No, not the one that took place in a manger in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. I’m talking about the one that took place in a small village on the North Shore of Long Island in the year 1979. I’m talking about the first Christmas Susie and I spent as a married couple, in our apartment at One Firwood Road in the Manorhaven section of Port Washington!
Back in September, we celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary, so this Christmas will be the 40th Anniversary of the first Christmas we spent as married people. To back up a bit, right from the beginning of our relationship, I knew that Susie loved Christmas. It was by far her favorite holiday, and she loved the music, the decorations, the food, and everything about it! So, on Christmas Day, 1978, I asked her if she would spend the rest of her life with me, and be my Mrs.Clause, and she said yes! So, with that as a background, I’m sure you can imagine how important that first Christmas was for us!
The first item of business was decorating our apartment. One of the first purchases we made were two sets of red bells that blinked on and off in sequence, kind of like they were ringing. These we hung in the windows of our second floor apartment, looking out onto Firwood Road. They were with us for years! Of course, a tree was a very important symbol of the holiday, and I wanted to make sure ours was perfect. It was going to be a real one, and Susie and I headed to Keil Brothers Florist on the corner of the LIE and Springfield Blvd, near my folks Bayside house. So let’s talk about that tree.
We circled the tree lot multiple times, and looked at a lot of trees, before we found the perfect one for our first Christmas. It was full, just tall enough, not too wide, and cost $75! Now, that seemed like a lot back then, but I needed to make our first Christmas perfect for Susie. As an aside, $75 in 1979 is equal to $265.71 in 2019…know any jerk that would pay $265.71 for a Christmas tree today??? So, we bought this perfect tree, had it tied to the roof of our car, and drove home to our apartment in Port Washington.
Then it was time to set the tree up in our living room. We got the stand out and prepared to cut off an inch or so from the bottom of the tree, when I remembered that we were supposed to stop at my folks house in Bayside and pick up the tree saw. We hadn’t done that!! So what did we do? Well, a couple of months before, we attended the NY Auto Show, and at one of the booths there, selling all manor of items, we watched a very fascinating presentation, and then bought a Ginsu Knife! Yes, we cut off the last inch of our first Christmas tree with our newly purchased Ginsu knife! Not only did it work (it took a long time but ultimately worked), but that very same Ginsu knife from 40 Christmases ago still resides in our utensil drawer in our Ocean City house!! As it was our first Christmas, there were not a lot of meaningful ornaments, but we did a pretty good job decorating that first Christmas tree, placing it right in the middle of our living room’s picture window, for all of Port Washington to see.
Growing up, because of the fact that my folks both were members of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus, and might be doing one or two performances on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve had a bigger presence in our household. That first Christmas laid the groundwork for what Susie and I would do going forward in our life…Christmas Eve with my folks and Christmas day with her family. That first Christmas Eve, we celebrated with my folks, opening presents while eating Italian cold cut sandwiches. My folks had a friend in Minnesota who worked for Litton, and our present from my folks that first Christmas was one of the first microwave ovens we’d seen! Smartly, we chose to leave it at my folks when we headed home late to our Port Washington apartment.
One Firwood Road, was a small 4 unit apartment building, just across the street from Port Washington Harbor in one direction and across the street from the Empty Pockets Bar in the other. An Asian lady owned the building, and the woman in the apartment below us was the “manager”. She also was an interesting woman, who would bring home guys from her Saturday nights out, and we heard EVERYTHING! Well, on this particular Christmas Eve, apparently she’d decided that the crowd at the Empty Pockets was bit rowdy, so she decided to lock the front door of the building…a lock we didn’t have a key for! So here we were, late at night (1-2 AM) on our first Christmas Eve, after celebrating with my folks, and we were locked out of our apartment! It was late, cold, wet, and my new wife and I were locked out! So what did we do??? We banged on the door and shouted till she showed up and let us in! I’m sure we disturbed her, and her latest biker “friend,” but we were in our home, and ready for the big fat man in the red suit to show up later that morning!
That first Christmas morning came very early for us, as we wanted to have some alone time to open presents in front of our first Christmas tree, while drinking a little champagne and orange juice, before joining the rest of the family. What we thought was going to be a special treat for us that morning, turned more into a joke. WABC Channel 7 had a special Christmas morning showing of Susie’s all time favorite movie, White Christmas. This was back in the day before we had multiple copies of that movie on video tape, DVD, or digitally, so this was indeed a special treat! Unfortunately, they showed the movie in a 60 minute time block, complete with commercials. They probably had about 45 minutes or less, to show a movie that runs over two hours. As you can probably imagine, the movie was cut to time rather than content, and frankly made little sense to us…and we both knew the movie! As I said, a potential special treat that turned into a joke!
And that was how Our First Christmas went! Later that day, we joined the rest of Susie’s family, and a great day was had, and for a brand new couple, Christmas #1 was under our belts! 40 years later, there are lots more Christmas Memories mixed in, but there will only be one first, and that was ours!! The story of our Ginsu cut Christmas Tree, being locked out, and the very different White Christmas will forever be my memory of my first Christmas with my love, and the beginning of mixing the Johnson and D’Elia Families!