We look forward to Christmas each year. There is something about the season that means fun, laughter, good food and drink, family and love, lots of love. For us in These United States the beginning of the Christmas season starts with the parades throughout the Union bringing Santa Claus into one of the major department stores of the area, in New York City it is the end of the Macy's Parade that signals we can sit down eat the Thanksgiving feast and then go out on Black Friday, very early, two or three In the morning and start shopping for Christmas gifts and great bargains. Then everything we say and do seems to point to Christmas. The day never seems to come then suddenly it is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and then it is over. Christmas of the future becomes Christmas past seemingly as quick as a blink of an eye. The best thing about the process is that we are left with a collection of memories that can warm us on cold Winter nights.
The peculiar part of this whole memory thing is that I can't remember specific Christmases rather it is like a collage of memories from all the Christmases of the past which can change depending on the time I am remembering. The earliest memories of Christmas revolves around being at my Aunt and Uncle's on Christmas Eve. The day was a fast and abstinence day, which basically meant we couldn't eat in-between meals and no meat. We didn't have the seven fishes but it was spaghetti with Marinara sauce with fish in it. There was card playing by the grown-ups until about eleven then the younger people would leave for mid-night Mass. When they returned about one thirty in the morning we'd have a feast of all kinds of stuff . We'd get home about three in the morning. My brother and I would get up about five and rush downstairs to open up our toys. We got clothes, things needed for the year or at least until Easter and one toy or game each. We were products of the depression and children of people who were really dirt poor. They were so poor it hurt. A good soup was hot water boiling and greens the Vegetable store was going to throw out and maybe a bone purchased for a nickel from the butcher. But we were poor or at the last rung of middle class and the toy or game was one for each of us and not necessarily what we asked Santa for. One Christmas my brother got a Charlie McCarthy doll all dressed up in top hat and tux. I got a cardboard rendition of an air plane cockpit. We were aesthetic. I personally like Mortimer Snerd but when my brother got tired of Charlie later on I picked up a book on ventriloquism and tried hard to throw my voice but never did a good job. Later that day after morning Mass we went back over our relative's house for a feast that lasted about four hours. After cake and coffee the grown-ups played cards. The men argued the women talked too much causing confusion and that was why the women won and the men lost. Lots of yelling and laughing.
The faces I remember from Christmases past are of my Uncles and Aunts who are no longer here. My uncle Tony would slip us five bucks which was a helluva' lot of money back then. My uncle Nick would let his eyelids flutter like crazy when the guys would set him back at a four hundred spade hand in Pinochle which he was sure he would make. One time he ripped up the dollars and threw it at the other guys when he lost a "sure" hand. They laughed like crazy and he calmed down. One time one Uncle showed up two sheets to the wind (drunk) and he insulted Uncle Nick's wife and they almost came to blows but the other guys and girls stopped them. Nobody held grudges. A blue collar immigrant related Italian family always argued, got mad and forgave. What is family for if one can't show emotions, let it all hang out and then kiss and make up.
My cousins from Christmas past have thinned out but I remember their young faces full of joy and expectancy of a good life. Sometimes that didn't work out but for the most part it did. One cousin I always felt close to had Christmas as her birthday she shared with Christ. We usually didn't get together on Christmas but we did during the year and an occasional Christmas every now and then. She was closer to my brother but she was always like a sister in my eyes. She was beautiful then and still is only a trifle older, and shorter. My male cousins were always playing ball and laughing and treating me like the baby because they were ten or more years older. I was about six, and World War Two was on and three of my cousins were home on leave from the Army one Christmas. My mother was complaining I was getting into too many fights, which by the way I was winning. One cousin, Sam, took me aside and taught me all he knew about fighting. I didn't win a fight that year until I forgot what he told me. But he was fun.
I remember the faces of Christmas past that were past World War Two, ones from my early days of marriage. The faces of my seven children when they were young children filled with the wonder of Santa Claus and the magic that turned the world from a cranky place into a world of fun. I was looking into those same faces this year, this recent Christmas past of 2012, the eyes still have the young light in them. Despite the thinning hair, maybe a slower gait, I still saw the seven of them around the Christmas tree and believing their mother and father were the wisest people on earth. My how that has changed. I remember the beautiful face of my wife long gone, and how happy she was because her children were happy. I remember the faces of my Mom and Pop now older than when were at my Aunt's and Uncle's. Their gait much slower, until my father's disappeared in Jan. 1971.
Now this Christmas goes into the memory banks. There was all my kids, their spouses, my grandchildren, my great-grandchild, all of us. A lot of changes and I guess my gait has gotten slower but it has picked up since the middle of 2012 for that is when I received my Christmas present early. A new found love for an old man but so far she hasn't noticed. I think. A new face that is lovingly stored in my memory banks along with all those that I have loved, and still love. It may be too early to start thinking of the future Christmas maybe I should get New Year's over with before thoughts of Christmas future take over. But Christmas is a good time with good people always filled with love and laughter for which I am one grateful SOB to have been blessed so much in the past, present and I am sure the future.