Sunday, January 5, 2014


Merry Christmas!
Christmas is always a busy time of year for virtually everyone. People with children at home go all out to make it a festive time of year. We did the same, and even after Matt and Sarah had grown and gone, we decorated the house, went to a few parties, and even had a few of our own. This year, we did virtually none of that. At least, not here in beautiful -- wait, I know what the name of our development is  -- oh, yes, Englewood Heights.

Susanne did drape some lighted faux evergreen garland on the front porch and more on our faux fireplace, and that was about it for our decorations. We didn't put up a tree, or place any of our vintage paper houses on cotton batting to make a village. We didn't fill bowls with red or green apples, or tuck evergreens behind pictures and mirrors. We didn't string white lights among the pieces of a silver tea service to create a shiny glow. When I say low key, I mean l low key!

Centigrade or Fahrenheit?
We did enjoy ourselves, however. On Christmas morning, we got up and scurried off to Colonial Park for a traditional Christmas brunch given by our friend David, whom we met when we all taught at Susquehanna Twp. High School. We have known David since 1968, and for a decade or more (who can remember how long at our age?) we've been going to David's to observe his birthday and Christmas, too. There are always some folks who come every year and new people that David has met during the year. It's great fun, and we are sometimes the last to leave.

When we got home, we exchanged gifts, even though we had agreed not to. I gave Susanne a transistor radio to use while she is in "her" bathroom getting ready in the morning. I also got her a wireless thermometer to hang outside and broadcast the time and temp into the kitchen. I just hope it does not have commercials! Other gifts included some chocolate goodies, always a sure bet.

"Here's lookin' at you, kid."
My gifts included a cool shiny metal lantern to use on the porch this summer, a gift card to Wendy's for their apple pecan chicken salad, and one of those fogless shaving mirrors you can use in the shower. It looks like a miniature computer monitor, complete stand, on which you my rest your shaver. Think of the millions I will save on shaving cream!

In the evening, Susanne made a turkey dinner, with stuffing and candied sweet potatoes.

Simon W. Goodyear
I can recall Christmas mornings from my childhood, when we would walk down the block to the Camp Curtin fire station, where the firemen would give us a big fat orange and maybe a candy cane. I generally would creep behind the huge red engine to see the plaque on the back of it that memorialized my grandfather, Simon Goodyear, whom I never knew, but who was somewhat revered at the station for his volunteer work. When he died, they carried him covered in flowers to the cemetery in that truck. (As I looked at the picture of Simon, I wondered if he was a volunteer or a career firefighter. I just found his name and address online in early 20th-century city directories, and they show he was a "carpenter" (1908) and "car rep PRR" (1930).

Harrisburg City Directory, 1930
One Christmas I remember walking about the neighborhood, listening to my first transistor radio, just waiting for someone to ask what I had received for Christmas so I could show it off. I don't think I had seen those little hand-held versions since, until I bought one for myself earlier this year.

Christmas 1952
True to family traditions, we have not used any of our gifts yet, waiting to return from our trip to western Pennsylvania to cut open the nearly-impregnable plastic sleeves and spring the gifts from their wrappings. We reminisced how as kids, way back in the last century -- the 50s, to be exact -- we opened our presents, them placed them carefully back in their boxes, nestling clothing in the tissue paper, placing the lid under the box, and laying the clothing in the box for display. I wonder if undertakers got their start displaying in this manner. Especially with Barbies and GI Joes to work with. But I digress.

Then came the parade of aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors --
Aunt Rachel and Uncle Carl
even our Jewish neighbors -- who came to view the bounty that Santa had wrought. Each of the kids would take a turn in showing their presents, until amid all of the oohs and aahs refreshments were served.

This went on for most of the week after Christmas. My mother's sister Rachel and her husband Carl would come bearing gifts all the way from northern New Jersey. After all these years, I remember receiving a rather large metal 1952 Cadillac to play with. It was pretty spectacular, and I blurted out, "How much did this cost!?" Aunt Rachel said I was "fresh."
This took place at the house of my mother's other sister, Helen, whose tree is pictured just above. Under the tree were often displayed her daughter Elaine's collection of dolls, including some beauties from Japan.

By New Year's, we began to play with our toys for the first time (not really, but we pretended it was for the first time) and wear our clothing.

Matt, Sarah, and I, c. 1975
Usually the tree stayed up a bit longer until it started to drop its needles. Then my dad would grab that thing and yank it out the front door and around to the back yard, where it was collected with other the trash, complete with all the tinsel and probably an ornament or two.

I recall one year my dad almost had a stroke when my mother bought a blue spruce tree about four feet tall for $7.00 -- this at a time when white pine and hemlock trees were being sold (mostly at gas stations) for two or three dollars. To prove her point, my mother kept the tree up until February 14, when it lost its first needle.