Friday, December 29, 2006
Christmas for us means brunch at Mom and Dad’s. People who have had that breakfast have a hard time not coming back, even if they have moved on from our family. Mom turns out several varieties of eggs, creamed chipped beef, sausages, potatoes, chocolate muffins and an infamous pecan cinnamon coffee cake which can induce riots in the buffet line. This year we added three sailors since my niece joined the Navy and was married over Thanksgiving. It was probably our first and last Christmas for some time with the fleet, as my niece is being assigned to Japan, and her husband will hopefully soon join her. My eldest brother is the juice and coffee steward. My other brother mans the scrambled eggs, and due to the bigger crowd we consumed over 4 dozen this year.
Christmas used to mean trimming the tree on Christmas Eve, dating back to the times when Dad would wait until the tree sellers on Massachusetts Avenue had packed it in for the season. After they turned the lights off, he'd slink on over to the lots and root around in the dark. Sometimes the trees would be straggly and sometimes they would be OK, but he never knew what he had until he got home. Then, one year, when things were good, he grandly ordered a tree from Friendship Florist, and it was the worst tree EVER, so he never did that again.
By the time I came along, he was no longer liberating leftovers. Instead, I remember going to the Florida Avenue Market, and Dad would haggle with the vendors. I always had to pretend like I could care less about a tree, and be prepared to walk away and hang out at the ash can fire if the deal didn’t turn out, but we always went home with one, much to my relief.
A quick survey finds 1941 to be a favorite Christmas. It was the first year they had bought a home of their own in River Terrace. There was a live Cocker Spaniel puppy under the tree in a box. And a Lionel train with real smoke. My mom and sister had matching red velvet dresses which my mother had made by a dress maker instead of having to do them herself. Plus, my mother says it was the last year you could actually get everything you wanted before the rationing of World War Two got underway.
Another favorite was around 1939. That was the first year that Dad’s parents let him bring his non-Greek wife to Christmas at their place on Macomb Street. Dad remembers giving his father seat covers for his car. Papou thought they were blankets and tried to wear one.
The family has always had a Christmas party at Yiya’s and Papou’s house which I don't remember until Upton Street. Back then the Friendship Post Office was a Safeway, and I always admired my grandmother for keeping one of their grocery carts right there in her front yard. I also remember the aluminum Christmas tree, which eliminated any midnight runs to tree lots.
Now my Dad is the Papou of the family. He has eleven grandchildren and seven greats, and although it’s not as traumatic as Thanksgiving, they still put on a tree trimming party AND the world famous brunch Christmas morning. This year with the fleet, there were twenty six of us grateful pilgrims singing "Anchors Away". Once again I have to say thanks. Hope everyone had as good a holiday as we did.