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