AND THEN AGAIN……..BY Tamara Pettit

Things I want to say this Christmas and there’s no one left to remember these Christmas memories with me.  They are not your favorite traditional “Oh so Nice’ “the snow is falling” memories, but the memories which much like the famed Christmas story that Ralphie penned had embedded them into my hearts.

I remember when the Catholic Church was located where Davis Brothers Pharmacy is now.   It was but a cement block building.   My memory of Christmas was not about the service, but about our trips to our neighbors (We lived above the office on Pearl Street) to enjoy homemade wine.   The Simon house was on the corner, and I just remember going into a kitchen made of stone and a big bottle of wine where a four-year-old was allowed a taste.  From there we went to Vincent and Stella Zukowswkis where I think my dad may have imbibed in hard liquor.  Luckily the steps were few to the church next door and our motley crew found the back of the church.   I remember the women all decked in furs and hats.  While Stella had a full-length fur coat my mother had a fox stole with teeth and beady eyes that stared you down.   Lest you think you think we were a hard-drinking crew; I would venture to guess the fumes of alcohol were right up there with incense that holy night.  My sister at 13 sang in the choir and later she would maintain it was the heat, the liquor, the incense the ever- cloying Youth Dew Perfume my mother and every woman of a certain age favored that caused her to throw up copiously right after the first alleluia.  The second alleluia was drowned out by her gagging as the choir looked on aghast the choir separated around her in horror as my mother tried to do damage control with her lace handkerchief. I was far enough away basking in the glow that the good sister/bad sister roles had for one holy night been reversed.   I wish I could talk to my sister about that again.

My Mom celebrated the holidays entire month of December when she deemed the third (and now vacant bedroom since Marsha had gotten married) her wrapping room.    She would put up a card table and gather her scissors, tape, ribbon and paper and put on her elf hat.   All the presents went into that room and none of us were allowed to disturb her lest she be discovered wrapping our present.   She played Christmas music and drank a beer or so as she wrapped.  She loved to shop, the HUB was her haven she loved to create magic and ohhh how she loved to give.’  A depression era child, she took eternal joy in the joy in her choices of gifts.   I’d love to talk to her to tell her about how her magic became my magic

Dad was Mr. Christmas with a Penny’s catalogue.  Each Thanksgiving he would show at the house and sit his seven grandchildren down.    This was D (decision)day for they had to decide the toy they wanted moistest.  No toy was too expensive….to bizarre……to anything.   It just had to be the one he one they wanted most. And when the decision had been made Dad called his secretary Lori Jones in the next day and handed her the list.  He wanted those toys ordered and picked up lickedety split (in a move which now seems illegal his secretary was in charge of getting the gifts and wrapping the gifts) one year Shannon expressed a desire for a purple dress; Dad’s secretary and wife, Betty hit the malls and kept coming up short.  They would come back with their hands empty, and Dad would send them back out with threats of a little girls’ toys.     Shannon remembers that Christmas as the year she got not one but two purple dresses which would become her all-time favorites.   If there was a Santa, Dad wanted to be that person in his grandchildren’s’ eyes.  His love for us was palpable and that was the greatest gift of all.  I guess I don’t need to talk to him about it.  That love is here inside of me.  It talks to me all the time.

Merry Christmas dear reader, may you have a memory to sustain you through the hard times.

Tamara