Throwback Thursday – Favorite Things

Today, Maggie from “From Cave Walls” is hosting Throwback Thursday. You can read her blog here:

https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/2022/09/01/throwback-thursday-54-raindrops-on-roses/

She wants to know about our favorite things while adolescents.  She says: Pick any period of your adolescence and think back to all your favorite things. Feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

This week’s prompt is: Favorite Things

Pick any period of your adolescence and think back to all your favorite things. Feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

I am going to go with a time when I was in elementary school.

Who was your favorite relative? Not to play favorites, but who was the person you connected with more than others? Aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, or parent? Why were you closest to them?

I hate the thought of picking a favorite relative. I would say that I probably connected most with my dad’s dad. When my mom’s dad passed away, it was the first time I had ever lost someone to death. I realized that he wouldn’t be around forever, so I began recording his voice so I’d remember what he sounded like. The loss of one grandparent caused me to be closer with all my other grandparents.

What was your favorite TV show? Share a clip if you can find one.

I remember being in front of the TV to watch the Dukes of Hazzard.

What was your favorite book or favorite family story?

In fourth grade, I remember liking Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. The little brother, Fudges reminded me of my brother.

What was your favorite, song, record, or album. Feel free to share a YouTube video of it.

I never listened to what my friends listened to. Very rarely was I listening to new music. I was always listening to oldies or stuff my dad was playing for me. I listened to a lot of Beatles music.

Who was your favorite teacher at that age? What grade were you in and what subject did they teach?

Mrs. Gallop was my fourth grade teacher. She taught all the subjects that year. She was a lot of fun.

What was your favorite subject (not teacher) in school?

In elementary school? It was probably reading. I loved to read.

Who was your favorite (aka best) friend? What things did you do together?

Jeff. He still is my best friend. We spent a lot of time causing trouble. We made a lot of silly recordings on cassette, played video games, played with Star Wars figures, walked around the neighborhood, ate at Wendy’s, etc. It seemed like we were always together.

What was your favorite way to pass the time?

Reading or listening to music

What was your favorite holiday? How did you celebrate?

Christmas. We’d spend Christmas Eve at my dad’s folks and Christmas Day with my mom’s family.

What was your favorite toy or possession? Doll, camera, radio, bicycle?

I had a silver metal cap gun. It looked like a real cowboy gun. I used it when we played cops and robbers.

Bonus: What was your favorite adventure? Family trip, amusement park, field trip, or vacation perhaps.

I loved going to Caseville with our family, but our trips to Mackinaw and Kings Island stand out too.

Christmas 2021 Recap

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope that you had a Christmas full of wonderful memories! This Christmas was full of a lot of joy for us, but there were some things that left me sad. I will attempt to recap and keep it as happy as possible. Many of my Facebook friends have already seen these pictures, but that’s ok.

Thursday, December 23

After working the night before, I slept for a couple hours and went and picked up my son. His brother was working that night and was coming up after work so we could celebrate Christmas Eve Morning together.

My dad and Rose came over that afternoon. Neither had met AJ yet, so it was extra special to have them here. When then walked in, Ella ran to them SO excited. She was so happy to see them. She loves them both so much!!

There is something that is so amazing to me to see my dad hold his grandchildren. There is a special light in his eyes. There are almost tears. It is so special. He always kisses them gently on the head and talks to them.

Dad and AJ

Ella was all about Grandma Rose that night! Grandma made her a Mickey and Minnie blanket, which she just loves. One of my favorite pictures from that day is the two of them snuggled up on the chair with her blanket.

Ella and Grandma Rose

My Dad, being the silly guy that he is, heard Ella saying some of the alphabet. He immediately thought of “Violent is the Word for Curly,” the Three Stooges short which features the “Swingin’ the Alphabet” song.

B A Bay, B E Bee, B I Bicky By …

So Dad had to sing it to her …

Dad’s chart was a bit off….

I was glad to get the chance to visit with them, and I am glad that three of his four grandchildren were there for him to see. Papa and Rose were very good to all my kids!

Dad and me – wish the lighting had been a bit better

Dad and Rose left around 7, and Dante’ called about 8 to say he’d gotten off work and was on his way. I was exhausted and was actually on my way to bed when he called. He asked me to stay awake, so I did. He came in and gave he the biggest hug. We had some leftover pizza, so I told him to dig in and not stay up too late!

As I crawled in bed, my heart was full.

Christmas Eve

I’m sure the day is coming when the kids will be up at like 4am to open presents! We were blessed that they didn’t wake up until after 8am! I had to laugh, though, because ever since we put the tree up, there has been a gate around it. It served two purposes. First, it kept that cat out of the tree and second, it kept Ella from pulling on the ornaments and the lights.

When she woke up and came out the the living room, she walked over the the tree and saw all the presents under the tree – and no gate. She literally just stood there – not really sure what to make of things.

Ella – perplexed

After a few minutes, Sam said it was time to go in and wake up the boys. They were already going to be leaving earlier than I thought (so Dante’ didn’t have to drive in the dark), so we wanted to get things going. We told Ella to go in and wake them up.

She ran into their room yelling, “Wake up, Bruh! Wake up, Bruh!” It was quite funny to watch my older boys stir in bed … all they wanted to do was stay asleep. Dante’ asked to sleep for another 30 minutes. I told him, “You’re sister isn’t going to wait 30 minutes and wants to open presents!” Against their wishes, they crawled out of bed and joined us in the living room.

Last year, we had to help Ella open her gifts. She wasn’t quite where she understood how to do it yet. This year, however, she was able to jump right in and rip open her gifts!

Ella – wearing the very cute PJ’s that Sam’s dad got for her

It’s neat to see how the various kids react to Christmas now. Dante is 19, so he’s very laid back. Dimitri is 14 and it depends on what he’s opening as to how excited or how much emotion he shows. Ella, she’s excited for everything. Andrew has no clue as to what is happening.

The boys

The boys are SO hard to buy for. They never seem to have any real ideas for me. Dante’ is kind of at the “gift card/money” stage. He’s happy with those. Dimitri really liked this golf game I had for the Xbox, so I made sure to get it for him to play at home.

Par for the course …

Ella, being the helpful big sister, helped open up AJ’s presents.

AJ watching sissy open gifts for him

Of course, I had to put together Ella’s basketball hoop, so she could slam dunk a few before dinner.

Two points!

After a hearty breakfast, the boys went into their room and played games for a while. Knowing that they were going to be leaving early, I made sure that dinner was done early. Keeping with my family tradition, I made ravioli with my homemade sauce. I made sure to send a jar home with the boys, as Dante’ loves it.

Personal note: I used a bit too much wine this time. I felt that it was sweeter than normal.

About 3, the boys had to leave to go home to their mom. Ella was napping when they left. When she woke up, I picked her up out of her crib and as we passed the boy’s room, she said “Bruh”? “Bruh”? It ripped my heart out. All she wanted to do was see her brothers! Sadly, I don’t think they really know how much she loves them and how important they are to her. This was the saddest moment of the entire weekend for me.

A Christmas Eve tradition for Sam and I has always been to do the Drive Through Holiday Lights display at Crossroads Village. For $10 a car, you get to drive through and see the many Christmas lights that they have on display. When the kids are older, we plan on going and doing the Christmas train ride, which is truly amazing, but for now, we just drove through.

When we arrived, we got Ella out of her car seat and let her sit on Sam’s lap as we drove through. She was so excited. As we got close to the lights, she’s yell, “Here we go, Mommy! Here we go, Daddy!” It was so cute. Sam made the comment that she loves seeing things through Ella’s eyes. This is so true! We’ve been through there every year, but this year was so much more exciting because of Ella!

Sleigh ride!

We thought about driving downtown Flint, which has some great lights, too. We decided against it, as it was getting late and the kids were tired. We went through out bedtime routine and got the kids to bed just in time for me to play Santa. I had a few things to put together so that they were ready for they kids when they woke up Christmas morning.

Christmas Day 2021

Sam wanted to be in the living room so she could record Ella seeing her presents, so I got her out of bed and asked Sam if she was ready. She said she was, so I sent Ella running into the living room. The video is priceless. The smile on her face is something I will never forget. We got her one of those Little People Jungle Rainforest things. It came with animals and makes noises and everything. It is HUGE and takes up a good part of the living room.

Here’s the monkey!

AJ’s Santa gift was a very cool floor chair. It allows him to sit up while on the floor and it’s a lot better than those Bumpo seats.

Sitting pretty

I love that both kids had “Santa” jammies for Christmas morning. Sam and I actually got matching PJ bottoms to wear that morning, too. AJ was wide awake and just taking in all the sights. I love this picture of him and Sam. What I love about it is that just above Sam’s right shoulder is a picture of Ella on her lap and in this picture AJ is on her lap.

One of Ella’s favorite gifts was a Leap Frog Tea Party set. The pot talks and it came with cups and cake.

Must be good tea!

I joked many times about having tea parties with my daughter. I am excited to say that we’ve had our first already and I am looking forward to the next one!

Yummy!!

It was daddy’s turn to help AJ open gifts. So I grabbed his stuff and we opened them up. I was as surprised as he was! LOL. Sam got him a very cool “Floor time” pillow with lights, sounds, and more.

Wow!! What’s this, daddy?

It made him like floor time a lot more….

Mesmerized

Before we all showered and got dressed to visit Sam’s folks, we attempted to take a family selfie. We have a camera that I could have set up with a timer and all, but with my cell phone, I could snap 5-6 pictures in the time it would take to get one on the camera. Good thing we went with the cell phone – because it only took us about 57 tries before we finally got this one.

Merry Christmas!

Since it was AJ’s first Christmas, we had to be sure to get a picture with him in his “First Christmas” outfit. Sam came up with the silly saying on the board and it made me chuckle!

Got him smiling and everything!

After the kids napped, we went to Sam’s folks for Christmas dinner. Sam’s mom put out an amazing spread with turkey, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and so much more. I’m not sure why we didn’t get any pictures while we were there, and I am sad that we didn’t. We are so grateful for them and enjoyed family time together.

After we got home and got the kids in bed, Sam and I crawled into bed. Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought back over the many memories that were made and thanked God for the many blessings that He has given me. I am truly a lucky man.

December 26

Having the Christmas tree up was driving Sam crazy. Not because it was up, but because we literally had to move Ella’s toys out of that corner of the room. All of her toys were moved in front of the fireplace and it just seemed like we were always tripping over them. Long before Christmas, it was clear that on the 26th, the tree was coming down!

I spent the morning taking down ornaments, unstringing Christmas lights, folding up stockings, and putting them all downstairs until next year. Before I finished, there was one picture we had meant to get of Ella that we hadn’t gotten. So I hurried out to the garage and got the props ready before Ella and I walked the neighborhood. Here is the picture we had hoped to get earlier in the season ….

Hauling her Christmas tree

It’s back to work tonight for me, at least for a couple days. Looking back over this holiday weekend makes me smile. There are so many wonderful memories forever saved in snapshots that I will look back on often. Life is good. I am blessed.

Twas The Weekend Before Christmas …

Three more days until Christmas. I don’t even know where the time has gone, but the holiday is FAST approaching! This past weekend I was pretty busy, and at the same time there were plenty of wonderful family moments together.

After working four days and coming home, I feel like the kids have grown and are doing things that they weren’t just a day before. I’m not sure if it is the fact that he recognized my voice or my face, but AJ was smiling and babbling so much this weekend. Those baby smiles are exactly what I needed this weekend.

Saturday night, Ella and I were playing on the floor and Sam reminded me that I’d wanted to build a “fort.” So I pulled two chairs together and grabbed a comforter and tossed it over the chairs – instant “fort.” As a kid, I used to love when we’d sit in the fort and read books. Ella loved coming in … and going out. She was in and out and in and out. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to get her to stay still long enough to take a selfie…

This weekend we gave both kids a bath. Sam grabbed Ella and AJ’s bear PJ’s and gathered them up to read….

What book did we read first?? Well, of course, it had to be….

On Sunday, we placed a Meijer order for groceries. On Christmas Eve, it’s sort of been a tradition to have ravioli for dinner. Grandma always made them, and it is a tradition that I have tried to keep going. I refuse to use sauce in a jar for the holidays, so I made a list of everything I needed and spent the afternoon making sauce.

If you are new to this blog, let me explain. I have been trying to duplicate my grandma’s sauce for years. I have gotten close to doing so, and I have yet to master it. In doing so, I have kind of come up with my own sauce. I don’t tweak too much every time, because I don’t want to mess it up too much. This time around, there may be just a tad too much wine in it. Oh well….I will make a note of it and try again ….

While the sauce was cooking, Sam gathered up all the presents to wrap them as Ella took her afternoon nap. It’s always interesting to divide up the gifts. Ella and AJ will get TWO Christmases. We wake up Christmas Eve morning with my sons and open gifts, and then we wake up Christmas morning and open more. Sam bought some two sided wrapping paper from Sam’s Club. Being the smart woman that she is, she wrapped the gifts to open on Christmas Eve with one side and the Christmas Day gifts with the other side. She is brilliant!

After the sauce had simmered about 6 hours, Sam and I decided we’d take a short trip up to Frankenmuth to drive through town and look at Christmas lights. We put on the Christmas station, loaded the kids, and went for our drive. When the kids are a bit older, we want to go and just walk around town. We will definitely pile the kids into one of the horse drawn carriages and ride around town! For now, we just drove around.

We stopped at Bronner’s, which had all their lights outside lit up and it’s always neat to just drive through the parking lot. We weren’t the only ones who were doing it either. They have plenty of things around the parking lot that can be good for picture taking. I was afraid that Ella might run into the road/driveway that was by some of those, so instead, we went to a few that were well inside the lot. She loved it!

We had a feeling that winter time was going to drive Ella crazy! She loves to be outside. There is only so much that she can do in our house. We’ve been trying to limit her TV/Screen time, so she’s getting bored. Before I laid down for a nap before work, we grabbed her boots and coat and we went for a short walk around the neighborhood.

There is still a little bit of snow on the ground, but it will more than likely be gone by Christmas. We left without her gloves, so her hands got cold when she was picking up the snow. As we walked, she realized that we were at the house where her hound dog friend is usually outside during the summer. She kept asking where the doggy was, and I had to tell her it was probably too cold for her friend to be outside.

I was really surprised that she remembered the house!

When we got home, her hands and nose was a bit chilly, but she warmed up quick as mommy had lunch ready for her when we arrived.

There was a knock on the side door before I headed off to bed. The UPS man brought the kids a package from my brother. He had told me to watch for it. Inside were pajamas for AJ and a HUGE Daisy Duck stuffed animal for Ella. I had called him a week or so ago and told him that she was all about Daisy. She was so surprised when she saw it. I wish I had gotten pictures of her initial reaction. She had hands over her eyes and was so surprised. Then she grabbed it and hugged it!

It really was the cutest thing!!!

HA! I just looked at that picture and in it, you can totally see how I messed up hanging the stockings! Last year, we had 5 (Me, Sam, Dante’ Dimitri, and Ella). This year we added the small “My First Christmas” stocking for AJ. I use those 3M hooks to hang the socks. Somehow, I marked off 7 spots instead of 6, so there are three on one side of the fireplace and three on the other and a big space in the middle. URGH. I must have looked at it 5 times before I actually attached the hooks, but I never realized there were 7 spots! THAT is why I rarely build anything from scratch …

3 more days …. I’m looking forward to the holiday….

Inspired by Blogmas

A few blogs that I follow, started to talk about “Blogmas” a week or so ago. From what I can tell it is a list of 25-31 Blog post ideas. Sort of a daily writing prompt that are all Christmas related. I did a search for “Blogmas” and read through a few of them. The list seems to vary a bit, but mostly contains the same prompts. The idea is to blog about each of these prompts daily. Some of the lists stop at 25 (Christmas Day) and some end at day 31 (New Year’s Eve).

The ones I read yesterday were under the title “Christmas Tag.” In essence, you answer the 20 questions and then tag a blogger to answer the same. I won’t tag anyone at the end of this blog, since I am technically not officially committed to “Blogmas,” but I liked some of the questions on the list and thought they would make for good reading (even though I may have answered a question or two in more detail in past blogs). So here goes:

  1. When do you start getting excited for Christmas? I would say that I probably start getting in the Christmas mood right after Halloween. Many radio stations begin playing Christmas music then. I could listen to Christmas music any time of the year, but hearing it on the radio starts to get me excited for the season.
  2. Is Christmas your favorite holiday? I would say yes. I have so many wonderful memories of past Christmases. I love that people’s attitudes tend to be happier during the Christmas season. There just seems to be a lot more joy around Christmas.
  3. Do you prefer to stay at home or travel for the holidays? I guess I prefer to stay home – or close to home – for the holidays. When I read the question, travel seems to insinuate going out of state or a lengthy trip. Most of my family is within a 60-90 minute drive, so that really doesn’t seem like travel to me.
  4. Be honest: do you prefer giving or receiving gifts? Definitely giving. I love to see the look on a person’s face when they receive a gift from me. I wouldn’t consider myself the best gift giver (trying to buy anything for my wife is SO difficult). I like to have some sort of idea of what a person wants before I shop for them. As far as receiving gifts – I never really feel comfortable when someone buys me something.
  5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve? I have every year since I was a kid. We always went to my grandma’s house for Christmas Eve and opened all our gifts. During my first marriage, we always let my sons open one gift on Christmas Eve (usually Christmas pajamas). Today, my sons come over the day before Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve morning is our “Christmas.” They spend Christmas morning with their mom. My daughter and my son will have some gifts to open Christmas Eve morning with their brothers and then more for Christmas morning.
  6. Have you ever built a snowman? Yes. Quite a few actually. I remember loving when the snow was “good packing” and you could build snowmen and snow forts. Just recently, my daughter and I started a snowman, but she was so excited to play in the snow, he was never finished. Can’t wait for our next opportunity to build one.
  7. Do you decorate the outside of your home for Christmas? Yes. Usually the front and side porches. It is by no means the best on the block, but I’m happy with it. One day I hope to be courageous enough to climb up on the roof and do more. For now, I’m happy with it.
  8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake? Fake. In all my years, we’ve never had a real tree. I enjoy them when they are at someone else’s house, though. I enjoy the smell of the pine tree. I am not sure that if we ever got a real tree that I’d be comfortable with it. You know, fire hazzards, bugs or animals possibly still being in them, the fact that you have to water it each day, and stepping on pine needles for months after….
  9. Most memorable holiday moment? How does one even begin to answer this question?! I have so many from childhood, and now even more with each of my children. I just couldn’t narrow it down to one.
  10. What do you like to do over Christmas break? What break?! I have a couple days off and work the rest of the days in between. I wish that I could stockpile vacation time up so I could actually take more time off during the holidays so I could spend it with family.
  11. Which holiday traditions are you most looking forward to this year? One thing that I have come to really look forward to is driving through the Holiday lights display at Crossroads Village on Christmas Eve night. It doesn’t change too much every year, but I always love going through and seeing the lights.
  12. Best Christmas gift you’ve ever received? Urgh – again, very difficult to chose one. Maybe it was the Atari 2600. It also could be the cribbage board my grandpa gave me. Or it could be the gold trumpet charm from my mom. Stretch Armstrong? I just can’t narrow it down.
  13. What is your all-time favorite holiday treat? Toss up between Pignolata (loved when my grandma made this!) or cannoli. Both were staples at Christmas time (along with many many Christmas cookies).
  14. Your favorite Christmas movie? I would say A Christmas Story or any version of A Christmas Carol. (Christmas Vacation could easily be in there, too!)
  15. Your favorite Christmas song? Man, all of these “favorite” questions are just to difficult! Dean Martin’s Marshmallow World is a definite favorite! Santa Claus is Back in Town from Elvis, Mel Torme’ The Christmas Song, Doc Severinsen’s Jingle Bells, the list goes on and on!
  16. What makes the holidays special for you? Family! Spending time with my family is all that matters! Sharing those special moments with them is everything!
  17. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season? I’ve never really been away for the holidays, but I know some places go all out. Disney, Branson, and so many other places really have some amazing things going on. Maybe one day we’ll be able to check them out.
  18. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you stick to them? I used to. I don’t really any more. I shouldn’t need a new year to want to make changes in my life. For many years, I would make them and would fail miserably at them.
  19. You have been granted one Christmas wish, what will it be? I would wish to make a difference. Included in the wish, I would wish to be a role model for my children, a good friend, a good husband, and a man whose faith helped lead others to the Lord.
  20. Who’s “it?” At this point on the list you are supposed to pick someone to answer the same questions. If you are so inclined, you may do so. If not, I hope you enjoyed my answers.

Christmas “Recycling” Project

It’s hard to believe that next month, this blog will celebrate it’s fourth “birthday!” As we enter the month of December, I am filled with nostalgia. My thoughts turn to Christmas and the many wonderful memories I have of past December days. In over 500 blogs, the subject of Christmas has come up more than once.

When I worked in radio, I had folders where I stashed bits and jokes that I could recycle or reuse the following year. In a sense, that is what I am doing with this blog. Recently, I have received many new followers who may have missed these the first time they were published. So here is a “Best of” blog with links to some of my favorite Christmas themed blogs.

A Christmas Carol

Scrooge and Mrs. Kellogg

Christmas Character Rankings

Who sits at the top of my list of Favorite Holiday Special Characters? He’s a chilly guy …

Channel Changing Holiday Songs

This list is still pretty accurate a few years later …

A Letter to Old St. Nick

One of my most powerful blogs. I still am moved by what I wrote.

Christmas Eve at Grandma’s

I have SO many wonderful memories of Christmas Eve! I miss my grandparents so much!

Christmas Tree in Pictures

In looking through pictures, there are so many with trees from over the years …

The Miser Brothers!

One of the blogs I wrote that always gets a lot of views this time of year is one I wrote on my favorite Christmas special…

A Major Award!

For the same blog-a-thon I wrote about Ralphie and his old man!

Holiday Alphabet

This blog would be a little different if I wrote it today …

Holiday Rodents

Everyone knows the ONE Chipmunk song they always play, but I feature a different one here…

Last Christmas was a First Christmas

Last year’s Christmas memories. Ella’s first Christmas!

Some blogger friends are participating in “Blogmas” which features a different Christmas themed blog daily all month long. I’m not sure I could do that, but it was heartwarming for me to go back and reread these and I hope you enjoy them, too!

Covid Christmas Memories

I think you would agree that Christmas was a lot different this year!  In a way, it was sad because it was Ella’s first Christmas and it should have been spent visiting grandparents and family.  Thank goodness for video chats!

My dad met me at my work the Monday before Christmas and brought all the gifts for the kids.  I loaded them up in the car and brought them home after work and placed them under the tree.

I was lucky to have both my sons over for Christmas Eve.  I picked up Dimitri on the 23rd and brought him to my house.  Dante’ had to work, so he drove up after work.  They spent the night, so Christmas Eve morning was our Christmas.

My brothers are still sleeping, so I’m here to inspect all the presents!

Naturally, Ella was up before anyone else.  Dante’ and Dimitri were up late.  Dimitri was up about 9, and he woke Dante’ up for presents.  Lol – he was exhausted.  At home, normally he isn’t up until after noon!  He literally opened presents and went back to sleep!

Dimitri nabbed a cool gaming chair and new bed, while Dante’ was loaded up with gift cards.  We video chatted with my dad as they opened their gifts from him, so we didn’t get any pictures of them opening his stuff.

The aftermath!

Ella made out pretty good!  My dad bought her this cute little princess tent! 

She absolutely loves playing in it!

It’s like her own club house!

She got to open one of our presents to her that day…it’s the cutest puppy that she can bounce and spin on.

Later that day, Sam’s mom dropped off the gifts for Ella and the boys.  The boys got some amazing Nike hoodie sweatshirts and Ella got a Minnie Mouse car that she can ride on or walk with.

It makes all kinds of noise!  Each button makes a different sound and the horn has like 4 or 5 different horns.  I’m sure in a month or two I will pull the batteries out!

The greatest thing about Christmas Eve was spending it with some of the greatest gifts God ever gave me: Sam and my kids!

The boys went home Christmas Eve evening so they could be with their mom Christmas morning. After Ella went to bed, I got to work putting Dimitri’s bed together and building Ella’s big gift from us.

With all the time we are spending indoors, we wanted to get her something we could play with inside and eventually outside.  We bought her this really cool swing and slide.

She loves to swing! She loves to go down the slide, too!  It’s funny that she’s already doing things her way!  She wants to climb up the wrong way!

One of my closest friends, Margaret, had asked if Ella had a toy box.  She ordered the perfect one and hand delivered it last weekend.  It’s also a fainting couch!  Lol.

Our little princess was right at home with it….

As different as the holiday was, it was still full of good memories!  I hope you and your family had a blessed holiday season.  Happy New Year!

Whoop! Deer it is!!

Oh Christmas Tree …

IMG_20191109_200242055

Happy December to you! Maybe it is because Thanksgiving was so late this year, but it is hard to believe that we are less than a month from Christmas! The reality of that sunk in this weekend as I did a couple shifts at Cars 108 and we are playing all Christmas music.

One song always really sticks out to me each Christmas, mainly because it really isn’t a Christmas song – Linus & Lucy (AKA the Charlie Brown theme) from the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun song that immediately makes be think of Charlie Brown and the gang, but it is a song that is used in basically every Charlie Brown special. Personally, the soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas special is one of my favorites.

O Tannenbaum is the instrumental that kicks off the album. Many know the song as simply “Oh Christmas Tree”. (In case you were wondering, a tannenbaum is a fir tree). It’s one of my favorite versions of the song. I had the chance to hear it over the weekend and it got me to thinking about the Christmas Tree. I recently had the chance to go through a bunch of family pictures and I was surprised at how many of them included the Christmas tree. This blog is sort of a “pictorial” blog featuring some of those pictures.

As I looked through the pictures, it was fun to see the various decorations and the toys under the tree. Bear with me, as some of the years I am guessing on …

chistmas51

The above picture is of my dad in 1951. He would be 5 here. As I look at this picture, I see a little of me, my brother, and my oldest son in my dad.

mom young

The above picture is my mom. Just a guess, but this is probably from 1953 or 1954, as she looks 5-6 years old here. Tinsel seemed to be really big in the 50’s! Wonder what that “Little Painter” set is worth today….

On Leave

The above picture is my dad, home on leave from Vietnam. The date is 1967. I really have no idea what that tree is made of. Eventually, my grandma had a ceramic tree that my mom made that stood about that high that she put there in the window. This one looks … fluffy. There are pictures of my dad with both his mom and his dad next to this tree too.

My folks told me that the local paper used to put names and addresses of servicemen who were overseas in the paper for people to send letters. Both of my parents were from the same city and my mom sent my dad letters. With letters, occasional pictures were sent back and forth, too.

mom at tree

I think the above picture is one my mom sent to my dad. I am not sure. I am not sure because I don’t know where this was taken. It would seem to me that this would be a picture that she would send to my dad overseas. At any rate, some things stand out, though. Note the “sunbust” clock on the wall – I know my grandma had one of those. Also, note the cool Hi-Fi with the ceramic cat on it. This was a record player and radio. It probably also played 8 track tapes and stored records. I know my dad, and my grandpa had one of them, so again, not sure when this is.

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I know for a fact that this was taken at my grandma’s house. I know this because of the fireplace and the huge wooden fork and spoon on the wall behind the TV. In my lifetime, I don’t recall my grandparents ever putting a tree on the TV, so I am guessing this is before I came around.

I was born in May of 1970. I was 7 months old for my first Christmas. I am thankful that my folks took lots of pictures. A few of my favorites all come from 1970, all for different reasons.

Great Grandpa Becker 1970 (2)

The above picture is my and my great-grandpa. He passed away shortly after this. It is the only picture I have of him and I.

1970q (2)

I am not 100%, but I believe this picture was taken in my mom and dad’s apartment. My dad can correct me if I am wrong. I remember that stuffed Bugs Bunny to my right very well.

young bowler

I am pretty sure that this is at my grandma and grandpa’s house. What I love about this picture is a little foreshadowing. One of my favorite sports to participate in is bowling. I love that I am propped up next to a balling ball bag in this picture.

7 mos with Mom (2)

This is absolutely one of my favorite pictures of my mom and me. It was taken at my grandparents house, probably Christmas Eve. I love this picture so much, because it reminds me of another … which I will share in a few pictures.

pam keith sam christmas 1970

The above is obviously from the same year. This time, I am with mom and dad. My grandma always kept her house hot, so mom took off her vest. Dad, who is ALWAYS hot, must not have felt it was too warm, because his is still on here.

GRANDPA PIZZO C (2)

One more from the same year (and you won’t have to look at that brown bowling ball bag anymore!), here is my and my grandpa. I always loved this picture of us. I was his first grandchild, and you can see just how happy he is here.

Grandpa and Grandma Davidson Christmas 1970 (2)

These are my mom’s parents – Grandma and Grandpa D. The date on the picture says 1970, but another scan from my brother says 1967. Not really sure. It could easily be 1970, though. It is one of my favorites of them. The tree is in the corner where my grandpa’s recliner used to always be.

Jodi and Keith Christmas 1972

The date on the above picture is October of 72, which means I am 1 here. This is at Grandma D’s house. That is my Aunt Jodi holding the bear. Note in the background, another Hi-Fi. My grandpa used to have big band records I used to listen to on it.

1975

The above picture was taken at our old house on Brandywine. I am about 4 here and my brother is probably just 2. The thing that stands out in this picture is the ornaments on the tree. See those diamond crocheted things? Yeah, my mom made them. She had many hobbies (I have an entire blog ready about her various hobbies through the years) and this particular year, she was crocheting everything! I remember a maroon vest that she made for me! At any rate, those ornaments were two squares, with a piece of an egg carton in the middle, and a tail hanging down. I am sure she made these for many people. I remember seeing them on other family members Christmas trees, too.

big bird

A year later, same house, and same ornaments! You can see them a little better in this picture! I am probably 5 here, while my brother is 3. This would be the last Christmas at this house, as we moved the following year. A couple things (besides the ornaments) stand out in the picture. First, there is the organ I used to play, and mentioned in the blog about my music lessons. Next, I remember the Ernie and Big Bird stuffed animals! Then there is that picture above the organ – it’s two horses. I think everyone in my family had that picture!! Finally, and this should get my wife’s OCD going, note that I am wearing the pants from one pair of PJs and the shirt from another in this picture! Good Lord!!!

Mom, Chris, & Keith Xmas 79

The picture above has to be from 1977. My grandma bought us each a set of Star Wars figures that year. I think there were like 20 issued the first year. I remember my grandma having trouble finding the Jawa figures! This picture would have been Christmas morning, and we had gotten the figures the night before at grandma’s. If I remember right, we had the big Han Solo and Jawa dolls (pictured here) and Boba Fett and Princess Leia, too. What I love most about this picture is that my mom is in it wearing this yellow robe. I have written about her yellow robe in previous blogs. She wore this thing SO much that it was stained and had tears and holes in it. She loved this robe. Eventually we bought her a new one for Christmas one year and she wore that. We assumed that she threw this one away, but after she passed away, we found it in the back of the closet! I have a “memory bear” made out of this robe.

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The above has to be from 1978. If you can look past my brother’s golf pants and my wacky shirt, you will see a Tie Fighter and X-Wing Fighter. You can see the tree set up on the TV, but cannot really see the amazing display on my grandma’s mantel. Every year, she put up angels, Santa, reindeer, trees, snow and more. There was one piece that always stood out – a little mouse that was in a flower arrangement that I sent her when she was in the hospital. She put that up every year!

Keith Doctor Doctor game

It obviously took my folks awhile to develop film! This is from Christmas of 78, and was not developed until August of 79! First, I love how skinny I am in this picture! Second, I remember having the sliding wooden doors that covered the doorwall. I also remember the bad paneling in the living room! I can see the Polaroid camera on the TV, the candy jar, and the glass candle sticks that my mom had. I wish I could make out more of the presents under the tree, but I remember really wanting this game. I also remember that star on the tree. It was made of hard plastic and the ends were very sharp! It could probably be used as a weapon!!

Grandma and Grandpa Xmas 79

The above picture is of my dad’s folks, my Grandma and Grandpa P. This was in 1979 – I remember that was the year that everyone was taking Polaroids! At family gatherings, everyone took pictures and wrote their last name on the bottom, so they knew what pictures belonged to what family! A couple things I notice right away: The tree topper, I never understood just what the hell it was! It wasn’t a star, it was just this spaceship shaped thing that lit up! I remember the musical angels on the wall. They moved from room to room as I recall. Grandma’s beehive hair! She wore it this way for SO long!! I also notice the pack of cigarettes in my grandpa’s pocket – you could bet they were either Lucky Strikes or Pall Malls. It looks like he is wearing a bracelet in this picture. I don’t remember him wearing one, but he did here. Just love this picture!!

cousins

The above is from 1980. This is my brother and me, with my cousins Arin and Melissa. This is at my Grandma and Grandpa D’s. A couple thoughts on this one – I am holding the very cool Coleco Head to Head Baseball game which I loved! I do not remember that bear I am holding! This is probably the year that my grandpa bought me my cribbage board, too! What is sad about this picture, is knowing that my grandpa would pass away in less than a year after this picture was taken.

mom dante

Jumping many years ahead now for the above picture. Remember the picture of my mom and me by the tree? It reminds me of this picture. Here is my mom and Dante’. This may not have been her last Christmas, I think Dante is 2 here. She loved him so much and I see the same joy in her smile here as I do in the picture of her holding me.

boys at trailer

The above picture is about a year or so before my divorce. I just love this picture because these two guys (no matter how much they may fight) really love each other. This was such a spontaneous picture and it remains one of my favorites of the boys!

boys last year

The above picture is from last Christmas Eve morning. Christmas Eve was always bigger than Christmas on my dad’s side of the family. The fact that I get the boys every Christmas Eve Morning to open up gifts is so special to me. I cannot wait until they can celebrate it with their sister. They are going to be such great brothers to her.

cats

The above picture is from 2018 (on the right) and 2017 (on the left). When we first got Moe (left) he got up in the tree! When Maizey came along last year, the fact that she was almost in the same exact spot as Moe the year before made me laugh. So I put together this comparison picture. It still makes me laugh!!

sam at tree

This picture (along with the song I mentioned earlier) was the reason for this blog. As I mentioned, so many favorite pictures involve the Christmas tree. I took this picture of Sam just the other night. It was her idea. The silhouette of her baby bump against the lights of the Christmas tree is just beautiful!! I posted it on Facebook (she did, too) and mention how I cannot stop looking at it!

The reason is that it brings about so many feelings: Feelings of love for my beautiful wife. Feelings of joy and nostalgia – because it is Christmastime and the Christmas Tree. Feelings of excitement and anticipation – because the baby will be here soon. Feelings of happiness – because the picture brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

In the years ahead, I hope that more and more wonderful pictures will be captured near the Christmas tree … so I can reflect on them, too!

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Voices of the Past

This weekend, I DJ’d homecoming dance.  For high schools, all my new music is on a hard drive and I play it from the computer.  When I do weddings or parties, I still bring some CDs.  Recently, I have been going through boxes of CDs in hopes of putting what I don’t have on my hard drive, on the drive.

While most of my CDs are professional ones containing albums and music, I have some homemade CDs of things that I have burned to CD from various places I have worked.  I found 2 CDs marked “B95 Stuff” and “More B95 Stuff” in a box and took them with me to listen to in the car.  I was unsure if these CDs were data or audio CDs.  When I popped them in the CD player, I was happy to find they contained audio clips.

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Most of the audio was phone calls from listeners.  I used to do an “impossible question” every day for prizes and there were many phoners of listeners guessing the answer.  One of my favorite calls was on the first disc.  A woman caller simply asked, “Yes, is the answer poop?  Going poop!?”  Like the word poop wasn’t enough … she had to explain “going poop”!  There were also many requests, as I did a request lunch show.

I also found some interviews with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tim Rushlow from Little Texas, and Terri Clark.  Some of the phoners were just silly things, I used to have listeners say things like “Keith Allen?  They let him out on parole?” or “I love every thing about this station, but Keith Allen!” or “Keith Allen?  Turn that radio off!”  There were a couple calls that took me by surprise.

Call #1

The first one was hearing a call with my friend, Marie.  If you read my previous blog, Marie was my friend who just passed away last week.

That blog is here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/09/21/time-life-death-ripples/

There were actually 2 calls from her on that disc.  One of them she wins a contest I was doing, and another she called to talk about watching Trace Adkins rear end when he was in concert.  (There were other females who called to talk about his butt, as well.)

She was one of those friends who would do anything for you.  When my oldest son was born, she had this beautiful blanket made with his name on it and also had a small photo album made with an engraved nameplate.  When my youngest was born, she bought him one of my favorite outfits.  I spoke with her just a few days before she passed and she was asking what we needed for the baby.  She was always doing things for her friends.  While it was nice to hear us joking around about Trace’s butt on the CD, it was sad to remember that she has just passed away.  Her funeral is Wednesday.

Call #2

The second call was one from my friend Pat.  I always called her Pat, but I think most people called her Trish.  I also met Pat while at B95.  She was forever trying to win prizes.  She always came up to our remote broadcasts and talked with us.  She was a HUGE fan of the band Alabama.  She used to call up and say that she was lead singer, Randy Owen’s wife.  I used to kid her and ask is his wife knew about that!  She and I had a lot in common, and became good friends.  She was a huge Elvis fan and we often talked about him and his music.  I remember how excited she was when she told me she was going to Graceland.  I had been there while in Memphis for a St. Jude visit, and I told her how much she was going to love it.

The first time Pat won a prize from me she was SO excited.  “I won?!  OH MY GOD!!  WE DID IT!  WE WON!!!  THIS IS AMAZING!!!  (Laughter) I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!”  It was such a great response that I used to use that call as my “stunt winner”.  If we ever had someone win a prize who was not excited about it, I’d say “Bring in the stunt winner” and play Pat’s call!  The call on the CD was when she won some hockey tickets and she kept saying how much her boys were going to love it.  She passed away suddenly in 2014, leaving behind her four boys and a granddaughter who she spoke of so often.    She was such a wonderful person and we shared many laughs together.

Call #3

The third call that got me was a call I made to my grandma.  Phone calls from my grandma were a staple on the show.  I used to call her every Christmas Eve (if I worked on the holiday) or the day before.  Christmas Eve was ALWAYS at her house – I wrote a blog about it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/12/24/the-ghost-of-christmas-eve-past-and-yet-to-come/

The phone call would consist of me asking grandma what was for dinner.  She would go on to talk about homemade ravioli, breaded steak and ammoglio (pronounced moy-gyoo) sauce, the many varieties of cookies, cakes, and cannoli, and the other items featured in the Christmas Eve Feast.  This call, however, was NOT about Christmas Eve, which is what made it even more special.

This call actually helps me date the CDs.  This call was made July 24, 2001.  How do I know this?  I was calling grandma to wish her Happy Birthday.  During the call she offers up without hesitation that she is 77.  She goes on to talk about how my dad was razzing her about something and then asks when I am coming over.  She then went on to tell me how I needed to come see her “while my eyes are still open” because “I’m not going to be around much longer” as she often said.

It was emotional to hear her voice.  She was sharp as a tack for so long.  She was your stereotypical strong willed Italian woman.  Knowing that shortly after that call, she would develop dementia was sad.  She passed away in 2007, at age 83.  Hearing her say “I love you” one more time on the phone – was priceless.

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A Recovered Memory

I must have been doing a phone topic about teddy bears.  There was probably a story about people sleeping with Teddy Bears or something, which led me to ask “Who still sleeps with a Teddy Bear?” or “Who still has their Teddy Bear from their childhood?”.  The calls were about bears and toys that they had growing up.  I don’t remember what the caller is talking about, but I respond about something I had growing up that I had totally forgotten about.  This has a tie-in to my grandma, who I just mentioned.

It is funny how you can forget about things.  I will forever remember a Teddy Bear that I had when I was little.  I had it with me in the hospital when I had my tonsils out at 3 years old.  The thing I had forgotten about is something I probably had around 5-7 years old.  It was a hand puppet of Ernie from Sesame Street.  Today, PBS has tons of kid shows.  As I remember, Sesame Street, The Electric Company and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood were pretty much it on PBS.  On CBC there was Mr. Dress-up and The Friendly Giant, but that was it. Sesame Street was my “go to” show.  I think somewhere there is a picture of me with Ernie and Bert slippers!

What do I remember most about this Ernie puppet?  First, the head was not felt like the real Muppet.  It was a hard rubber/plastic.  This helped when you went to make him talk.  I guess I took him everywhere.  I remember I’d bring him over to my grandma’s house and she would tease me.  She’d put a lit cigarette in Ernie’s mouth and make him smoke.  I hated that!  “Ernie doesn’t smoke, grandma!  That’s bad for you!”  Grandma never said his name right.  She always called him “Arnie”.  I remember her telling me when I was older that when my brother and I stayed overnight there I used to make her kiss Ernie goodnight!  “I had to kiss that dirty old Arnie!”  I literally just chuckled out loud as I wrote that because I can hear her saying it!

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In Conclusion

I have CDs of my Honey Radio shows with my partner, Rob (https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/04/26/get-a-load-of-this-guy/), which I listen to often.  I still laugh along with them.  He always made me laugh.  While I am sad that he has passed away, I think he’d be happy to know that I still listen to those shows and they are still funny 25 years later!

I’m glad that I decided to pop those CDs in and give them a listen.  Much like the CDs of Rob and me, these also made me chuckle, but also made me sad.  At the same time, they are a reminder of good friends and family, who continue to make ripples (see previous blog) long after they have gone.

 

 

 

The Ghost of Christmas Eve Past (and Yet To Come)

Grandma and Grandpa E (2)

For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve was always spent with Grandma and Grandpa P. when we were kids.  I don’t necessarily know that there was any particular reason for this, I only know that from a very young age, this was the tradition. I also remember that dreaming of a White Christmas was hardly ever necessary.  If my memory serves me right, as a kid, there was maybe one or two Christmases that were we didn’t have snow.

The excitement for Christmas Eve was a bit different from Christmas Day.  Grandma and Grandpa always seemed to ask for our Christmas list early …. like July early!  She obviously planned ahead and shopped throughout the year, which must have saved her a ton of hassles finding things.  We usually were dressed and ready to go to Grandma’s house by 2 or 3pm. We would leave knowing at least one thing we were getting – a winter coat.  She got us one every year (which we hated, because she’d take us out shopping for it as early as October!).

Christmas Jackets

Christmas Eve dinner was always the same with very little variance.  Ravioli was the main dish.  There would be a feast that included breaded steak, sausage or meatballs, dinner rolls, and just about every other things you could imagine. Grandma prided herself on being able to make dinner that could feed an army! Grandma always made her Ammoghio (pronounced Moy-Gyoo) sauce to go on top of the steak.  This was made up of olive oil, tomatoes, some seasonings and a WHOLE LOT of garlic!  I never ate it as a kid, but as an adult – I love it!  Everyone who ate it smelled like garlic for like a week!

Amogue

There was always a dish with olives (green and black), sweet pickles, and veggies.  You would also find a big bowl with pistachios, and another one filled with nuts of all kinds.  The nuts were still in the shells, so you had to crack them open with the old silver nutcracker that was probably older than my grandma!  I can’t remember, but I think there was also a bowl or two of M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses out to snack on, too.

For dessert – there were ALWAYS cannoli! Early on I think she made them from scratch (I may have her recipe somewhere), but I really remember her getting them from the Italian bakery.  There were also always plenty of cookies!  Grandma spent days baking them and by the time she was done, I think she had like 400 dozen!  She used to store them in these big tin cans that Better Made Potato Chips used to come it.  She always made chocolate chip for me, oatmeal for my brother, cut out sugar cookies and these little ice box cookies that none of us ate … well, I can’t say that … we fed them to the dogs and they seemed to like them a lot!

I recall the year that my grandmother bought my brother and I every Star Wars Figure that was out.  There were one or two that were very difficult to find, but she found them.  We each got a set!  Then there was the year she bought us the Atari 2600!  This was long before the fantastic graphics of Play Station or X-Box.  The games on this thing were very primitive as far as graphics went!  Oh, the hours I spent playing Sea Hunt, Pac-Man, and Pitfall!!  Even after all of the gifts were open, there was always an envelope for us.  For many years there would be a crisp $100 bill in it.  $100 was a LOT of money and I was always amazed at how new the bill was – it was almost like she had printed it herself!

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One Christmas Eve I remember particularly well.  Unlike previous years, when we came in the house, we were ushered immediately downstairs.  Usually, we went into the sun porch off the back of her house, where tables would be set for dinner and food would be out.  This year, dinner was in the basement.  We hardly EVER went in the basement, so I wasn’t sure what was happening.  In the middle of dinner, we heard a noise from upstairs.  Someone was walking (actually stomping, I think) around upstairs.  I think she had my great Uncle Ralph some in and do it.  My grandma said that Santa was probably up there leaving presents.  It was well before midnight, and you know how kids are – we knew that Santa came at midnight and we questioned it.  Grandma said she had called and “made special arrangements with Santa”.  Looking back on it now, I can totally see Grandma like Don Corleone of the Godfather making “special arrangements” with Santa!  At any rate, soon after the noise was gone, we were allowed to go upstairs and into the porch.  I am sure I am over exaggerating when I say that the porch looked like Toys R Us!  It was loaded with presents and a bike for both my bother and me.  I don’t even know how we got the presents home!

After dinner and presents, my brother and I would go watch movies, play the video games, or with our toys, while the adults went back into the porch to smoke and play cards.  Pinochle was what they usually played, although I seem to remember one year they also played gin rummy.  Depending on the people who were present, sometimes dad will play his guitar, Uncle Sam would play his accordion, or grandma would sit on the old Hammond organ and sing songs and play. Grandma played by ear and had no sense of tempo (or time signature for you musical folks), so she was either hitting wrong notes or playing ahead or behind everyone else.  From a child’s perspective, the music wasn’t very good, so my brother and I would go to another room.

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When I had finally learned how to play pinochle, I was a welcome addition to the card table.  My dad played, but he was usually done after a few games, so I gradually took his place as a “regular” at the table.  I LOVED this!  We could play forever!  Grandpa and mom were always partners.  He would often over bid my mom because he thought he had a good hand, then they would lose the hand.  They would get so mad at each other.

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I remember before I started playing, they would play cards until well after midnight.  My brother and I would be struggling to stay awake, our job was to remind mom and dad of how late it was getting – God forbid Santa not come because we weren’t home and in bed! Dad would constantly remind us that he paid for Santa to bring toys, and Santa would “circle the house” until we were home and in bed before delivering the toys.

When I began working in radio, it seemed that I was always on the air on Christmas Eve.  One of the “on air” traditions that I started was to call grandma and ask her how the preparations for dinner were coming. She would go into detail about what was on the menu and what time dinner was.  She would often razz me on the air and warned me not to be late.  She was an instant hit.  It was amazing how many people would call and ask if I was gonna check in with Grandma!

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Over the years, the faces of Christmas Eve changed.  Some years there were more relatives than others.  Aunt Rose became a staple after Uncle Sam passed away.  After Grandpa passed away, friends of the family often came by and the pinochle games continued.  As the years passed, there seemed to be more reflecting on Christmas Eves of the past with laughter and sadness.

Over the last few years, Christmas and Christmas Eve has undergone many more changes.  While many of the voices of Christmas Eve have been silenced, those wonderful memories warm my heart.  I look back at the memories fondly, and I also look forward to the new memories that will be made.  This year, my two amazing sons will be with us Christmas Eve morning to open presents with us.  They are older, but still full of excitement.  When they saw the gifts under the tree their reactions were typical for their age.  Dimitri, 11, saw the big box and said “Whoa, is that for us?”, while Dante’, 16, said “Is this all of the presents, or will there be more?”

I sit writing this as everyone in the house is still asleep.  Sam and I have joked around at what is in the big box under the tree more than once.  The camera is ready to capture the moments from this Christmas Eve, ready to provide them both with memories to look back on themselves in years to come.  I hope that someday, they will look back at Christmas Eve as one of their favorite holidays, just like I do.

Mom Dad Keith and Chris 1980