Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Warm Memories During The Holidays

December 19th, 2010

On those snow-covered roads of the 50’s and 60’s, the drive to my grandparents was always unforgettable. It seemed that the roads were hardly ever plowed, and there was no salt – just those coal black ashes mixed with tiny pieces of metal that would puncture a tire at least once or twice each winter.  The trip to their house really was over the river and through the woods, as we crossed the old wooden plank bridge, and started up the back roads to the park, where they lived.

Dad was not shy about winter driving on snow drift covered roads. As we slid and crashed through the white stuff on those old, back country roads at breakneck speeds, he would laugh as if nature was just something with which to play. Rear wheel drive in those clunky old 50’s cars was just crazy fun, as the Buick turned into a high tech, machine powered sleigh.  We would drive into total isolation where no unchained car had gone before us and thrill at making those first tire tracks in that freshly fallen snow. Mom would always be yelling, “Be careful, Charlie, don’t go too fast,” but he just laughed that baritone laugh as he put the pedal to the metal.

Winter, mid-1950s - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

After our snow driving fun, we would have our snow playing fun as we romped and rolled in the snow in our grandparents’ yard. That could go on for hours or until our blue jeans were completely frozen. Then we walked like icicles toward the heat of grandma’s kitchen. We were so cold that even our long underwear was frozen. In fact, we looked like cold, hard kid-cicles.  Once inside we would peel off layer after layer of wool and cotton until we were down to our frozen long  johns.

Our grandparents’ house was a place where we were surrounded with more fun, love and craziness than a kid could ever imagine. Oh, and food?  There were pots and pans bubbling and jumping on every burner of her old gas fired stove; spaghetti, meat sauce, home grown vegetables, cookies, and every type of Italian fruit or vegetable. In the middle of the table there was always a bowl filled with black gold, those wonderful fat, black olives that became candy to me. When the spaghetti was finally put on the table it was in a serving dish that reminded me of a soup bowl for Jack and the Beanstalk’s Giant. It could have been a bassinet for triplets. There had to have been at least two or three pounds of specially cooked pasta just waiting to become part of our collective muffin tops!

After we said grace (during which Grandma could be heard mumbling in Italian under her breath), Granddad would pass the wine around the room to all of the adult males at the table.  His philosophy as he poured his homemade wine from the gallon jug was that warmth, laughter, love and fun came from the fruit of the vine.  Throughout the entire meal, they would drink and laugh and sing to the tune of those carefully-cultivated grapes.  I loved the lighthearted, happiness of those meals. We never talked about anything serious and if anyone tried to bring up a serious category, granddad would do something just plain crazy like dump his peaches into his coffee cup, and my Grandmother would begin her ritual, a ritual that she surely seemed to enjoy as she scolded him by yelling out, “Patsy, Patsy, you gonna make-a da boys be bad!”  He would smile with that knowing smile that seemed to say, “Oh, they’ll be bad, alright, but not because of tonight. It will be because they have my genes!”

We loved the hugs, the love and the laughter. We always left there feeling that total nonjudgmental, complete love that only a grandparent can give.

It was all about that love.


The true meaning…

December 14th, 2007

Last week, during a meeting with one of our planning teams, I couldn’t help but overhear an employee say, “Yep, I saw her trying to walk through the snow and slush with no boots, no hat, and a light weight coat, and I stopped and picked her up.”

Instead of a resounding congratulatory round of recognition, we, each and every one of us who were gathered around the conference table said things like, “Are you nuts? She could have killed you.” To which our employee laughed and said, “Actually, when I invited her to get in, I said, “I’ll give you a ride as long as you’re not planning to stab me or anything?”

“Instead,” she said, “the young woman smiled and with tears in her eyes said, “I’m just so thankful that you would offer me a ride.”

As the story unfolded, our Good Samaritan was told that this young woman had recently moved back here to be with her mother who had passed away a few months earlier. She, her husband and new baby were now trying to survive in a new town, a new apartment and an area where jobs are not significantly abundant for those without specific education acquired skills. The only work that her husband could find was in a low paying, home-based job. They did not have a car, and, in fact, as the conversation went on, she admitted that they did not have the proper furnishings for their baby either.

Our storyteller then proceeded to explain that she had decided that this woman would be her Christmas, and that, somehow, someway, she would get her the furniture that she needed for their baby.

At first we looked at her in wonderment of her perceived naïveté, but then we realized that what we were witnessing was truly the work of the Christmas Spirit.

Yes, she had taken a risk, a risk that, years ago would not even have resulted in anyone thinking about her decision. Yes, it seemed naïve to open herself to someone who could possibly rob her or attach herself to her in ways that would not be welcome, but, that was not what happened either. The woman was walking from the shopping center to the bank in the snow and wind and slush to make her rent payment, then back to catch a bus to her apartment where her husband was watching their sleeping baby and working at his telephone based job.

It was then that we all decided that, if she would permit us, we would all pitch in to welcome our new neighbor; this stranger, her husband and baby into our town. We would share in this spirit of giving by helping to make their world just a little better this Christmas.

It seems like a long long time ago when this would have just been what was expected. We have become so cautious, so skeptical and so cynical in a cold, fearful way. It sometimes feels like we are all enveloped in a crust of practicality that forbids us to reach out.

I’m glad our employee did what she did.

When I asked her why, she replied, “I’ve had Angels reach out to help me in my life, and I just want to give back a little.”

I’m also glad that she shared her Christmas story with us because it truly was a means to capture that spirit that might otherwise have just remained a memory.