December 27th, 2016
Christmas Day on Rose St. in East St. Paul was always wild and loud. It began each Christmas morning with all of us waking early, running into the living room to see what Santa brought us. Lots of giggling, running, fighting for space to get to the toys while Dad would be trying to stop us until he set up his lights and camera. Mom would be laughing and scolding Dad (rather loudly as I recall) but we would not care one bit. We wanted our GIFTS.
Santa Came! Santa Came! Jim got a hockey game and a Xylophone and I got a kitchen and an ironing set.
Check out that carpet by the way! Look at those Dolls from the 1950’s.
In the beginning, it was just Jim and Me. Next came Michael and the Twins, John and Joe. Finally, in the 60s, Patrice came along. It got crazier with each new sibling.
Amelia on the left, our Nonna on my mother’s side, and Uncle (Zio) JR on the left. Miss you two so much.
It’s a cowboy Christmas in 1959. And I got my Shirley Temple doll!
Look at those Twins! They were so much fun always.
Patrice is on the scene. And so is “Hello Madda, Hello Fadda, Here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining and I’m sure that we’ll have fun if it stops raining.”
Now, we are all having a wonderful time playing with our new toys. Dad is irritating us with his BRiGHT camera bulbs and stopping us for photos. Then Mom steps in and makes us get dressed for church. The little ones could eat something but those of us who had made our first communions could NOT eat anything before mass. And NO ONE misses MASS on Christmas Day.
After seeing everyone at Mass, we head home for dinner with La Famiglia, the Family. Christmas Day was a time to share with my Mother’s side of the family for the most part. La mia bisnonna Orphelia, my great-grandmother Orphelia would make ravioli in our basement kitchen. It was my job to help her cut them and count them. I could not resist tasting one even raw and Gramma Orphelia, in her beautiful broken English, would scold me because she liked to count the ravioli and I messed up her count. That was our ritual. And I loved her for it.
Auntie Emma, Uncle Dick and their family, Amelia and JR, and sometimes Auntie Jo and Uncle Bill would all sit at the same table, mangia bene, eat well and enjoy each other’s company. We would laugh a great deal. Uncle Bill, JR, Uncle Dick and my mom could be very funny. We kids loved the food, teased each other at the table until we got in trouble for it, and tried to sit patiently while the adults finished so we could go play together and open more gifts!
We were not rich monetarily. Oftentimes, my father would go shopping on Christmas eve to get deals on gifts for us. One year we all got toy instruments. Uncle Dick and Uncle Bill were both musicians. They took every guitar, drum set, etc. and tuned them to the best of their ability and, after a few drinks, Uncle Bill began to sing parady songs like this: “Deck the halls, with Uncle Charley. Fa la la la la, la la la la. Tis the season for more barley...” None of us will forget that Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong. Christmas was not all fun and games. We had good times. We had bad times. There were times of yelling and punishment too. But that is not how I remember it overall. It was FUN. We played together. Everyone laughed. People danced and sang and we just loved each other.
We didn’t have much. But we did not know that. We felt like we had everything. We enjoyed playing games while the adults played cards. Yes, we fought. Richard liked to instigate those things. But that was just Richard. Later in the day, some of dad’s side of the family would join in the fun and games. We shared our toys with them. We all enjoyed each other. We all felt blessed.
Thank you to my family for giving us our best friends and our heritage as Italian-Americans. Thank you for teaching us the importance of loving our family for their humor, their unique personalities, their idiosyncrasies, their strengths and weaknesses. Thank you for having a Christmas savings account because, even though you didn’t have much money, you wanted joy for your children on Christmas Day. Thank you for giving us the belief that we were rich. And we were rich in love.
Ciao for now!