This entry was inspired by a beautiful note shared with me by my bother. Then I read an entry on my daughter’s blog, Vodka Calling, which inspired me further.
This is not going to be a post about any one particular childhood memory about New York. Rather, its a compilation of many emotions and feelings that I have of Christmas in our early years. More than that, it’s a thank you note to our Mom and Dad, who created the magic for Rob and me.
Mom and Dad are no longer with us, spending another Christmas together in a far, far better place. Yet I firmly believe they will hear this thank you. A thank you that I regrettably did not say often enough when they were here with us. I know there is a wonderful reunion waiting down the road, but I wanted to tell them now.
Mom, Dad, thank you for making Christmas so wonderful for Rob and I. I’m not sure you ever realized just how joyous this time of year was for us. Thank you for starting our anticipation early. Geez..if I remember correctly you guys had us thinking about Christmas As soon as Fall hit. (and what beautiful Fall days we had in New York.) Thanks for getting us excited by making sure we had our letters to Santa early. Hell, the poor guy had not even finished Thanksgiving dinner before he was getting letters from Don and Rob. Thank you for teaching us the importance and value of not being greedy. You always made sure our letters did not ask for too much. Just a few things…. there were other boys and girls that wanted things too and we shouldn’t ask for too much.
Thanks for the trips “uptown “ to Rockefeller Center to see “The Tree”… it was always magnificent and increased our excitement. Thanks for the small bag of roasted chestnuts we enjoyed while taking it all in; the Tree, the skaters, the New York skyline the carols playing above it all. Thank you for the trip to Saint Patricks, where you made sure we didn’t forget the real meaning of Christmas.
And the night we put up our small tree in the apartment! How we looked forward to that night! The walk after dinner with dad on a cold New York evening to pick out our tree, the excitement building with every step. Decorating the tree was perhaps one of the two best nights of the year for us. All of us involved… not really caring if everything was perfect or not… just enjoying the ornaments, the lights… the placement of the manger under the tree. Oh, and the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen as Mom prepared her Zeploli’s!!! Lord, they were wonderful!
Then, after the tree was adorned, the manger in place, the Zepolis consumed, dad would shut off all the lights in the apartment. The lit Christmas tree our only source of light. The New York skyline slightly visible out our kitchen window. Then, the Sinatra Christmas album would be played… and the four of us would sit in silence; looking at the tree and listening to Frank tell us that “ Oh by gosh by golly! its time for mistletoe and holly….” To this day, Rob and I still listen to that album every year… thanks for that wonderful tradition.
How we loved this night! Rob and I could barely sleep as we recounted the events of the evening.. and Christmas was still two weeks away! Thanks for that night, mom and dad. You probably never knew how wonderful that was for us….. and Christmas Eve! Oh, thank you so much for that! Mom cooking for days to get ready for the family gathering. Our anticipation was now at a fever pitch.. the shopping trips with dad to “Little Italy” for all the Christmas Eve necessities; the finest Italian bread and pastries, the chestnuts, the pasta, on and on. I never appreciated it at the time, but money was always tight. How you laid out such a feast is beyond me. I know there had to be major sacrifices… thanks for that…. thank you so much for that…. and thanks for Christmas morning. Santa was always good to us. Never extravagant, but we didn’t know that. All we knew was that what we put on our short list was under the tree. (and, mom, dad don’t think that it went unnoticed that you guys rarely if ever exchanged gifts…, it was all about your kids.. you always said you didn’t need anything because you had your family.)
Thanks, Santa. (Thanks, mom for never allowing us to question the reality of Santa. Up until the end, you told us you believed. …thanks for that, mom. I still believe.)
A Christmas Memory
He looks in the mirror and combs back his thinning hair; checks the handkerchief that matches his tie, in the breast pocket of his suit jacket; it is fluted just right, ironed to perfection. He brushes imaginary lint from his sleeves, adjusts the pinky ring, and nods.
He is satisfied.
Walking into the living room, the taps on his brightly polished shoes make a metallic click with each step. He steps to the closet, opens the wooden door, and reviews his overcoat choices, deciding on the long tweed. It smells slightly of mothballs, but the Aqua Velva soon masks it. He slips on the coat with ease, its tailored sleeves slick against his jacket.
He isn’t done.
Looking back into the closet, he reaches for the beige silk scarf he favors on winter days. He follows this with a choice of the grey fedora with the black trim. He places it lightly on his head, then looking in the hall mirror, adjusts its angle with a practiced eye. Just right.
One last accessory; heavy leather gloves, recently oiled to a fine shine. Holding them in his left hand, he turns and beckons. It is time to go.
We are going for a walk in the Village on a Yuletide night.
Impeccable, confident, and sure of his choices, he leads the way.
Walking down Greenwich Avenue, I have to think there can be no one that can dress like that. The image is indelible, out of another time, a classier one.
It is cold; a clear starry night and the Village is glowing with the lights of the season. The taps on his shoes keep time, as the walk progresses. Then as we near a curb, his hand goes out, and in one of those perfectly shined heavy gloves he reaches for my mittened hand, enveloping it. I am walking with my Dad and at the moment he looks down and smiles at me, there isn’t anything else I rather be doing, or anywhere else I would rather be.
A thousand presents under the tree wouldn’t come close to the gift of that moment.
The taps are silent now; fedoras and pinky rings are out of style, Christmas is not what it was; everything changes.
But some things linger…like the smell of Aqua Velva, and the warmth of a Fathers love.