“Father (at) Christmas”

Our parents have a huge influence on how we view Christmas. Generally when you meet someone who hates the holidays it’s because they grew up in a house where maybe Dad drank too much and knocked the tree over. Or maybe they saw Mommy kissing Santa Clause, only Mommy was at the mall at the time and Daddy was at work.

“Is that a candy cane in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

This explains why my siblings and I all have a real fondness for this time of year. My Mom would spend days baking up a storm at Christmastime. Sugar cookies we could decorate, traditional Italian totos, and all sorts of breads. The house always smelled like a delicious case of heart disease for most of December. But it was happy, loving, warm heart disease.

If you never had these growing your parents probably didn’t really love you.

What always made Christmas stand out was that Dad was home. A lot. This is the same guy that worked long hours all the time. But during the holidays it was like there was a strike or something. He’s in every memory I have of going to get the Christmas tree and decorating it. And our tree was a huge project. My only sister was very particular and there were years we’d hit a half-dozen tree lots before we found one that passed muster. She also had an obsession for hanging tinsel one strand at a time. We all thought this was nuts but our folks always let her do it.
They’d smile at us boys and say, “Now let your sister put on the finishing touches. She has a system.”
And a serious case of OCD.

To this day I have an ugly tree every Christmas just to
make up for all those
years of perfection!

When I was little we had this incredibly cheesy cardboard fireplace that Dad would put up. There was a little light with a revolving orange plastic thingy behind the cardboard flames that was supposed to make it look like a real fire. It failed.  He would turn on that silly cardboard fireplace and turn out the lights and put on the Christmas music and we would drink it in like rich kids staring at a stone hearth.

It’s not normal for a three-year old to weigh more than the  fireplace.

Recently I mentioned what a wonderful memory that was for me.
“You always had time off at Christmas,” I said.
“I always TOOK time off.” he replied.

These are the things you learn when you and your Dad become real friends after you grow up, when you talk father to father.
Dad was a salesman. He had no salary. The memories of the extra time he spent with us that I treasure so much cost him, cost us.
They were worth every penny, Dad.

Here’s hoping all of us can help the kids in our lives grow up to people who love the holidays. It doesn’t take fancy decorations or a ton of  toys. Give them time. The time is what they’ll remember.

Merry Christmas. Tell your pals.
Chris Zito


5 Responses

  1. I remember that tinsel! And that fireplace! Your trees were always very wide, ours very narrow—probably because you had the larger house. I’m making totos today. Chocolate icing? What’s up with that? drz

  2. Great post Chris…reminds me of the sacrifices our mom and dad made for us too. And the tinsel thing? We have a sister like that too—bet you can guess which one 🙂

  3. Merry Christmass thank you for those wonderful memories

  4. A wonderful blog, Chris. That fireplace was really my favorite thing, though I did love me some icicles–which is what we called the tinsel, remember?
    (“And she is still correcting him, and never satisfied, right?” 🙂

  5. Merry Christmas, Chris and your family. I love all the family traditions, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to look back and appreciate them. I have mine too except my Dad has pass on, but my brother, sister and I still talk about them. Happy New Year

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