Pictured above is Doris Barnes, Sargent, United States Marine Corp.
During World War II, joining the Marine Corps was not something you’d expect a young woman to do. In fact, according to an article at Marine Corp University, “American women in military uniform were rare at the beginning of World War II. On 30 July, 1942, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established as part of the Marine Corps Reserve. The mission of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to provide qualified women for duty at shore establishments of the Marine Corps, releasing men for combat duty.” Doris (or Doie as most call her) was one of those women.
According to that same article, “Women Marines were assigned to over 200 different jobs, including radio operator, photographer, parachute rigger, driver, aerial gunnery instructor, cook, baker, quartermaster, control tower operator, motion picture operator, auto mechanic, telegraph operator, cryptographer, laundry operator, post exchange (store) manager, stenographer and agriculturist.” Doie a long time ago told Susie that her job during the war was dispatching planes. To our minds, she is truly a hero and a fascinating part of the history of the United States Marine Corp, and our country.
I’m writing this blog today, because our Ocean City neighbor Doie was born on July 30th, 1921. Today is Doie Barnes’ 100th Birthday! Yes, during World War II, Doie was a young lady in her early 20s, and knowing the person she is today, I can only imagine the adventures she had back then…..and the tales she could tell! 16 years ago, when we bought the house next door, she was a young 84 year old, and today she’s a young 100 year old! She’s a regular at the daily Flag Raising Ceremony on the Ocean City Boardwalk, and a cherished member of American Legion Post 524. If the weather is right, you can see her taking her daily stroll around our neighborhood. Although, her hearing isn’t what it once was, and her knees could be better, she is still fast with a quip, and hearing she and her son-in-law Doc Anderson go back and forth is a joy.
At this morning’s Flag Raising Ceremony she was honored for her service during WWII and for her 100th birthday. It was an honor for Susie and I to be part of the group cheering her on as she was recognized by the Marine Corps League, the City of Ocean City, and Cape May County, and her Pennlyn Place friends and family! It’s truly an honor to live next door to this American Hero, and Susie and I are very happy to be able to wish Doie a very Happy Birthday, and hope that she lives many more years in good health
Susan Lynn Johnson was born on May 28th, in a place called Amityville, New York. She came into my life on July 3rd, 1977, so today will mark the 43rd birthday I have been fortunate to spend with her!
She is the most giving, loving person I have ever met, and she is simply the best thing that has EVER happened to me!! She is frankly so much better a person than I am, and I know for a fact, that were it not for her, I wouldn’t have the life I have today!
Susie, like most folks in our life, I love you and am in awe of your ability to touch folks and to be loved by them. Thank you for loving me, and for giving me a better life than I could have dreamed of!
I am so blessed that she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me on December 25th, 1978, and love that she is the Mom of our 3 kids and the Grandma of our three little darlings, and has kept me in line every day of the last 43+ years!
You are my life Baby, and I will love you FOREVER!! Happy Birthday!
Good morning from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In case you are interested, our trip down south from Ocean City worked perfectly! We pulled out of our garage a little after 8 AM to a cool, but sunny morning, and traffic was wonderful. Ms. GPS (I’m not being sexist…she does speak to us in a female voice) took us once again all the way to Philly where we joined up to our “Mother Road”, Interstate-95 south. Susie and I timed our drivers’ exchanges to work perfectly, so that neither of us drove extensive stretches, and the Express lanes in Virginia worked perfectly. You pay extra to ride these, and it’s charged to your EzPass. They only run one direction, so you have to catch the correct schedule to be able to use them. When we got there yesterday morning, they were running south, and boy were we glad to pay extra, as the regular lanes were backed up for miles. Probably saved us close to an hour in travel time!
Billy and Lori’s house is a little crazy due to the duel girl birthday party, and in an effort to make it a little easier on us, he got us a room using points at Wake Forest’s Marriott Fairfield Inn, a couple of minutes away. We arrived at about 4:25, and we were supposed to use the digital key on the app to get in our room, but it wasn’t working on my app. He called the desk and got us a hard key, but when we went to the room, it didn’t work. I left Susie outside the door and returned to the front desk. The young man there was very apologetic and made me another which worked. Susie hit the bathroom, and I was about to do the same, when I heard another key open the door, and a couple start to enter the room! I stopped them, we compared notes and discovered that WE were in the wrong room!!! We’d turned to 134 rather than 133 across the hall, and somehow our key had worked. We quickly grabbed our stuff, apologized and went to the door across the hall. We didn’t expect the key to work, but it did, prompting me to wonder if the young man at the desk made us a MASTER KEY??? I wanted to try it on other doors, but thankfully, as she does most days in life with most of my questionable ideas, my wonderful wife of 41+ years deterred me from this questionable endeavor!
Birthday party number one for the girls was strictly a family affair at a great local Italian Restaurant that we’ve eaten at before with the kids, and because we are in the South, the temperature was perfect to eat outside on their covered patio. Lori’s Mom Kathy was there, as well as her sister Keri and husband Bill, and more kids that seemed right for the two couples! Turns out there was their 5 and a couple of friends without parents! Too much food was ordered, great fun was had with the family, and I made Annabelle laugh when the sun got low and I was using my hand to block it. Of course, since it was her second birthday, Grandpa had to keep doing that, even though the sun was no longer an issue. Nothing better than a 2 year old’s laugh; even better when she’s laughing at you!!
To be a part of this special day, and join his sisters, our wonderful 5 year old Grandson Henry lost his first tooth yesterday! When I saw Lori’s post about it on Facebook at a rest stop, I mused to Susie that the tooth that grows into this young guy’s mouth to replace the tooth he lost, will be with him till he’s an old man. I find that incredible when I look at this adorable 5 year old today! The miracles of life are all around us!
In order to give the parents a bit of time to prepare for a party that sounds like it will have about 50 kids, a Dunk Tank (for Daddy), and a Bounce House for entertainment, Grandma and Grandpa entertained Layla and Henry at the hotel, and Lori’s Mom Kathy was going to try and coral little Annabelle. Billy dropped our two charges off about 10, and a wonderful time was had by all! Grandma had the presence of mind to prepare before we left Ocean City, and had brought bags of chips and the cookie’s they most associate with us…Black and Whites. Grandma showed them how she likes to break the cookies at the point where the two icings go together, and before long, that was the only way Layla and Henry would eat theirs! I said to Susie, that they’d be showing their kids someday, and maybe their Grandkids, how their Grandma liked to eat these special cookies! Susie added yogurts and fruit from the hotel’s pantry, and experimented with making chocolate milk from regular milk and hot chocolate mix. It worked!! We played Mario Monopoly, colored on their tablets, watched Cartoons and Power Rangers on the TV, and at one point I was watching something on the TV with Henry and on her tablet with Layla! Good thing Susie says I can listen to two conversations at once, because I was able to comment to the two of them on what was happening on their respective shows! The two of them also made Grandpa download Fart Games and Whoopie cushion apps to his phone…Grandma was not pleased! All in all, a great time was had!
The party was as advertised! Young kids, young parents, a full size bounce house and an Annabelle sized one, the dunk tank, and a sand box for the real little ones. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries and chips…what else could a party need? How bout an Ice Cream Truck? Yep, about halfway through the party, a bright yellow Ice Cream Truck parked at the end of their driveway, and it was cones, or cups, or ices for all! There was nothing that Lori and Billy didn’t think of! They did a wonderful job!!
The party was a wonderful success and our weekend with our beloved North Carolina Family was incredible. It was great seeing Lori’s Mom and much more of her family, meeting a lot of Billy and Lori’s friends, and watching all the kids have the time of their lives! Susie and I are truly blessed to have Lori and Billy in our life, and as far as Grandma and Grandpa are concerned, there is nothing better than spending time with our 3 favorite little people in the world…Layla, Henry, and Annabelle!
A number of years ago, the kids gave Susie and I Ancestry DNA test kits for Christmas. We dutifully followed instructions, spit into the tube, packed it all up, and sent it off. I didn’t really have any doubt what my test would find, as I knew very well that my Dad was 100% Italian and that my Mom was not only 100% Scottish, but had even been born in Scotland and had not come to America till she was 6 years old! I don’t know if they are faster today, but back in those days, there was a couple of months wait till you got the results back. When they did come back, boy was I surprised!
Yes, the Italian and the Scottish were there, but look at what else they found!! 1% European Jewish (obviously the reason for my love of Matzo), 7% Caucasus, 7% Middle East, and (drum roll please) 25% Irish!! Who knew that after all the years of having nothing more in common with Irish folk than an apostrophe in my last name, I was now 25% Irish!!
Then, just one year later, and shortly before St. Patrick’s Day, I got the following “up date” to my DNA story!
Suddenly they had re-calculated the results, and although some of my other results were similar, now they’d lumped Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in together and highlighted Scotland! Oh well, so much for me being Irish! Goodbye St. Patrick’s Day, time to get out the “Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but Italians” sweatshirt again!
Then this year’s DNA story showed up, and guess what…now I’m 27% Irish!
That’s it, I give up! Tired of the revolving door of ethnicity, think I’ll just go back to what I’ve always known…half Italian, half Scottish!
Either way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone…please don’t turn out like those drunken kids, who cut school to go to the parade in the city, that I used to spend my trip home from work with on the Long Island Rail Road! More celebrating, less throwing up on your shoes at the curb!
On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Susie and I were sitting in the living room of our Cousins Jeanne and Walt’s place in Barefoot Bay, Florida. The two of them had left that day for a month in Hawaii, and Susie and I were looking forward to spending the rest of the month in their house acting like we were Florida residents, before heading home to New Jersey and another knee replacement for me. Yes, we knew all about the pandemic, and the cases of Covid that had been reported in the country and even in our home state, but we were still weighing our options and deciding exactly how much it was going to affect our Florida stay.
That was until we got the news that MLB, the NHL, NCAA, and every other sports acronym you can think of were canceling their games. Then in quick succession, Broadway, Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando announced that they were closing, and our discussion turned to whether we wanted to be stuck in Florida, or if we wanted to be in our little beach town in New Jersey! In our minds, the very real possibility existed that states would be closing access, and that if we didn’t get home ASAP, we might not be able to travel north on I-95 to the Garden State. That was the moment we decided that it was time to bring our Florida 2020 Adventure to a close, and get back as fast as possible to Ocean City!
Early in the morning on Friday, March 13th, we closed up Jeanne and Walt’s house, turned off the water, put the garbage out, and hit the road! Within a half hour, we were on Interstate 95 heading north. We decided to not stop two nights on our way home, as we usually did, but to rather get home in just two days, driving more each day, and just spending one night in a hotel. That decision meant we would miss our usual stop for the best fried shrimp at B&J’s in Darien, Georgia, but we really wanted to be back in NJ. At about 4:30 that first afternoon, we were approaching Fayetteville, North Carolina and found a Doubletree Hotel on the Hilton app just off I-95, and made that our night’s destination. As luck would have it, there was a Cracker Barrel restaurant just across the parking lot!
The last time we ate inside a restaurant, was at that Cracker Barrel in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Friday, March 13th, 2020! When we got home on the 14th, looking ahead, we’d wondered if we should go to our usual Tuesday night at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the day before, on March 16th, New Jersey restaurants closed down, and we no longer had a decision to make. When outside dining opened in New Jersey in June, we did partake in meals at the “Lot at Angelo’s” and the Tent at Charlies, but once outside dining stopped, we just didn’t feel that safe eating indoors, and we went back to take-out only. For close to a year, we had not eaten inside a restaurant, that is not until last Thursday, March 11, 2021 when we joined our Mancuso Family friends at Angelo’s in Atlantic City! So what changed?
Well, on Friday, February 19th, I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro, New Jersey. According to the CDC, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th our “Coming Out Day!” What better way to celebrate than to dress in “going out to dinner clothes” and to return to a place and people we love, and a place we used to be at every Thursday night! We’d been looking forward to it for a long time (really since March 13th of last year), and I’m happy to say we were not disappointed!
We were sad that our friend Michael didn’t greet us from behind the bar as we walked in, as the pandemic has changed schedules for many, but none the less, it was great to be back inside! It was good to see that there were so many people waiting to eat when we walked in, and it was good to see our long time friends Rhonda, Theresa, and Victor were working, along with our new summer friend Suzanne and our take-out friend Wendy. Every week will be a new experience for us, and we can’t wait till we see Patti, Angelo, Ed, Trinidad, and Michael as time goes on, and more and more dining opens up! It was great to be back inside, feeling safe after a year, but we must be realistic and realize getting back to what was our normal will take a bit of time….if it ever happens. I guess the mind set has got to be, be happy for what we’ve got, and not sad for what used to be!
So now that we are fully vaccinated, what else that we’ve not done in the past 12 months is on our horizon? Well, a visit from our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Michael, who we have not seen since August, as well as a visit from our great friends Pat and Steve, who we last saw at Susie’s Mom’s funeral in February, 2020. Then, something we’ve waited so long for, Easter with our son Billy and daughter-in-law Lori in North Carolina, and getting to see our three Grandkids, who we haven’t seen in the flesh since January 30th, 2020! We’ve missed all these people (especially the three youngest members of the D’Elia Family), and can’t wait to see them, to be with them, and to exchange hugs for the first time in a year! Then down the road, there will be the fun of getting back together with our Ocean City friends, and seeing our life get closer to what it was, and maybe even a visit to Florida. My new knee and Susie’s new hip are still on our radar too!
Yes, we have indeed survived the last 12 months, but we are sad that so many other Americans didn’t! With the advancing rollout of the vaccines, we hope that no one else will lose their life due to Covid, that folks who have been financially affected by the pandemic can get back on their feet, and that America will never forget this past year, but will be able to move beyond it!
16 Years ago today, on January 28th, 2005, Susie and I closed on our house at 854 Pennlyn Place, just 500 feet down the street from the beach, in Ocean City, NJ! We’d first seen the house on December 28, 2004, made an offer, and one month later, we were sitting in a title company office on West Avenue in Ocean City signing our life away!
A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of 11 blogs about our relationship with Ocean City. It started with the first time I came here with my folks in 1955, continued to the years our family was young and we spent time in Ocean City, told the whole story of how purchasing a house in Las Vegas led to our dream of owning in Ocean City coming true, talked about what we call our “Ocean City Family”, of all the fun we’ve had over the years with Pennlyn neighbors, and ended with the sale of our Mineola house, and Susie and I becoming full time Ocean City residents. If you missed those blogs, here’s a link to the beginning of the series…. https://rnewadventures.com/2018/08/28/ocean-city-nj-part-1/
It’s really incredible when your dreams come true, and ours definitely have! Hard to believe it’s been 16 years on one hand, and on the other, hard to believe it’s only been 16! For the first 12 years, owning this house was about going to our happy place, and for the last 4, it’s been about home, and frankly, we couldn’t be happier!
On July 3rd, 1977, I met Susan Lynn Johnson at a Fourth of July Party, and that day, I learned what the phrase “Love at First Sight” really meant! I don’t know why, but I do know that I loved that young lady from the first moments we were together, and if anything, the years between then and now have only strengthened my love for her! 43 years ago, my fate was sealed, and 41 years ago today, at the CW Post Interfaith Chapel, we became one!
Thank you for 41 wonderful years, for three great kids, for the wonderful memories (even if you don’t always remember all the things I do! I know…my memory is a pain in the ass!), for the lives we’ve lived, and the lives we’ve touched over the years! Thank you for saying yes, and for being with me through all the various elements of the dream lives we have lived, because we have really lived our dreams, and that is really all about you! I would gladly do it all over again, as long as I have you at my side!
Happy Anniversary Baby, and may there be many more for us to celebrate together!!!
PS – Susie is the copy editor on this blog, but since she did not see this post before it was published, all errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and the like, belong exclusively to the author…ME!
Does your family have traditions that you can plot like clockwork? Traditions that happen as steadily as turning the pages on a calendar? Well, Susie and I do, and as it happens, the three I’m going to talk about come together most Sundays, and that is what separates our Sundays, from the other 6 days of the week! I’m not going to say that these traditions are set in stone, but honestly, there’s got to be a pretty big reason for us to deviate from them! Let me start with the oldest of the three, and give you a view of the timeline of the events that eventually became our Ocean City Sundays.
Stir, Stir Sunday
Are you of an age, where you remember watching old black and white movies like the Thin Man series, staring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles? Movies of that era featured lots of drinking and one drink that was promptly featured was the martini. Why there was even a movie in the Thin Man series called, Mix Martinis Marriage and Murder! Somebody was always mixing a pitcher of martinis in these movies either as a means of celebration, or as an antidote to get through a tough situation. Now, I’m not talking about the James Bond, “Shaken not Stirred” Vodka martini (note…we do those too, but NOT on Sunday), I’m talking about the tall elegant glass pitcher, filled with ice and in those early days, more likely gin than vodka, and stirred with a long glass wand! If you do remember those scenes in old movies, then you understand what I’m talking about!
A number of years ago, through the magic of Ebay, where you can find just about anything, we bought a vintage Martini Set, containing the pitcher, glass stirrer, and 6 period correct martini glasses. I say period correct, because unlike today’s huge martini glasses, some of which can take half a bottle of spirits, the vintage glasses were of a more manageable size, which is why folks back then could spend the afternoon drinking from them! So this then is our set.
Now, don’t really think when we first got them they were exclusively used on Sundays, but I do know that eventually they did end up being the anchor of our Sunday evenings, and were exclusively used on Sundays at about 5 PM. First the pitcher is filled with ice, then the vodka fresh from the freezer joins the mix (FYI…no vermouth is used in the making of Stir, Stir Sunday), and then the stirring commences, usually by my lovely wife Susie! Meanwhile, I take the frozen glasses out of the freezer, trim some subtle elegant lemon peals, and then we join the frozen vodka, with the frozen glasses! If we are home at 5PM on a Sunday, we participate in our tradition! In fact, back before we sold the Mineola house, and became exclusively residents of Ocean City, we had a set in Mineola and a set in Ocean City, so that at either house, we were prepared! Cheers to you!!
The second oldest tradition on our Sundays involve bagels! When we started regularly having bagels, there was not any particular day involved, and then for a while it was pretty regularly a Saturday thing, but a number of years ago, it became a fixed part of our Sunday mornings! We did this both on Long Island and here in Ocean City, and since we became full time OC residents, every Sunday starts the same! We get up (Susie usually before me), we goof around with our iPads for an hour or so checking mail, Facebook, and the news, and then we get dressed and are ready to start the day! I always go alone, driving over the bridge to Somers Point and my friends at Hot Bagels and More on Route 9, but as an offshoot of the pandemic, now I call first and put in our order. Some weeks I get through on my first try, some weekends it takes longer, but eventually I do get our order placed! My favorite way to do the drive is with the top down on the Mustang, but if the weather does not cooperate, then I go with the top up or in our Honda CRV. It’s about a 10 minute drive, and I love seeing my Hot Bagel friends Sue, Kris, Maria, and CC, and taking the sometimes still hot bagel sandwiches home to enjoy!
Once I’m home, and the bagels are plated and the accompanying cups of tea are made, Susie and I sit down and enjoy our bagel sandwiches (usually a flavored cream cheese – Scallion for Susie and Veggie for me – and either well done bacon, or sometimes something like ham or pork roll) while watching TV. During the TV season, it was usually Friday night’s Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods off the DVR, but since they ended for the year (and Hawaii Five-O for good), we’ve been hooked on the TV show Las Vegas from the early 2000s!
Some people may wonder how the South Jersey Bagels compare with the Long Island Bagels from our past. Let me say that we were never 100% committed to any one bagel store around Mineola, having tried 3 or 4 different ones over the years. As to how they compared with our South Jersey bagels? I’ll say that anytime Bagel Sunday found us on Long Island, we missed the quality and the size of our Hot Bagel and More sandwiches! In fact, in 2019 we found a bagel store down in Indian Rocks Beach, and tried to keep our tradition alive. We were so disappointed by the offerings there, that when we spent February, 2020 in Indian Rocks Beach, it was with a dozen frozen everything bagels from our bagel friends at Hot Bagels and More, on Route 9 in Somers Point! I’d put their bagels up against anyone’s!
The Sunday Drive
This, the newest of our Sunday Traditions, is something we really didn’t do when we still lived on Long Island. We’d take drives around our part of Long Island, but it wasn’t really pegged to Sundays. In fact, for most of the 15 years we’ve owned our Ocean City house, our Sunday drive usually was comprised of a 150 mile trip back to our Mineola house via the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, Lincoln Tunnel, Midtown Tunnel and the LIE! So, this Sunday Tradition really had it’s start back when we made Ocean City our full time residence in November of 2017.
If you are like me, growing up in Queens, a Sunday drive was often a part of our weekend! When we lived in Jackson Heights, we’d drive out to the “country”, which it turns out was just down the road from the Bayside house our family moved to in 1968! We really weren’t going anywhere (except those Sundays we’d stop for a hot dog and some ice cream at Howard Johnsons), but were just getting out of our 4 room apartment and exploring! Well, that’s what Susie and I do! In nice weather, we hop into the Mustang, put the top down, and go out and explore the area, but honestly, it’s something we do 12 months a year, top up or down! If anyone is interested, the Mustang is a 2000, that we picked up at the dealership on March 31, 2000. We ordered her just 3 days after my 50th birthday, and I would say that my red convertible was my “mid-life crisis car”! Now after 21 summers in our life, she’s turned into my “retirement car”!
So where do we go? Well, over the years we’ve explored most of Cape May and much of Atlantic Counties. We’ve headed out with a purpose to see something, or just made random turns at intersections. We’ve traveled up and down most of the streets in Ocean City, and explored our neighbors to the north and south! We’ve learned where we live and know what’s around, and we’ve seen some incredible sights. Take a look at some of our discoveries over the years!
And there you have Susie and my Sunday Traditions! We start with our bagels, continue with our exploration of Southern Jersey, and wrap up the day with Stir Stir! Susie always tries to have a crockpot meal or something she can just throw into the oven to cook, so meal preparation doesn’t affect our enjoyment! It is truly an anchor of our week, and during our time in “lockdown” during the pandemic, sometimes it was the only way we could tell Sundays from the rest of the week. We love our Sundays, our traditions, and we jealously guard them, and hope to continue Bagel Sunday, Stir Stir Sunday and our rides forever! Why you may ask don’t we include going to the beach on our Sundays? Well, for one, we live here and don’t have the need to be at the beach every day, but more importantly, Sundays are the weekly renters first full day at the shore, and we figure to let them enjoy the beach, while we enjoy our other Sunday Traditions!
Thanks for joining us for our D’Elia Family Sunday Traditions…We hope you have yours!
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 windowsof 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!
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 the 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.
It’s hard to believe, but it was 40 years ago this Christmas that Susie and Ispent 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!
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!
There 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!