Ghost of Christmas 1949
Christmas scenes try to create an allusion of a meaningful life of happy villagers leading simple happy lives. To my Dad it was a cozy little palce to pass-out.
We lived in a small upstairs apartment at 124 1/2 East Euclid Street in Lima, Ohio. It was only four years after World War II. Our family struggled like many; the post war boom had not reached Lima. There was hope, but little reality to base it upon and much uncertainty. Dad had a couple of jobs by then, but seemed to settle on working at the North Star Woolen Mills. Mom worked there during the war; they made blankets for the military and now had switched to civilian manufacturing.
With Dad now working a steady job it seemed as though the family was set for a joyous Christmas.
Dad’s idea of Christmas was a loud, boisterous, and a raucous time with plenty to drink. Mom wanted a Christmas centered around home and family. Dad won out.
Mom and Dad made every effort to make Christmas special for my two sisters and I.
One Christmas my youngest sister’s first bra was hung on the Christmas tree with care (my Dad’s idea; although, he blamed it on Santa and one of his perverted elves).
Dad bought my first train set when I was three in 1949. Dad couldn’t help but “tie one on” for Christmas. After all, “tis the season to be jolly.” He assembled the tracks and the train and flipped the switch on the transformer. When we got up Christmas morning Dad was still passed-out under the tree and the train still running around the tree.
Later I imagined in his inebriated state the constant watching the train circling the tree may have caused him to pass-out. To this day the smell of an alcohol drenched drunk and the scent of pine needles brings a tear to my eye.
Dad said Santa came by and helped himself to a beer. Of course Dad wasn’t about to allow any guest to drink alone; one beer led to another and before Dad knew it, he was gone. Dad later said, “Fat guys always hold their liquor good.”
Ghost of Christmas 1953
Ghosts are parts of our imagination that remind us of what made us who we are.
The Christmas of 1953 was a sad one. We lived in a smaller upstairs apartment. It was above Christoff”s Market on the north/west corner of Sceond and Union Street in Lima. Dad had no job and Mom got laid-off. Dad just failed at business. In those days if you didn’t have the money you had no Christmas. There were no credit cards.
Mom tearfully told my sisters and I there would be no Christmas that year. That was hard for Mom to accept. I remember her saying, “If I had it; you would have wonderful Christmas.”
Dad provided absolutely no comfort. The day Mom told Dad she was laid-off he swiped dinner from the kitchen table in an angered rage. He cursed and Mom tearfully cleaned the mess he caused.
Dad was quiet for days.
On a cold winter day three days before Christmas I sat at the bottom of the steps playing with old worn-out toys. Dad stopped and sat on the bottom step watching me play. I told him what I was playing and he seemed uninterested. His mind was elsewhere. He trudged up the steps and came back a few minutes later. He had a couple of shoe boxes, a pencil, and scissors. He said, “I’m gonna show you how we used to make toys.”
Dad made a tuck, a wagon, a car, a gas station, and house with the shoe boxes. He drew doors, windows, wheels, people, and what ever other feature was needed to supplement my imagination on the boxes . They were magnificent! Dad drew with incredible detail and skill.
I was completely happy and entertained. In spite of Dad’s inadequacies in many areas of his life he managed to lift my spirits and give me a cherished memory.
Later that day Mom walked by me at the bottom of the steps. I gleefully told her what Dad had done. She looked at the hand-made toys with contempt.
That Christmas Mom managed to buy a toy for me and an article of clothing for each of my sisters.
Later in life I learned there was no spiritual significance to Christmas. It’s origins were pagan and in our day promoted largely by greed and commercial interest. Deep within our collective psyche it is a day set aside to atone for the love not given, to make up for the the lies told, the promises not kept, the time not spent, the angry words expressed, the dirty looks given, the grudges harbored, and love not shared. Christmas is a reminder not of Christ, but of how empty lives are the rest of the year.
The most meaningful life lived was that of Jesus and he lived thirty-three and a half years without celebrating Christmas. So impressed were his disciples and apostles; they did the same.
There was a complexity and dynamic to Mom and Dad’s relationship that I never understood. I sometimes have a tendency to blame my Dad for all the problems in the family, but that’s too easy.
I never saw my Dad take a personal interest in anything to do with the family or our homes. Perhaps early in their marriage Dad had tried, but got that same look of contempt from Mom that she gave me three days before Christmas on a cold winter day in 1953.