Hell of a Guy
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Monday, December 24, 2012

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

12/24/2012

As I prepare to enjoy my 69th Christmas on this the third planet from the sun, I cannot help but reflect on Christmases past.  It is kind of funny how these little tidbits from yesteryear pop into the conscious mind today, but here they are and I am most happy to have them.

My dad always bought our short-needled Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  I remember very clearly how my little brother and I would get so excited on Christmas Eve morning when Dad announced it was time to go get the Christmas tree.  I could never figure out why we waited so long to get one.  All our neighbors and all of my friends had theirs and they had been up and decorated for a long time, some for weeks.  We would go from lot to lot looking for what I always thought the purpose to be of finding the perfect tree.  Dad would look over them, pick one, and then asked the price…most times he put it back and moved to another.  It never struck me until many years later that what he was looking for was a price, not a tree.  I was somewhat embarrassed by his choice of Christmas trees, at least until they were decorated.  Then they always looked fantastic.  Dad was a smart guy, but a frugal one, at that.  After all, there were seven of us living in that small house at one time, and as he often said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Christmastime was the only time of the year I can remember having soda in the house, and it didn’t last long, but, then, how far can you stretch a six pack of 6oz Coca Colas, as they were referred to in the 50s.  It was the same with homemade cookies: once out of the oven and those suckers disappeared very quickly.  There were always nuts in the house during the Holidays.  Generally, a big bowl of them with a nut cracker gizmo that hurt like hell if it nipped a finger – my mother loved the Brazil nuts and the filberts.  Me, I loved to crack any of them just to see if I could keep my fingers from being pinched.  It never worked. 

I have never been a good sleeper, and Christmas Eves provided little if any.  I would toss and turn and look at the clock in my room about every three or four minutes…well, it felt like it, anyway.  I seriously doubt there were many Christmases in that old house on Valley View Avenue in Baltimore where my brothers and sisters and I were not up prior to daybreak and by the time daylight broke the horizon all the gifts were opened and the party was over and we were all ready for breakfast.  We called it “The Breakfast” and it included fluffy pancakes with melted butter and a heavy coating of thick, sugary Kayro syrup and, best of all, perfectly cooked pork sausage links (another once a year treat).  Yum! 

Dad always set up the most exquisite Christmas garden when we were kids.  It seemed to be immense to me, but in reality it was just four feet by six feet.  It was mystical.  There were little houses that I think my dad made and they lined streets made of salt, and there were little trees and bushes around them and tiny cars on the roads, and the best part of all was the Lionel steam engine with its coal tender that hauled three passenger cars, and the realistic engine actually spewed an oily smelling smoke as it traveled around the oval track.  After I was a little older Dad let me run the transformer and guide the massive three-foot train around the track as long as I kept it at slow speed, though I rarely did and he rarely corrected me, even when the engine tipped over.

The more I think about those days, the more I recall.  Those were wonderful days, happy days, and I truly believe the thing that made it the most special was that this time was all about family and not, as it seems to be today, about stuff. 
Christmas is a special time for me.  I cherish it.  I am not a religious person, but I do respect the reason for this season, and honor it as such.  With that said, allow me to wish all of you the Merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year and the creation of new memories.

And that is all I have to say about that…