My Favorite Things …

This is the last of Christmas for 2015 … a short list of my favorite things for the holidays and woven  into this are more of the songs and movies we have  all come to know and love.

My Favorite Christmas as a mom …

The little one will tell you it just ain’t fair. He came along first. So every “first” of his was like the culmination of all things grand in the universe. Ain’t so, little one. You were the first girl, and when I gave birth to you, I gave birth to my best friend.

Still, he did come first and he came during this time and I always associate every Christmas morning with him. My first-born … my son: Born at exactly 8:35PM on December 19, 1969.

We brought him home two days later and put him under the Christmas tree. What a Christmas present!

Happy Birthday, Michael Paul Cronin

My favorite place to be this time of year …

As if any of you don’t know the answer to this one … New York City!

My favorite Christmas Song …

Okay, so I am cheating with this one … but it truly is the best of the best.

Of the 57 varieties of Christmas songs I love … Nat King Cole’s, The Christmas Song, tops the list …

My favorite activity the last week

Entertaining …

Obviously, I do not have the self-discipline to control this ‘Rockin Christmas list … because I also love baking cookies, wrapping presents, visiting friends, arguing with the kids, sending out those last minute cards and of course, since I’m Italian … I round out the list with eating everything Italian … or Chinese take-out on a few rare occasions.

My favorite Christmas movie …

I watch at least seventeen of them every year like a compulsive ritual. But Santa and all his elves, and every angel in heaven knows … my all time favorite will always be … It’s a Wonderful Life.

My Favorite Christmas Present of all time …

A pair of roller skates from the big guy. The best presents were always from the big guy.

For each of them … them being the original four: my mother, father and two older brothers … there is a Christmas song that stirs my memory and calls up the ghosts of Christmas past.

For my dad, it is always Perry Como, singing There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays. It’s fruit bowls and Christmas trees, and my father as the biggest kid in the house at least one day a year. For my mother it’s White Christmas, because we were together at the Music Hall the first time I heard it.

The year I turned twelve the middle one left home. Each Christmas since, one song has both haunted and given me joy. Some years he would come home with a flourish and a fanfare, other years he was merely a voice on the phone. Yes, the song for the middle one will always be: I’ll Be Home For Christmas. 

For the big one? What can I say about the big one? Grown up now and the big guy of his own brood.

I don’t have a song for the big guy. The song master of the house, the musician extraordinaire and I have no song for him … unless you count the hundreds of times he did Five Feet Two while he learned to play the guitar.

However, there is a movie that came out when we were all grown that reminds me of the big one.

A Christmas Story. I hear him when Darren McGavin fights with the furnace and stops to change the tire. Also, he is the type of dad who would knew what gift the kids really wanted. It was like that when we were little. He was the one who always bought what you wanted, not what my mom thought was more practical.

Also, the big guy is the only one that doesn’t cause me to get a tear in my eye. When I think about him, I laugh. No matter when I think about him for some silly reason, I laugh.

Because the gift he brought into our home, was the gift of laughter, of music and the best darn Christmas presents a kid could get.

Yes, those two-sizes-too-big, high top, white leather, indoor roller skates were my best damn present ever and he got them for me against all her warnings! Thanks for never listening to her, Big Guy.

It is difficult to think of the four of them at this time. A time when Dad shopped for weeks to get just the right ingredients for our Christmas dinner. A time when even my mother walked around humming, a silly smile plastered on her face. A time when the big one and the middle one called a truce and but for one major Midnight Mass disaster, peace on earth reigned at home.

In the last ten years one song has taken on a new meaning, as I am the one who is missing in action. For those I’ve loved and laughed with, for those who I keep in my heart even if I never pick up the phone … this wish is for you.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas and think of me.

It’s your turn …

Tell me your favorite things about this time of year?

Is there one holiday song you associate with a loved one .. near or far?

fOIS In The City




Filed under Ramblings

It’s that time of year …

when the world falls in love …

The velvet voice … Frank Sinatra

And it’s also the time of year for Ralphie

There’s a good reason so many of us have fallen in love with this time of year. Time to watch A Christmas Story marathon, to catch thirty days of Holiday movies on the Hallmark channel. Time to dust off my copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, drag out the CD’s and tapes … hum and skip through the rooms like a fool. Even when alone, I am true to my calling … a total Christmas chestnut.

Speaking of nuts … they never fall too far from the tree and I am certain that Norman was a distant Italian cousin.

This was posted three years ago and for me it never gets old. Enjoy another of my Christmas archives.

A Christmas Tree Story …


There they were … my dad and the big guy … shrugging into flannel and wool … off to buy the tree.

She went to the door and called after them. “And don’t pick the biggest one this time.”

While my mother made more Christmas bread or cookies, the middle one tortured me with the existence or non-existence of Santa, the knowledge of whether I’d get that one special gift or just because he was the middle one and felt compelled to torture me. I’d duly whine or kick and after an hour of ignoring us, someone got the wooden spoon on the leg.

“Ah, Ma. That hurts.”

Then it started. The two big guys would lumber through the front door with the closest replica of the tree at Rockefeller Center a Brooklyn dad and son could find. It took forever to get the darn thing up three flights, turned through the door and put to rest on the kitchen floor.

Of course, it was always too tall. The hack saw was produced,and with jackets and flannel shirts stripped off, they’d start hacking from the bottom.

The big guy handed off the discarded branches to the middle one, “Make sure to save the longer branches in case we have to fill in.”

After the first hour, the stand was attached and the next round of negotiations and ruminations began with a complaint from my mother, “I just waxed that floor.”

The big guy stopped. The tree held suspended in one hand, the other hand holding the floor for ballast. “You knew we were going to get the tree tonight,” he said. “Why did you have to wax today?”


A short dialogue in two languages, a loud protracted huff from my mother, and the tree was ready to stand upright … it’s tallest branch brushing the ceiling. “Don’t worry, Ma. I’ll trim that down a bit.”

It was a real tree. A real smelly, messy, beautiful tree. Not the artificial nightmares of the fifties that looked like petrified tinsel, not an anorexic horror that resembled green pipe cleaners directing traffic.

No, we had the real deal. And the real deal shed pine needles on her freshly waxed floors. The real deal needed lots water, patience and love.

Branches were tied with clothesline to the middle to make the bottom fuller. The top was clipped to fit the angel. Negotiations continued as the middle one handed off tools and I ran for fresh cups of coffee. “Ma, make another pot.”

Oh yes, there is a very good reason why so many of us are in love with A Christmas Story.

Because it’s our story.

The story of the lights and decorations, of cookies baking, and the long anticipated morning when a kid finds wonder and miracles under a tree.


Naturally, each year the two men would promise that when the tree was disassembled this time, the lights would be stored carefully and not thrown haphazardly into the bottom of the cardboard box that held our precious decorations.

Naturally, each year they would be long absent when the tree was finally taken down the morning after “Little Christmas.” I came to believe it was her small revenge against the sweeping of pine needles, of watering said tree, of cleaning around and behind the massive piece of the forest to simply yank off the lights and dump them in a tangle.

The lights on the tree … the fine art of unraveling miles of thick electrical cords and big clunky bright-colored lights. Curses under and over their breath in two languages and in several octaves ensued while I fell asleep on the sofa, and the middle one curled on the floor with a book, occasionally looking up to see it it was done yet.

When the job was done, it was still not done. There were three blues too close together, those two red ones needed to be closer to the top, and of course a white one had to shine against the angel topper. Everyone was rosted to survey. “Don’t you think we have too many green?”

And it never failed. When they had finally found the right mix of colors and had everything finished and ready to go, one of us would see a dead bulb. “I hope we have another red one to replace it.”


“Ma, where did you put the small shoe box with the extra bulbs?”

“Do I have to remember everything?”

My dad pointed to the kitchen. “I put that shoe box under the sink.”

“And I supposed you think I’d leave a box of Christmas bulbs under my sink?”

One year he found the shoe box with the extra bulbs in the bottom of his wardrobe, “This is not the place for bulbs.”

“Neither is the bottom of my sink.”

The deed done and all dead bulbs replaced the tree was finally ready for decorations …

Wait … what was that sizzle, that spark from the bottom of the tree? Could it be an electrical fire that might consume our wonderful Rockefeller Center replica? No it was a blown fuse.

“Get the extra fuses from the hall and be quick about it.”

Yes, I know there are so many wonderful advantages to our modern, real look-alike trees … the ease of assembly … no need to tie extra branches … they are uniformly fat at the bottom … … and those skinny, cool, LED lights can be set to twinkle or not. And even if one hundred of them go dark, you can just string another two hundred in there and no one will notice.

And what about that tinsel? “You put too much on that branch,” the big one instructed. “Put it one strand at a time.”

“No, don’t throw it.”

“And that red ball shouldn’t be too close to the other red balls,” he critiqued. “Space out the colors.”

Our tree never really looked exactly like the one in Rockefeller Center and it didn’t look like the one in Westchester in the center of town square where the big guy raised his family.


But it was all ours, all real, and each year as I prepare to match up the colors to get the artificial tree in perfect order, I feel a twinge of nostalgia remembering our Christmas tree story.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I think I need a stiff eggnog and another round of Ralphie.

Stay tuned for more Christmas fun.

How about you? Are you one of the few left who has the real deal?

Which member of your family was the “chestnut?”

fOIS In The City



Filed under Ramblings

Christmas Memories …

Like my collection of trees and ornaments, the tiny villages and figurines I have saved since I was in second grade, the images they recall are what sustains me.

And of all the artists who have captured the true essence of this time of year … none have done it better than Norman Rockwell.

Today, I give you another bit of my collection and frame it with but a few of his hundreds of precious images.



Last week I posted my most enduring memory of the Holiday season … my three angels. For all of us, this is the time of year we reflect on times gone by, or think of those we miss, those empty chairs at the Holiday table … the ones we can never fill again.

For each of my original nuclear family there is a Christmas song or movie, a special place in New York City or a particular tradition that calls them back to me each year.

I have but one member of the original four left, the one magic-man who resides in Scarsdale, New York … the one I call the Big Guy.


As a child did you ever have a daydream about what you might say if you won an academy award?  Or as a writer or the reader of many books and stories, do you think about the dedication you read in books, the one you might put in yours?

It could be to your loving spouse, your small or grown children. Perhaps there was a great love in your life and only you would know who the dedication is for, or you might want to thank the ones who brought you into the world.

In loving memory, I dedicate this post to my parents.

Salvatore Augustine Fois and Maria Carmella Fieore Fois:

My father, came from Carloforte, a small fishing village on the island of San Pietro, seven kilometers off the southwestern coast of Sardinia, sailed the tall ships, beginning as a cabin boy at age twelve, until the day he saluted the Italian flag aboard his merchant ship and walked across the docks of New York to a new life.

Salvatore sang off key with the abandone of a frog during mating season. His favorite music was opera, yet he adored Dixieland Jazz and Big Band music. He cried at sad movies, or when Mimi died in Aida, he adored American sports, cowboy movies, radio, television and Broadway musicals.

He was our own personal Hopalong Cassidy and his absolute hero was Perry Como. Since he spent half of each holiday season sniffling for the loss of his family, his favorite Perry song was There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,

A a tall imposing figure of a man, he looked like an ad for Brooks Brothers, his thick wavy salt and pepper hair highlighted by his pale blue eyes. Dreamy and intelligent, my father was literate in four languages, read three newspapers daily, tutored me in mathematics and taught me about the importance of history and politics and their relationship to current events.

He adored all the holidays, but Christmas in particular. He shopped for all his favorite treats and for all the ingredients for our Holiday meal, he did not, however, trust himself to buy our presents. Because of a funny incident on my parent’s first wedding anniversary (something about a sexy nightgown that made my mother blush) he only gave gelt. Gelt as my mother’s gift, gelt to my mother to take care of everyone else.


My mother was a short, chubby, what might be the stereotypical Italian Mama, with lovely dark brown hair and eyes and a feisty, indefatiguable spirit. She was born to a share cropper and my namesake on a farm in Dutchess Country, New York.

Mom was the enforcer who weilded a wooden spoon and smoked non-filtered cigarettes, cooked, worked in the factories of Bush Terminal after my parents moved to Brooklyn New York, and wore the uniform of the Italian Mama, shuffling around her kitchen in paddle slippers and her “housedress” barking orders like a drill sargeant.

They loved to cook together, he chopping like a sue chef, she like the head chef, ordering more chopped garlic, more sliced apples for her pies. The homemade pasta or ravioli were a team effort and together they baked for weeks before and cooked all night on Christmas Eve for our feast of the seven fishes.

All day on Christmas she shuffled in and out of the kitchen, and not until late in the evening did she stop to rest. Naturally, my two brothers and myself were the pot washers to these two cooks and while the family took an afternoon nap or the men gathered for a game of cards, I did clean up in the kitchen. More than once she came out and helped so I could join the family in the dining room for café espresso and cannoli.



These were the two who raised us three, who set the standard and raised the bar to instill in their children the image of the successful first generation Italian-American. I miss them always, but never as much as this time of year.

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad!

Who is that special someone you miss each year?

fOIS In The Ctiy




Filed under Ramblings