Dad and the Bride Doll

 

My father, a complicated man, was the oldest son of 10 children. His parents came to America from Naples, Italy via Ellis Island at the turn of the century, and settled down in Jersey City, New Jersey.

He left school in the sixth grade to pick up bits of coal from the railroad tracks, placing them in a wagon, to later sell to buy food for the family.

Brookyn Navy Yard
Brookyn Navy Yard

My father was a tight package of a man. Dark and solid with biceps of steel and large hands heavily calloused. He worked on the docks of the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II and then in construction. When we visited Grandma for Sunday dinners, he would flex his muscles and I, and another cousin or two, would hang on his arm as our legs swung above the floor.

A hard drinking man, he was the black sheep of the family but my grandmother’s favorite. She would cook the foods he loved and he would sing and dance her around the kitchen, dodging the hot wood stove and the table that could expand to serve her large family. He never failed to make her laugh, she who took to her bed with headaches; dour and sad, more days than not.

I was his only child. I knew he would have preferred a son who he would teach to box, throw a ball and take to the Yankee games. To please him, I learned to swing a bat, hit a fastball and bob and weave as I sparred with an imaginary opponent. He took me out of school to see the 7th game of the World Series when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in 1952.

One Christmas when I was about eight or nine, I wanted a bride doll. I knew it cost a lot of money and money was always tight. My father shook his head indicating I would not get my wish.

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Close to Christmas, when my father went into his bedroom and pulled the door behind him—not quite closing it—I crept up to watch through the slit. He opened the closet and reached on the top shelf and took down a box. Opening it, he removed a beautiful blond doll with a white gown and stroked her veil with his heavy hands. I guess I faked my shocked reaction when I opened the present on Christmas day. I don’t remember if I wished at the time I hadn’t peeked into the bedroom, since it diminished my surprise. However now as I look back I treasure the sight of my father gently smoothing out the doll’s veil and knowing he was making his little girl happy on Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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Cooking from Memories

 

I have always loved to cook. Well, maybe less so lately with only two people to feed. Thankfully, my husband has begun to enjoy the heat of the kitchen.

Over the years, we have collected a variety of cookbooks. Even after parting with some of them before moving to our new townhouse, we still have two full bookcases: one upstairs, Upstairs bookcase

 

 

 

and one smaller one on the first floor near the kitchen. downstairs bookcareAnd we have a three-ring binder stuffed with old favorites we have cut out from newspapers and magazines.

I have kept my Mom’s old hand-written recipes mom's recipeand some of her cookbooks, too.mom's cookbooks

In planning our family Christmas dinner, which is at our house each year, we are searching for meal plans. Of course, we can always Google recipes but how much more fun to find those with memories attached?

 

open pages of cookbook
a favorite recipe

May your holidays be filled with good food, cherished memories, and the closeness of loved ones.

PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE

images-4I had one of the best Christmases ever. Maybe it was because the grandsons were older and less frenzied about what Santa left under the tree. Or maybe because Ernie and I said don’t give us “things” or “stuff,” just experiences, as presents. Or maybe because my son brought his significant other for the first time on Christmas and my son-in-law brought along his father, who had lost his wife this past October. Or maybe it was because the feeling of family with the inevitable losses and delightful gains confirmed a sense of belonging.

And, of course, there was Sparky, the dog, that didn’t beg at the table.

Ernie outdid himself with a pork roast and a made-from-scratch French apple tart. A table laid out for ten stretched our images-64.1.2pared-down set of dinnerware and cutlery, so we had mismatched plates and told everyone to hang on to their forks for dessert.

But it was the presence of those sharing our meal and not the trappings of Christmas that made the day special.

When my husband and I married over 40 years ago (yikes) we didn’t bow to the common convention of other couples in selecting “our song.” In reality, we didn’t even think of it. Father Donald Cooney (where is he now?) married us. A handsome guy, not too much older than us and apparently more sentimental than Ernie and I, spoke from the altar of Saint Aloysius Catholic Church in Jersey City. He faced the congregation and weaved the story of Ernie and my meeting, falling in love and deciding to marry with the backdrop of Barbra Streisand’s song People.

When we walked down the aisle, as man and wife, besides each other we had “our song.” The song that we have played every year on our anniversary.

One of our New Year’s resolutions (long-time married couples share common resolutions that the wife usually makes) is to include more people in our lives. In 2014 we will attend a long delayed Crane reunion, visit old friends in Washington, DC and New York City that we haven’t seen in years. Maybe we’ll even find Donald Cooney.

People who need people are the luckiest people in the world…