The First Christmas

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.  

Ginsu KnifeThen 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

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!  

Christmas Traditions

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In my last blog, I mentioned that we lived in a Hallmark Christmas Town, and that along the way, we’d been watching a whole lot of Hallmark Christmas movies!  Frankly, we are suckers for the movies because we love this time of the year!  Right from the beginning, I knew that Susie loved Christmastime, and that she’d make the perfect Mrs. Clause, so on Christmas Day 1978, I asked Susie to marry me!  Thankfully, she said yes, and started everything for us, including a heck of a lot of our Christmas Traditions!

Christmas Traditions, like all family traditions, are more often than, not born out of necessity.  Do you know the story about the young girl being instructed by her Mom about how to cook a leg of lamb?  Her Mom tells her to cut off the last 2 inches of the leg of lamb, and place it next to the leg.  The girl asks the Mom why, and she replies, “I don’t know, that’s just the way your Grandma always did it.”  The next time she’s with her Grandma, she asks the same question, and Grandma’s answer is, “I don’t know, that’s just the way your Great Grandma always did it.”  A couple of weeks later, she visited her Great Grandma in the Nursing Home and told her what her Mom and Grandma had told her, and asked her Great Grandma, why she cut off the last 2 inches?  Grandma’s answer, “I didn’t have a pan big enough!”  

When I was a kid, both my Mom and Dad were singers in New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus.  Holidays were just days on the calendar, and unless they fell on a Sunday, the Met gave a performance.  If it happened to fall on a Saturday, they gave two performances!  The last thing they needed was a little kid (me) waking them up at sunrise on Christmas morning, when they may have gone to bed at 2 AM, and probably had to work that night.  So, in our family the tradition of Christmas Eve became a bigger deal.  Once I was a little older, our Christmas celebration started as soon as my folks got home from their Christmas Eve performance.  Everybody would get into their PJs, we’d drink Andre Champagne, eat Italian cold cut sandwiches, and open presents.  On Christmas morning, I was free to get up, lay under the Christmas tree, and play with gifts, while they got to catch a couple of more hours sleep!

Whenever a family gets blended, traditions from both sides get shoehorned together, and img_1733the Christmas Traditions of that new family are born!  In the early years of our marriage, we’d celebrate with my folks on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day head over to Susie’s folks.  As time went on, there were new traditions born, and more blending took effect.  Somewhere along the line, probably in an effort to emulate the Italian Seven Fishes of Christmas Eve, my Mom and Dad started hosting a lobster dinner on Christmas Eve.  Within a couple of years, Susie’s folks were coming to my folks house on Christmas Eve, and my folks would join us at Susie’s folks’ house on Christmas Day.  The families were indeed blending! 

Then came the kids!  When you have three little kids, Christmas gets to be an even bigger day on the calendar, and the D’Elia Family, since Mrs. Clause happened to be the 3 kids’ Mom, was right up there with the best of them!  Christmas Eve’s at my Mom’s house in Bayside became a huge event, complete with Susie’s folks, lobsters for all, and a need to run to church, where the 3 kids could be a part of the Christmas Eve Pageant every year.  Eventually, as my Mom got older,  Christmas Eve moved to our house in Mineola, but the lobster traditions and the run to the Community Church of East Williston continued, until our 3 were too old to be a part of the pageant.  In later years, as the kids grew, and driver’s licenses were earned, a new tradition was born.  Billy, Krissi, and Kenny would head down to Jordan’s Lobster Farm in Island Park, pick up the lobsters and on the way home, stop at a local diner for breakfast.  

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It’s hard to believe, but it was 40 years ago this Christmas that Susie and I  spent our first Christmas Eve at my folks house as a married couple (we got a microwave).  Although our traditions have changed and been modified here and there, I think my late Mom and Dad would be proud that what started for them out of necessity, is still a huge part of our Christmas life!  While we kept the food traditions that were started years before with my folks, the opening of presents went traditional and landed on Christmas morning!  Dad would come down the stairs to open up the house and turn on the tree, while Mom kept the 3 little one’s at bay.  On the all clear signal, they’d come down the stairs, along with Grandma D’Elia, and everybody would take their “assigned” seats, and we were off and running!  

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Those 3 little kids that we rushed to church on Christmas Eve, and who ran down the Mineola stairs every Christmas morning, are all married adults now, with our oldest even being the Dad of his own three.  We no longer live in the same house, same county, or even the same state.  We won’t be together with all our loved ones this Christmas, but we will do our best to keep the traditions alive!

This year, Our Boys are with us for Christmas.  Kenny and his husband Chris, just back from an almost year long contract with Royal Caribbean, are spending some time with us before starting their new adventure in January.  Krissi and her husband Mike will be up in New York, as a mid-week Christmas doesn’t really lend itself to travel, and Billy is down in North Carolina with his wife Lori and our darlings Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, making their own Christmas Traditions!  Susie’s brother and sister will be home on Long Island.   So, it will fall to Susie and Me and the boys to keep the D’Elia Family traditions alive this year!

img_1732There will be lobsters this year, but rather than getting them at Jordan’s Lobster Farm on Long Island, they will come from the Fish Department at Shoprite in Somers Point.  Not sure about the boys having breakfast out…it may just be some Chinese Food from the hot bar at Shoprite!  The Italian Cold cut sandwiches, and the fried eggplant, and cheeses will be eaten at night, but not be coming from Aridito’s Italian Deli in Mineola, but rather from Shoprite’s Sandwich counter (one stop shopping!).  The cheap champagne however, still has an Andre label on the bottle, and will be drunken out of our Christmas Toasting flutes, that have been a part of every one of Susie and my Christmases!

So there you have it, some of our Christmas Traditions!  Of course, there will be tuning into Jean Sheppard’s Christmas Story on TBS all day, and the sandwiches and champagne will, as always be accompanied by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!  There will be a lot of time hanging in our jammies, laughing at each other, and just creating memories!  That’s what Christmas means to us!!  

Will we miss our other kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas day?  You bet we will, but that’s just the way life is.  One benefit is that it expands the Christmas holiday!  Billy and Lori and the kids will be coming here to Ocean City the day after Christmas, and we’ll get to re-live the traditions all over again!  Early in January, we will visit with Krissi and Mike in Astoria, and once again it will be Christmas!  Things change, but the spirit of those Christmases long ago live on, and I hope they always will in our kids and Grandkids!

So, from our family to your’s, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Chars!!!  Bonkers!

Living in a Hallmark Christmas Movie Town

 

City Hall

Ever since their “Christmas in July” presentation this year, the Hallmark channels have truly been the place to go for feel-good holiday movies.  While there are other places like Lifetime that are jumping on the bandwagon, Hallmark is far and away the biggest producer of Christmas movies, as they celebrate 10 years in the holiday fold this year with an incredible number of new movies, while filling the rest of the 24 hours with repeats of the hundreds of movies they’ve got from preceding years!  

If you’re a fan (and I freely admit that Susie and I love watching them, and there are now 5 or 6 of them on our DVR), you realize that 90% of them follow a very strict format.  #1 – They all take place in a darling little town, where the Christmas season is a throwback to what we remember (or wished we remembered) from our childhood.  #2 – One person is a resident and one a visitor from the “Big City”.    #3 – As the movie goes on, the two main characters get closer and closer, till there is a “dilemma” (as Susie calls it) between the two main characters, which is always worked out in the end.  #4 – They kiss, and the movie fades to black.  While the movies have a cast of typical Hallmark Characters, in many ways the town that is the background for the movie, is as much of a character as the actors.  

Well, I’m happy to say that we now live in a town, that in many ways, could be a cast member in any number of Hallmark Christmas movies!  Ocean City, New Jersey is a typical small town, that turns into a major summer destination from June through August when it takes on the personality of “Americas Greatest Family Resort”.  As the summer season ends, we revert to a small town, that takes on Christmas big time (just like a Hallmark movie).  

Ocean City was very lucky, that for more than 45 years, Mark Soifer was Ocean City’s Public Relations Director, head cheerleader and idea guru.  As a summer resort, part of his job was to expand the season, for the benefit of the city’s merchants.  Out of that desire was born the phrase, “Shoulder Season”, and ways to expand the summer one weekend at a time, throughout the year.  I’m sure that the way Ocean City celebrates Christmas is in no small measure a by-product of Mr. Soifer’s efforts.  See, just like the town cheerleader that most Hallmark Movies have, we in Ocean City had one too, till he retired a few years ago.

First of all, the town is decorated from public buildings like the Welcome Center to City Hall, right up to the boardwalk and the Music Pier.

There are also lots of private homes decorated, like our representatives on Pennlyn Place!

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Just look at the above flyer with just a small sampling on what Ocean City has to offer this Holiday Season.  From this coming weekend’s Earlier than the Bird (when you’re invited to shop dressed in your PJs…and many folks do), to “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue”, when among other things, Santa appears on the roof of City Hall and is “helped” down by the Ocean City Fire Department, our little town Christmas Parade, right through the City’s First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration!  

Don’t forget the all important Breakfast with Santa, at restaurants all over town, or the weekly carriage rides through town!  Yes, from the weekend before Thanksgiving, right up through the celebration of New Year’s Day, we live in a Hallmark Christmas town!  Throw in a little snow once in a while, and it’s perfect!

From our Hallmark Christmas Town to yours, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…..

 

A Tale of Two Tables

 

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It was just about two years ago, in November of 2017, that a huge change happened in our lives.  It was on November 9th of that year, that we sold our Mineola house, a place that had been home to the D’Elia Family for 31 years, and we officially became full time residents of Ocean City, NJ.  It was a major change in the life of two people who had never known anyplace else but Long Island as home (Susie and I), and an emotional issue with leaving a home that our 3 children had grown up in….including for our 3 children!  I don’t think I’ve written about this before, so here’s brief recap to set up today’s story.

As often times happens, the anticipation of doing something causes you to put it off, and then once you’ve done it, you realize how stupid you were for dragging your feet.  That was our case when we faced the prospect of selling our house!  Our anticipation was that it would take months, and that it would be a painful process involving realtors, and all kinds of folks traipsing through our house.  Our reality was that one of the people that had told us they were interested in the house, came by with their family one afternoon and before we went to bed that night, they made an offer, and we accepted!  Never put the house on the market, never dealt with one realtor, never experienced one bit of pain, but afterwards wondered why we’d waited so long to do it!

The night they made their offer was a little less than 3 months before we went to closing, and our main job during those 3 months (besides a two week trip out to the West Coast to meet our prospective Son-in-Law Chris’ family), was figuring out how to empty the Mineola house.  We’d already taken the things we wanted to Ocean City, and all three of our kids had staked their claims on other items, and even some friends had taken a few items, but the sad Baby Boomer truth is, that we’re all looking to get rid of things, and NOBODY wants them!  Not our kids, not folks running tag sales, not even neighbors!  So, in the end, as the closing date got closer and closer, we had to pay somebody to empty out our house!

Now the clock wasn’t our friend, and as the closing date got closer, we got more and more desperate to just move on, and walk away from the Mineola House.  In the past two years, since Ocean City became our one and only home,  I can’t tell you how many times we have gone looking for something, only to realize that it was obviously one of those things we just left in the house, in haste, to be dealt with by the folks cleaning it out!  The list runs from things in the garage like snow brushes and shovels for the car, to snack tables, that we’d used for years, and that we have regretted leaving so many times since!  This, then, is the tale of those two tables!

These were well made, heavy oak snack tables, that we’d originally bought on one of our yearly trips to the Amish Country in and around Lancaster Pennsylvania.  We’d first bought one for my Mom as a Christmas present, and then added two more for our use on a subsequent trip.  We probably used them in the living room a couple of nights a week.  Sometimes they were the base for take-out food, or other times we used them when we had a meal we needed to use a knife and fork with (which necessitated sitting at a table, because you couldn’t do that with a plate on your lap!), and sometimes, just a base for Susie to write Christmas cards or such. 

We really don’t remember if we made a conscious decision to leave the snack tables, or it was just an oversight on our part, but we’ve missed them so many times over the past 2 years.  Wednesday, we spent the day righting that mistake, and along the way, we also took care of several other missions!

On our yearly trips to Amish Country, we always stopped at King’s Furniture.  It was place the kids loved to explore, and the place that Susie pined over a beautiful dining room set that ultimately came to live in our Mineola House (and one piece of which now lives in the den of our Ocean City House), so we knew exactly where we’d bought them!  Recently, I proposed to Susie that we spend a day, and make a great loop route through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and back to New Jersey, and in the process we hit King’s Furniture, then Total Wines in Delaware, and then Bagliani’s Italian Market in Hammonton, NJ before returning home.  And that’s exactly what we did on Wednesday!!

We left the house a little after 7:15 in the morning, and arrived at King’s Acres a little after 10.  The day was cold and clear, and the Amish countryside was as beautiful as always, and a little after 10:30 AM, we were back at the car, putting two lovely snack tables into the back seat!  Mission 1 accomplished and a wrong corrected that had been waiting 2 years to be made right!

Then we were off on the return part of our loop drive to Claymont, Delaware, and one of our multi-time a year visits to Total Wine & More!  It being mid-November, this trip would go down as our 2019 Holiday visit, and provide us with wine and spirits for Thanksgiving, Christmas and through to New Year, plus holiday gift items!  The prices are excellent, and there is no tax on liquor or wine in Delaware, so it’s a win/win!  

On the way home, we made a stop in Hammonton, NJ so that we could buy some of the great cheeses and sausages they have at Bagliani’s Italian Market!  A great end to a great day!

We left Ocean City about 7:20 in the morning and arrived back around 3:30.  In between, we traveled 257 miles, went through New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Delaware, drove briefly through Pennsylvania again, and back to New Jersey.  We replaced two tables that had slipped away from us two years ago, we stocked up on wine and liquor for the holidays, and stopped off at our favorite NJ Italian Market for some goodies!  All in all, a good day In Our Humble Opinion!

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November 10th, 2019

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Happy 244th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps! 

On November 10th, 1775, the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines with a decree to raise “two battalions of Marines.”  Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia is regarded as the birthplace of the Corps, as many consider it the location where the first Marines enlisted.  The Continental Marines, like the Continental Navy, was disestablished following the close of the Revolutionary War in 1783, but was re-established on July 11th of 1798 by an act signed by President John Adams.  Prior to 1921, it was that July 11th date that was celebrated as the Marine’s birthday, but in 1921 it was suggested that the original date of November 10th be declared a “Marine Holiday”.  Commandant John Lejeune created Marine Corps order #47 which ordered, that from that time forward, November 10th would be officially celebrated as the US Marine Corps Birthday!  

And how, you may ask, do I know all this?  Well, I know this because Susie and I have the honor to be living on Pennlyn Place, bookended by two good friends who are Marines!  Notice I said, “are Marines”, not were Marines.  Even though neither of them are actively serving, the tradition is once a Marine, always a Marine!   We have been fortunate to be included in the annual celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday several times, and that’s where some of this knowledge has come from.

Our immediate neighbor on our left is 98 year old Doie Barnes.  In World War II, Doie was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, having told Susie that her job was to dispatch planes.  She also told Susie one time when she realized that Susie had been a Registered Nurse, that she always wanted to be a nurse, but that her Father said she had to be a secretary, and so she went to Secretarial School.    It was indeed a different time, which only to my mind makes Doie’s service in WWII more incredible!

On the other side of us, one house away, lives our good friends Patti and Meade Rudasill.  As a student at the University of Virginia, Meade was a member of the NAVY ROTC program, and applied for and was accepted for the Marine Option.  Between his Junior and Senior year of college, he went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) and also Jump School at Lakehurst Air Station.  After college, he attended Basic School, where unlike every other service, every Marine Officer goes for 6 months to learn how to be a Marine.  Then it was off to Engineer School, where he could apply his UVA Engineering Degree, but as he said to me, “It was Marine Corps specific and they hadn’t taught me about blowing up things at UVA.”  He was on active duty from 1979 to 1984, having assignments on both the East and West Coasts, and being deployed with the Marine Detachment on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga CV-60 to the Mediterranean.  During his entire Marine carrier, he did “interesting stuff”, to quote my friend.  He rose to the rank of Captain and was selected for Major in the reserves.  After his service in the Marine Corps, he went on to have a successful business career, including being the CEO of QVC, and I know he would say that without a doubt, much of what he learned as a Marine Corps Officer helped him in his business life!  

This years celebration for our Pennlyn Place group was held at Captain Bob’s in the far South End of Ocean City.  Organized by Doie’s Son-In-Law, Doc Anderson, the group included, in addition to Susie and I, Doie and Doc, Patti and Meade, and neighbors Dale Nicholas, Barbara Kichline, and Bob Byrne.  Not exactly a traditional Marine Corps Ball (there was no dancing), but we do our best to help Doie and Meade, as Marine Order #47 orders, “commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of it’s long and illustrious history.” 

One part of our celebration that is in keeping with tradition, is maintaining the cake cutting ceremony, as has been contained in the Marine Drill Manual since 1956.  To quote that manual, “By tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine present, symbolizing the old and experienced Marines passing their knowledge to the new generation of Marines.”  Doc always procures an appropriate cake, and using Meade’s sword, Doie always makes the first cut.  Then, as tradition, Doie will get the first piece of cake and pass it on to Meade, but Doie loves her sweets, so some years it’s a struggle for her to give it up, but there’s always another piece on its way!

Susie and I are proud to have these folks as friends and neighbors, and proud to be included in this annual celebration with them, and in this small way, thank them for their service!   Again, Happy 244th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps, and to all who proudly have earned the name Marine, including our two favorite Marines, Doie Barnes and Meade Rudasill!

Our Marines!

Happy Birthday Marine!!  Semper Fi!

Family Life Changes

 

When our three kids were younger, we were very lucky that our immediate family lived minutes, not hours or days away!  Susie’s Mom and Dad were in Hempstead and later East Meadow. My Mom was in Bayside. Susie’s sister and family were in Huntington, and her brother and his wife in Merrick.  We, living in Mineola, were pretty much in the geographic center of our entire family.  A 20 to 30 minute drive, got us to any of their houses, so casual drop-ins were very easy to do.  

Then there were holidays.  The hardest thing to decide about most holidays was who was going to host, and what could the rest bring.  It seemed very normal and natural, and we never really realized how lucky we were.  Our oldest son Billy reminded us of this fact of his childhood recently, but now, as the title of this piece says, family life changes!

Life has indeed changed, and Susie and I are at the center of those changes.   We were both born geographically on Long Island…Susie in Amityville, and me in Jackson Heights, in the New York City Borough of Queens.  Our entire married life, we lived in Nassau County…first Port Washington, then New Hyde Park, and from 1986 to 2017, in the same house in Mineola.  Over time, Susie retired (June of 2013), I retired (January, 2016), and then we moved out of the Mineola house (November, 2017).  We not only moved out of Mineola, we moved off Long Island and out of New York State, and made the house we’d owned at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey since 2005 our forever home! 

Changes happened in our three children’s lives too.  First, they are all married!  Krissi and her husband Mike live in Astoria, in the NYC borough of Queens.  Krissi’s twin brother Kenny and his husband Chris have just finished  up a year long contract on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, but before that, they were in Los Angelos, and who knows exactly where they will end up.  Oldest son Bill and his wife Lori made the move a couple of years ago off of Long Island down to Raleigh, North Carolina, along with our Grandchildren Layla and Henry, and just bought a brand new house as their family has grown with the addition of our newest Grandchild, Annabelle, 6 months ago.  So, like many American families, our family is now spread out, and we no longer have the luxury of living 20 to 30 minutes from each other.

On a recent weekend, however, we made the effort and were rewarded by spending some family time with two thirds of our children, their spouses, and our three Grandkids!  Susie and I took the 8+ hour drive from Ocean City to Raleigh on Thursday morning.  Krissi and her husband Mike flew down from New York after work on Friday, and it was a weekend of family, fun, and babysitting!  Just the best!!