Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Christmas, famiglia, family, love of family, ramblings
About the time I was 2 years or so, Smokey the Bear became a famous teddy bear. He was based on a cute little cub found by firemen during a forest fire. When the firemen found him, his paws were burned and his fur was singed. He smelled as if he was in a fire. Hence the name Smokey. He became a well known mascot with the slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires!” He was a jaunty teddy bear with yellow felt forest rangers hat and yellow plastic shovel. I’m not sure how I learned about Smokey but I really REALLY wanted one! Yet somehow I also understood this special bear was not a cheap toy at the time, something I was not expecting. It would have to something magical almost to get a Smokey the Bear for my own.
Dad was involved with the Naval Vets Club locally, was even Post Commander at one point. He helped to organize the family Christmas party about a week before. They had a Santa Claus there to talk to the children and hand out small gifts. I made sure to tell him all about Smokey the Bear. My parents had already done most shopping and hid the presents in the attic shelves of the garage. I have no idea if they were surprised by what I told Santa or if they were already prepared for it. I do know I had been pretty vocal about it so it probably was not too big a shock. But I was whiny that night and kept rubbing my eyes with my mittens and generally not happy. Soon enough I was a sick little kid with some cold virus and pink eye to go along with it. This was before there were many antibiotics, and penicillin was being touted as a miracle drug. My parents seemed to be pretty worried about how ill I was. Dad finally thought a surprise would help calm me and help speed recovery. He went to the garage and brought in an early gift telling me Santa was worried and wanted me well soon. Of course it was Smokey the Bear! All I kept saying was “Smokey! How did you know I wanted you so much?” I’m pretty sure my folks were thinking because I was generally obnoxious talking about nothing else that the whole world probably knew I wanted him! Ha!
Every now and then we get around to viewing grainy old 8mm films of that Christmas and there my sister and I sit under the tree surrounded by wonderful gifts. My parents must have sacrificed a great deal to show their love. After all they were not wealthy people and struggling like many young families after the end of the WWII and Korean War was under way. But there I am sitting with Smokey and he was all I had eyes for! I was oblivious to everything else!
Christmas now is still my favorite time of year. I go all out baking and decorating inside and out including every room of the house. My four sons are grown now with children of their own. But they still know Christmas is arriving when Smokey comes out to sit in a place of honor with a big bow under his chin! His hat and shovel are long gone and his fur is well worn from all the hugs and caresses he has had from me over the years. Yet it is Smokey who is one of those powerful reminders of family and the love my parents showed us!
Tags: Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Nativity, Peace, Presepi
This year everything seemed to weigh heavier than normal. For the first time that I can remember, I had zero holiday spirit. The Holidays were always my favorite time of year – a family tradition passed down by my parents. My dad loved having huge family holidays and parties. Mom would bake for days – especially her famous yum yum cake – the only fruit cake I have ever enjoyed. Thanksgiving everyone would sit after dinner planning and plotting shopping for the next morning and then when finished marking all the advertising flyers, we would plot and plan our decorations and themes for the year. That was to ensure we bought anything we thought we might not have enough of!
Of course , Valentino has always insisted we have enough to decorate three houses and he is probably right — I inherited many of my grandmother’s decorations, gifts and excess from my mother, and added to it all with our own favorites. Decorating started on Friday, went into serious high gear on Saturday, and was finished by Sunday night after Thanksgiving. We rivaled every other home in our neighborhood because we decorated front and back yards as well as every room in the house including bathrooms! We had a family tree in the family room, a formal one in the living room, and small trees in each boy’s room, too. Dept.56 would be one huge display, a large nativity of 7 inch figures in the living room, and a 10 foot display in the family room of 5 inch figures including buildings and the Bethlehem village complete. Being Italian meant Valentino was in charge of the presepi display and it was awesome. We had a four foot tall mountain on one end of the display complete with working waterfall. Little flicker lights replicated the shepherd’s fires. and Bethlehem was a bustling market scene with all the kiosks such as butcher, fish monger, flower stall, basket shop, winery, rug seller, kings’ tents, and the creche up on the mountain. Then in 2005 we were hit by two hurricanes back to back that destroyed the base to the display and we have not yet completed quite as an elaborate one.
This year I have been working long hours at the local hospital, finishing my bachelor’s in business, and helping my mom while she was ill. Then the economy meltdown and the wickedness of the elections soured any remnants of joy for me. I certainly wasn’t feeling peaceful. But I forced myself to put up the trees and a smaller scaled back presepi on an 8 foot display. And then I set about cooking for family for Thanksgiving. But even that felt like a chore instead of the usual fun. I turned my CD player up full blast with our Italian Christmas carols and that seemed to lift the spirits a bit. Yet I was still struggling. That is until we were sitting around the table after dinner watching the children play. It was little Julianna that touched my heart. She was mesmerized by the presepi and wanted to know all about it so I stood showing her all the figures and the creche. At four years old, it is difficult to tell what she was understanding. I left her be to look and went to make espresso. Then her mom noticed her touching and was going to reprimand when I signaled to wait. I sneaked not too far away and took a photo to make ‘a memory’ for her for years from now. Mom was trying to tell her not to touch but just look – and then Julie answered her tearfully, “I wasn’t being naughty grandma – the Baby was cold! I fixed Him!” Precious Julie had taken the little bits of fabric from in front of the king’s tent to make a pillow and blankets of the satins and silk for the Baby in His manger! So it was Christmas Spirit arrived at our house right on time thanks to the heart of a child!