I was getting all excited, December 3rd, then December 4th, 5th, and 6th. It’s time to decorate. I like to have the decorations up for December 7th, my little sister’s birthday. Diane’s birthday was always the start of my childhood’s Christmas season. I guess I kept it like that all those years up till that first Christmas that I was alone, in that Kings Hwy house, with my three little ones. I was still in mourning.
It was Michael’s surprise visit home that saved Christmas. He arrived one morning in a snowstorm. The schools were closed, so the kids and I were home when he came to the door. My boy didn’t tell me he was going to be home, on leave for Christmas.
Although the house was always decorated for Diane’s birthday, it wasn’t Christmas until my father on his way home from work, had stopped in Astoria to pick up my Baba and Nono. That would be the night I’d stay up late, waiting. Baba and Nono would come in with bags and bags and pots, and pots. Nono would carry in a gallon of vino, and our house would be filled with love and laughter.
We would listen to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” album. Eat Baba’s frita, daddy would teasingly call these fruit and nut donuts grease balls, and her cristolini the sugar powdered cookies that meant birth and would mean Christmas. In the morning we would eat pugatsa: a sweet bread that was yellow and taller than any loaf you’d see. I miss those Christmas visits those flavors and sweet smells all mixed up with Christmas tree.
It was Baba I still mourned all those years later. It wasn’t my marriage, the loss of my mother, the estranged relationship with my father, the invasion of our country, or the fear for my son’s life serving in wartime. Some losses are harder than others.