Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, charity, Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, joy, love of family, memories, Peace
It may seem a bit early to many but for me it is typical. It is the week of Thanksgiving – and while I am thinking of all the blessings in my life in anticipation of Thursday, I am also thinking about Christmas. Like most Christians, I realize I am blessed most because of God’s gift of His Son – the Babe who was born Christmas morn!
So now you ask what this possibly has to do with Monday Madness or La Befana. Well, to be honest, I am feeling a lot like La Befana this year, more than ever as a matter of fact! La Befana is the Italian version of Santa Claus – although children also know Babo Natale. The Italian children all anxiously await the visit of La Befana. La Befana was an older woman who spent her life cleaning and cooking with her broom not far away from her grasp. Finally came the evening that 3 Wise Men stopped at her door. Greeting them with her broom in hand, she refused to go with them on their search for the Babe. After all she had cleaning and sweeping to do! Suddenly a few moments after they left, she realized what she had been asked. They were searching for the Baby Jesus! How could sweeping possibly be more important than that?! She ran after them, fast as she was able. Suddenly her broom took her aloft and she flew over rooftops searching to no avail. So now year after year she flies out again in search leaving small gifts in children’s stockings in hopes she finds the Babe!
Monday Madness? Yes indeed. See, it is holiday time and I am in full meltdown mode already. I am the world’s best list maker. I think I’ve mentioned before how writing lists helps me to calm through organization. Seeing it in writing means I can manage in smaller bites, crossing off as I go along. So here I am. List Time. The Thanksgiving menu has been rewritten at least three times and I have no idea why. It never varies from year to year. I suspect that is the problem. I really REALLY want to add something new. This year we decided to eliminate one item. I KNOW that will be a mistake that we will hear about for years to come – 2009 was the Thanksgiving WITHOUT lasagna. There ARE two turkeys and a ham though! Course there’s also half the friend’s list to feed! Why should I feel so frazzled, already worrying about decorating for Christmas? It is family tradition here in the Di Crocco household: the Saturday after Thanksgiving is DECORATE DAY! Out come boxes and boxes of decorations. Everything is unwrapped from the tissue paper and Bubblewrap™, lovingly placed out to think about Christmases past and people associated with each decoration. So many were from my grandmother and mother or from special friends. Every year meant a new ornament for each child, dated and signed with their name.
But back to Monday Madness. This year I am thinking more in terms of how blessed we are as a family. We have had our share of tragedies and sorrows along with the joy. We have family members out of work and struggling. Bills go up while paychecks remain static. Yet, I do have a job. It is one that gives me pride. It’s not one that pays enough to cover what I want covered but I am so much more blessed than others. In the midst of all the holiday frenzy and complaining about how much I have to do without enough time or money, I suddenly am forced to stop. Have I become lost like La Befana? Has sweeping the cobwebs become more important than remembering what the upcoming season is really about and what is really important? This year I want Monday Madness to settle to Calm, Peace, and Tranquility. Not just for me but for everyone. If I must rush from place to place, task to task. Let it be to share the Gift I have been blessed with. Not just to witness of my personal spiritual walk by testifying verbally. Rather, let me share my faith and my values by my deeds, my actions, my sense of peace, by love. Let me show love instead of, in spite of, and in the very face of hatred. Let me now unlike La Befana be willing and able to drop my broom.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family research, food, genealogy, Holiday Spirit, ramblings
One of those crazy earliest memories of my early childhood is my Uncle Clifford. It was always a toss-up in my mind as to who was more handsome, Uncle Cliff or Uncle Harvey. Even as a little one I knew they were both very handsome but Uncle Cliff in his wonderful police uniform usually won the toss-up! We always had wonderful family dinners together, everyone gathered for the Holidays. My dad was a big believer in family and loved entertaining everyone. My mother would make fantastic dinners with enough food for an army. Even her buffets were sumptuous meals. She used pure white damask linen tablecloths that I would watch her iron until no wrinkles were left. Then she would set out stacks of her beautiful china and her prized silverware. Plastic and paper plates were never used inside – only rarely and then only for picnics!
I was about four years old the Christmas I tagged after my Uncle Cliff at one of these dinners. This was the era when women would dress in their best right down to their high heels and men wore suits and ties, even to family dinners. Uncle Cliff, where did you find the patience to tolerate a little one hanging on your every move? As we all progressed through the buffet line juggling plates over-laden with food, I was in awe as Uncle Cliff tucked his silverware in the suit coat breast pocket near his handkerchief. I was sure no one else in the entire world could possibly be that smart!
Soon enough the evening came to an end and family were leaving. One of my aunts was helping my mother clean up in the kitchen. This was before automatic dishwashers, mind you! My mother could not sleep if there was a dirty dish or glass in the sink. Every piece was washed, dried, and put away. Silverware was counted as it was slipped back into the silverware chest. She always worried a piece might get tossed accidently and this had been a special wedding gift! Sure enough – the count was wrong and a spoon had gone missing. They searched kitchen, dining room, and living room looking for it. And then began the messy task of looking in the garbage! I tried to explain that Uncle Cliff had the spoon in his pocket! The two women looked at me mortified! Uncle Cliff was no thief!? What was I talking about? I was in tears now. My Uncle Cliff WAS TOO SMART! He had the spoon in his pocket! My poor mother was so confused by my carrying on! A few minutes later Aunt Bev called. They had made it safely home and then Uncle Cliff realized he still had a spoon in his pocket. Aunt Bev knew Mom was probably searching everywhere right now and wanted to reassure her the spoon was safe! Mom told her I had insisted that Uncle Cliff had the spoon and everyone had a good laugh as Uncle Cliff explained. I was finally appeased as everyone agreed with me that my Uncle Cliff was indeed a clever fellow!
For years family would tease at every family gathering and tell Uncle Cliff to check his pockets. Uncle Cliff has been gone a few years but even now as I wash and dry my own silverware, I remember again my handsome uncle with a smile in my heart. Once again I am four years old tagging after Uncle Cliff, the policeman with a silver spoon!
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!