Assuredly, I thought, “Nora” would still be there.

Nora was a sweetheart; a gem of a human being. She was the stable, steady one of our bunch who helped to keep us all sane, as we partied away in the early 1980s (when I had first worked at the hotel).

Well, sure enough, I approached the Marriott front desk of December 2017, and said to a friendly clerk with a welcoming smile, “Excuse me. I used to work here about 30 years ago, and I’m just wondering if Nora still works in the Reservation department?”

To my astonishment, the clerk then replied, “Well, yes she does. I’ll get her for you.”

In less than five minutes, Nora appeared from my behind the front desk and was visiting me in the now-purple lobby.

But wait: there’s more.

At the onset of our conversation, she said, “You know, Herbie J, this is really weird. Today is my last day.”

I was like, “Uh?! Are you friggin’ KIDDING me?!”

“Nope,” she said and smirked, adorably.

Another Christmas miracle.

But again, it didn’t end there.

There’s still more.

An hour or so later, I met another friend at the Mall at Greece Ridge Center, which in it’s earliest, initial incarnation, was known as two different malls, before it combined into one (Greece Town Mall and Long Ridge Mall were their previous separate titles).

So, as my buddy and I start walking through the now-named Mall at Greece Ridge Center, who do we run into?

None other than the former General Manager of the Marriott Airport Hotel, whom I had not seen in years.

And guess what color he was wearing?



And those are just a few of the special new holiday memories that were made during that remarkable Christmas visit to Rochester in December of 2017, and a little somewhat afterward.

All of it confirmed one way and another, just how wonderful a life it was, remains, and always has the potential to be, through what can sometimes be the very challenges of every day modern living.

The happenstances that occurred that December and the little winks and whispers from the Universe that I observed and heard are always there for each of us, every month, every day of every year, confirming one way or the other, that we are not alone; that our lives are painted with a purpose and watched over on a much larger canvas and landscape then we may realize.

And that such signs and rendering always lead us “home,” again, and again, wherever we may reside, at any moment in time.

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Herbie J Pilato writes about pop-culture, stays positive, and hosts THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, a TV talk show on Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime UK.

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