close

Prime Rib and the Ghosts of Christmas’ Past

The quiet day turned into a quiet night. And a really great dinner. And a great dessert.

Prime Rib. Not something I buy often. Nor anything I cook often. Lord knows I cooked enough of them in my early Hyatt days, but not so much, anymore. Granted, it’s one of the easiest pieces of meat to cook, but putting a pound of meat on a plate is just not something we do very much.

And Yorkshire Pudding – not something I make often.

I think the last time I made it I set the oven on fire when I spilled grease. The house didn’t burn down, so it wasn’t that much of an issue. But I did make sure I poured the batter into the tins out of the oven, this time. I’m getting less adventurous as I age…

Funny how a quiet Christmas can get the nostalgic thoughts flowing. Most of the day I’ve thought about some of the raucous Christmas’ of my past – and a few of the more quiet ones.

Coming from a rather large, loud family, it’s fun to recall those thrilling days of yesteryear.

First Christmas picture I have is from 1953. Me and Mike on Santa’s lap.

I had a double chin back then, too. Some things never change. Below is the same year. We are in Bakersfield at our grandparents – in fact, that picture was probably taken at Brock’s Department Store where my grandfather worked.

Most of the Christmas’ when there were but two or three of us were spent in Bakersfield. We pretty much did every other year after the twins were born, and by the time Phoebe came along, we were staying closer to home. It must have been hell packing that station wagon.

Here we are at Grandma and Grandpa’s on Christmas Day…

Notice the wide-screen TV. The huge piece of furniture behind me is a radio/record player that recorded records. It had a microphone that you could use to record onto real records. Grandma and Grandpa had tons of old radio scripts – everything from Hatfields and McCoys to The Shadow and old soaps. When we were old enough to read, we’d perform the shows using the mic and blasting it through the house. It was cool making up lines and changing the scripts or figuring out how to make sound effects. We were a bunch of budding thespians.

You can barely see them but on top of the radio is a hurricane lamp and grandma’s anniversary clock. I still have the clock – I sent the lamps off to one of the great grandkids last year.

This is Bakersfield in 1956.

And here we are on Christmas Morning 1956 wearing the robes my mother made. She made a lot of our clothes, pajamas, robes, and the like.

And don’t let those angelic smiles fool you.

Leaving the ’50s and entering the ’60s, we have the awesome clock I wish I had, today! Mom would cut tin foil into icicles and the sleigh / candle holder would always be in the center. Judy has that.

We’d always have at least one get-together at Aunt Phoebe’s and Aunt Dolores’ in their apartment at Stonestown. My job was to assemble their aluminum Christmas Tree every year. It was a really nice – and really expensive one. Another thing I wish I had, today!

This is Aunt Phoebe, born in 1890, Grandma, born in 1896, and Aunt Dolores, born in 1898. They had several other siblings, including a brother, Philip, who was born in 1893. He was a hobo, rode the rails, caught TB and died in 1946. Rumor has it he led a pretty interesting – and not always law-abiding – life. Aunt Dolores made it to 96.

They were all really interesting and not at all conventional for their time. Aunt Phoebe was widowed by 20 and never remarried, lived in San Francisco in 1910, was a nurse on the United States Shipping Line in the ’30s, had her face done and a forged birth certificate when she was 50, joined the Army Nurse Corps, and was in a hospital in The Philippines that was bombed. They all knew how to have fun. I wish I had asked more questions, although I don’t think they would have given me truthful answers…

As the family grew, the stockings grew.

And then grew some more… One year they were plastered all over the walls… I think the sleigh worked its way down to the coffee table this year – but was back when grandkids were walking about.

It’s amazing the amount of people we could get into that living room. It’s amazing that the folks raised six kids in a 1500 square foot house. No wonder we played outside a lot!

I moved all over the USofA, missed far too many Christmas’ at home, and Christmas 1980 spent the holiday at a friend’s apartment in East Boston while he was away with his family – I was living in a one-room apartment with bathroom down the hall and shared kitchen on the 2nd floor. I got really drunk and called everyone I knew. Huge phone bill.

I bought this mug in Boston in 1981. Susan, Gordy, and I moved into a great house on Parker Street in Boston. Gordy went home to Rhode Island for Christmas, Susan headed down to Pennsylvania with relatives, and I stayed home. Our landlords, Frank and Maureen, lived down the street, their daughter lived above us and Maureen’s sister, Evelyn lived on the top flat. It was a standard Boston 3-decker. Christmas Eve started with a family party at Evelyn’s and I was invited as the lone Irish face in a sea of African-Americans.

They made fun of me eating chitlins and greens and not batting an eye, while I regaled them with stories of the first time I had eaten them – cooked and cleaned them, as well – in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club. Evelyn knew how to cook and we sat up there until almost midnight eating and drinking, laughing, telling stories, and just having fun. Then we headed out to visit even more relatives and more parties. We got home as the sun was rising. That Christmas I pretty much slept away, full of great food, good booze, and great – if not slightly foggy – memories.

Too many years away, I moved back home, met Victor, and life as we now know it, began.

Our first house on Kirkham Street was great. Lots of architectural charm. It was a great place to decorate. I wish I had some decent pictures…

We still have almost every decoration – and piece of furniture – in these pictures. When we bought our house in San Leandro, the holidays just got more and more fun. One year little sister and her girls stayed with us and we got to experience just what it’s like to have lots of little kids in the house on Christmas Morning. We had a blast.

And then we had the rest of the family over for holiday fun. Yes, that is a conga line going through the house. We know how to celebrate at our house! And, yes. Alcohol was involved.

Here’s a more sedate moment. The family has more than doubled since this was taken.

That was 1999. We didn’t fly back east and Victor’s mom started guilting us about being home for New Year’s. It was the new millennium. Her comment was “Well… I’m not going to be here for the next one.” [Note to Nonna – NONE of us are going to be here for the next one.]

We flew east – on New Year’s Eve 1999. The airplane was empty. The airports were empty. It was one of the best flights, ever. And we made it in time to celebrate 2000.

And then we moved east. The holidays took on a whole new meaning with snow! And new traditions with old things. Like Mom’s tables – still here after all these years.

And more little kids to play with…

And teach how to make cookies.

And more cookies to bake and more decorations to decorate.  And being goofy with the East Coast Family.

More cards to send – because we still do send cards…

And still more decorations… The old look of the living room with cheap carpet and uninsulated window.

The kitchen – a constantly-changing theme in here.

The faux mantle we had for a while.

And Santa’s on the old window seat.

Even more Santas…

The ever-changing chandelier. That is actually one of those cheap brass 1970s chandeliers that I faux-painted when we moved in. I figured I had nothing to lose since it was already ugly. Had it up there for almost 17 years, now. And it has seen its share of gaudy holiday decorations!

That ugly window gave way to a new really cool window…

And another constantly-changing area is the dining room. The cabinet is now our TV stand. It’s the first piece of furniture we bought back when we were poor as church mice. We stripped off a dozen layers of paint and stained it. It’s my most favorite thing we own! And it’s totally useful, holding extra china, flatware, platters, table linens… I love it.

One year leads into another and another… and every one is better than the last.

So Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Comments

Leave a reply

Post your comment
Enter your name
Your e-mail address

Story Page