Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Memories

We all have Christmas memories and traditions that we cherish from our childhood. I've always loved Christmas and my parents always made sure it was something special for my myself, my sister and brother. I grew up in northern New Jersey. It's an area far from the urban sprawl, the Turnpike and oil refineries. Where I lived was mostly protected Newark watershed. There were plenty of lakes and forests. For many years we would go out and cut our own tree. Something that seems totally foreign to me now. Two of the highlights for us of the Christmas season was the trip into New York City and the arrival on Christmas eve of my grandparents and uncle. My Dad worked for Western Electric, which was the manufacturing arm of Ma Bell. How quaint is the idea these days of only having one company available for phone service? At some point he got transferred from Western's Kearny plant to AT&T Headquarters in Manhattan. Around Christmas, whenever their last day of work was before the holidays, the families were invited in. For us kids this was quite the adventure. We got to ride the train and take the ferry into the city. It was a short walk from the ferry landing to the office on Broadway. Technically my Dad still had to work half a day so after introductions around, we amused ourselves by playing with the Frieden adding machines. These were big bulky electro mechanical devices. If you used the divide function, they would churn away on and on before spitting out the answer. A Frieden repair man always dropped by the office the day after all the kids were there. We would leave around lunch time, dragging my Dad to an Automat. Then back on the ferry and train to home.

Like many families, we spent time with both sets of Grandparents for Christmas. My Dad's parents and brother would drive up from Bloomfield and spend Christmas eve and Christmas morning with us. My family was different than most in that I had no cousins. No first cousins anyway. What I did have was an Uncle, my dad's brother and an aunt, my Mom's sister, that were only a few years older than I was. So when we visited grandparents we had someone to hang out with and play with. The Christmas that I remember most is the one and only Christmas I can remember where it snowed on Christmas eve well into the evening. Its the stuff Christmas stories are made of. We, I guess I should say my dad, has a picture of it. My Grandparents and Uncle, just out of the car, Christmas presents in hand, making their way up our driveway in the falling snow. Very Norman Rockwell. Its one of the very few white Christmas I've ever had. After opening presents on Christmas morning (never Christmas eve), My Grandparents and Uncle would head home and we would dress and make our way to My Mom's parents for Christmas dinner and another round of presents. One Christmas they gave up tickets to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas show. On New Years Day. The movie playing at the time was Babes in Toyland with Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello. The Rockettes were, of course, incredible. We stayed and watched them a second time after the movie. I think the ride in the Yellow Cabs was as fun as everything else we did that night.

I hope my kids have as fond a memory of Christmas's past as I do.

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