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A Christmas Story - a trip down memory lane

It's that time of year again.  A time when memories and images of Christmas past come invading your brain as you try to get through this hectic holiday season.  A time when you think back to when you were a little kid and couldn't wait for Christmas to come. A time when you had absolutely no responsiblities, no bills to pay, no presents to buy and only had to answer to 1 person - Mom and Dad (collectively!) 

As this time of year comes I always get nostalgic and now that I have a little girl of my own, I cant help but think of how my life was when i was a little Bart. I'd like to take you on a trip with me down memory lane and celebrate my Christmas memories...

Christmas always meant a lot to me.  Something about this time of year that always puts a smile on my face.  Perhaps it's the wonderful music that is played during this time, or the week or so we would get off for Christmas break, or the great Christmas cartoons that would play allowing us to stay up a little later than we were supposed to, or the simple fact that you are getting tons of free presents for no reason at all except that it is Christmas!

Immediately after Thanksgiving, my father would begin our tradition of putting up our fake Christmas tree.  When I was younger, I thought all Xmas trees were fake because, well we had a fake one and, therefore, that's how it goes.  It amazed me years later to find out that people would put live trees in their homes and still does to this day.  Our process began with dad bringing up about 5 large black bags that contained the many branches of our tree.  These branches were held together by flexible wire that was connected to a metal rod and at the end of the rod contained a color code.  Each color represented where to place this branch on the tree.  As I got older, I understood this building proces but as a kid I thought that my Dad was the smartest man alive to be able to build this HUGE tree in our living room!  

My job was to help unfold the branches.  If you had a fake tree then you would know that this task required little sharp Christmas tree needles to scratch the shit out of your arm. You would go to school the next day and see someone with a scratched arm and just nod in approval as if you were part of some club.  While I was doing this, my mother was getting the rest of the house prepared by replacing all of our pictures and other stuff she had on her furniture with Christmas lights, fake snow, and little Santas and reindeer.  During this process, my Dad would be playing the Sesame Street Christmas record - yes a record.  This record would play over and over again and contained exactly what the Sesame Street Christmas TV special would air.  (man i miss that)  

I am certain that during this process i would complain and be a little brat, but I dont remember that part.  My dad Im sure does; but i dont!  And so when the tree was all assembled, my dad would start to string the lights around the tree- a process that I would take over many years later ( i felt like a king!)  Our family was big on lights.  We didn't settle for a few strands. No.  Our tree HAD to be seen from the street and our neighbors across the street   There was no exception.  At the time I had no idea how many lights this was but as an adult i can say it had to be thousands..haha.  

When the tree was complete, it was ornament time.  This was a job for my brother, mother and myself.  My bro and I were little so we can only get the bottom part of the tree.  I would bitch and complain about where I wanted certain ornaments while my brother would bitch slap me when Mom wasn't looking.  After an hour of me crying and whining, my mother would take over and finish the rest of the tree.  When all the ornaments were on, my Dad would add the last and final touches - the Angel at the top of the tree.  This solidified our work.  Everything was now complete.  The entire house was a beautiful Christmas wonderland with beautiful colors of red, white and green covering every inch of our house.  It was spectacular. 

My parents were big with Christmas and they did a great job at making us LOVE it like them.  We would take car rides to look at Christmas decorations.  You knew that it was Christmas time when you saw the big star in the sky overlooking #8 School's Clearman Field that belonged to the Auriemma's house on top of the hill.  I remember enthralled by their decorations as a young kid.  We would drive all around all the neighboring towns and look for some really cool houses.  This was before icicle lights and blow up snowmen and wicker-moving-lit deer.  You had to have an imagination then because there wasn't a lot of options you had to decorate your outside home.  So when you found one, it was breathtaking! 

A few weeks before Christmas, we'd stay up late to watch Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer.  It was great.  As i got a little older, i'd watch Christmas Vacation and Scrooged on repeat. Christmas was incomplete and still is today without these classics. I knew what I wanted for Christmas since the day after last Christmas, so writing my Christmas list to Santa was easy.  The hard part was trying to be extra good so he would get me what I wanted.  Being good was NOT an easy task for me!! 

Christmas Eve was celebrated at my Aunt's house.  This was my Italian side so it was a loud bunch of people.  This was also the 80s so obviously smoking was still really really cool, therefore, the entire family smoked.  As we would approach the house, it looked like it had a dense fog around it from all the smoking that took place inside.  When you opened the door, you got hit with the strong smell of smoke, fish and fried oil aka Christmas Eve.  I distinctly remember watching Christmas shows in the living room while my family sat at the table and ate their faces off followed by lots of smoking and laughing.  

My brother would try to keep me entertained by doing magic on me that somehow always required me to do favors for him.  At the time, I thought it was magic that made me have to scratch his back or fetch him a glass of soda throughout the night. I realized years later that the bastard tricked me into being his slave!  

We would drive home and all I was able to think about was Santa.  I couldn't think of anything else.  Butterflies filled my stomach and I think i was actually able to hear them fluttering their wings.  When we got home, it was straight to bed.  My parents would tuck me in and it was lights out.  I remember just staring at the light under the door as I tried to go to sleep.  My parents didn't waste anytime at all playing Santa Claus that's for sure.  Of course, when i was 6 years old I thought nothing of the shuffling and moving around I heard outside my door!  hahaha

If you were like me then you would say that the greatest day to ever wake up on is Christmas Day.  I'd wake up at the crack of dawn due to the butterflies trying to pull me away with their non-stop fluttering.  Christmas Day was here.. the greatest day EVER!   I'd wake my brother up and we would run into the living room to see boxes and boxes overflowing under the tree and all over the room.  You waited soooo patiently as Mom and Dad were still sleeping due to the lack of sleep they had from the night before from chugging all those gifts under the tree!  When they woke, shit was on!  

My dad would put on the Sesame Street record again and we would begin the opening process.  I remember vividly getting clothes and being irritated and then opening the next box and getting a cool toy i wanted.  I also remember crying when I didn't get what i wanted.  How the hell was i supposed to know who Santa really was???!    As I got older, Santa would bring me nothing but video games and it made my world complete.  

Christmas Day was always at our house.  My dad's side, the polocks, would come over and celebrate with us.  Our house was small and my dad's family was BIG.  So our house basically was 1 huge table that ran from our dining room and almost into the Christmas tree!  There was no room for anything.  As a kid, you want to run all around your house and be mischievous but it was almost impossible to do this when your entire home is a table.  So I would go sneak down in the basement and play my video games or new toys i got.  The other cousins would join me.  It was fantastic.  

The family would leave and I remember crying because I didn't want to help clean.  I think i did this until i was 17.  For the next few days it was non stop eating of cookies and leftovers.  All the kids on the block would all get together to play with the new toys they got from Santa.  That was a time before play dates when you were actually allowed to play on your block without parental guidance.  All the toys your friends got were now also yours, as you played nonstop until it was time to go back to school. When New Year came, that meant 1 thing.. school is back in session.  BOOOOOOOO.  Christmas was officially over. 

The Christmas celebrations still live on with me.  Now that I am married, we have combined our growing-up traditions into 1.  I put up the tree, lights and ornaments and she gets the house looking like a winter wonderland.  The final touch is still putting on that angel on top of our tree solidifying the process.  I take special pride in my lights outside and smile every time i come home to see them.  Christmas to me means being with the ones you love and I am so happy that this year we get to celebrate our fist family Christmas!   Poor Ava has no idea what she in for!!!!  



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