Arriving on the heel of the Christmas Eve seafood extravaganza was the day for which we had all been preparing. The smell of meatballs basking in Filippo Berio, eggplant parm in the oven, veal cutlets waiting on the meatballs to vacate the olive oil laden fry pan, antipasto, ravioli as well as all the American traditional holiday fare were signs that Christmas had arrived. The aroma of garlic was imbedded in every porous surface of our small five-room flat. Of course Santa’s sleigh had tipped over our living room where my sister and I, in the wee hours, tore through every Barbie accessory known to man. With all the toys, new clothes and gold chains, my sister and I chomped at the bit for the best part of the day. The most exciting, highly anticipated event would be when all my aunts, uncles and cousins would march into the house demanding a dish of macaroni (not to be confused with mac & cheese).
We ate from one end of the house to the other. My father had inevitably invited some stranger to dine with us. Everyone would look down to the end of the table and say who the f*@#k is that? We were so lucky to have had three grandparents, our great-grandmother and great-uncle at the Christmas table until my early twenties. The older generation only spoke broken English, a mix between Sicilian, English and Bostonese: “Heyya, who’sa the cavona downa dere?” After everyone got over the weirdo at the table, it was time to settle our coulos (bum, ass) into the throne where we would spend the next several hours eating course after course. Many of our family friends would stop by from early evening into the night filling the house until it split at the seams. Just when the brioschi (old-fashioned remedy for heartburn) was working, my mother would clear dessert and re-serve whatever could be placed in a spucki (that’s delicious Italian bread, by the way), cutlet, ham, turkey & capicola sandwiches for everyone!
We ate and laughed, ate and laughed all day and night. We always played a game like Trivial Pursuit where my grandmother never wanted to play, but yelled out every answer from her end of the table. Those were the days. No matter how bad things got throughout the year, Christmas with my cousins was the summit of joy, peace, love, safety and the ultimate crack up. My husband and four boys left Boston for the land of milk and honey, the bible belt, that is. We now spend Christmas with dear friends and decadent rib roasts. We may even enjoy Christmas dinner out at a fancy hotel on occasion.
If only my grandmother could see and experience the life I live today. She would be shocked, maybe even disappointed that there’s no lasagna or cannolis. Today, I have help with keeping up the house and live the American dream. So why the tears this Christmas? I long for Christmas past with my cousins and endless hours of talking and laughing with the only ones who understand what it all means to me. I guess I just miss my family. Maybe it was just easier when my mother handled all the details of Christmas while my sister and I just had to be there to enjoy it all. Thanks to all of you for giving me a place to relive my Christmas past. Merry Christmas to you all. May you find the warmth I enjoyed nestled at the perpetual feast of feasts. God Bless!
Tell me what’s going on in your life. I want to hear from you!
Amore & Baci (Love & Kisses),