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!
Back in the end of August, we saw our daughter Krissi and her husband Mike, when Mike’s sister Sara, her husband Gabe, and teenagers Maddy and Ethan rented a house in Ocean City for a week from our neighbor Neen. It was the first time we’d seen them since they surprised me and helped me celebrate my 70th birthday back in January. As we were in the height of the pandemic, Krissi and Mike didn’t stay with us, Mike’s parents Paula and Jerry stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast, we observed social distancing by visiting together in our garage and at the beach, and we exchanged the briefest of hugs. It was something, but it wasn’t what we really wanted.
Turn the clock ahead 7+ months, and now Krissi, who is an administrator at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, and Mike, who sells wine and spirits with MS Walker are both fully vaccinated. Add in the fact that Susie and I are fully vaccinated too, and it’s time for a real, old fashioned weekend with our favorite daughter and our son-in-law! Last Friday, Mike dropped Krissi off with us, while he worked some clients with one of his local salesmen Bryce, which was the beginning of a weekend they spent staying in our house! Old times were back again!
Our time together started with hugs and kisses all around, and then a good old fashioned weekend of visiting. Rather than heading here, there, and everywhere, Krissi decided on a laid back weekend, with home-cooked meals, and lots of time for visiting! She had a hankering for some grilled food, as living in their new condo in New Rochelle doesn’t give them a grilling outlet. Luckily, Susie and I had visited Costco just the day before, so Pork Chops and Pork Tenderloin Medallions were on our Mixed Grill menu. Krissi, Susie and I hit the local Acme to get the fixings for a big salad, while Mike headed off to work with Bryce, and because they looked wonderful, some grilled asparagus were added to the menu! The weather wasn’t wonderful, so I headed down to the grill, while Susie, Krissi and Mike stayed upstairs. After all was done and said, it was a great meal, accompanied by some great wine that Mike had brought for us! Earlier in the day, Krissi also joined Susie and I in our daily exercise routine, and a new chandelier was also put up over our dining room table, by Susie, Krissi, and me, but we don’t need to talk any more about that.
Saturday was a hanging out day around the house, watching some TV and being lazy! Poor Mike was subjected to our Wedding Album when the topic of weddings came up. Then Krissi and Mike proceeded to cook us a wonderful dinner. It was a Turkey Taco Salad, with lots of wonderful vegetables. There was lots of chopping to be done, and the two of them were a perfect team! It was a great meal, and during it we watched one of their favorites on TV – The Masked Singer.
We carefully checked the weather, and although not perfect, Saturday night looked like the best chance of the weekend for some time Fire Pit time, so that’s what we did!
Sunday morning was, of course, Bagel Sunday, so orders in hand, I headed off to see my friends at Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point! As usual they were yummy!!
Again, Sunday was not a great weather day, but we were able to get out a bit with the kids and hit BF Mazzeos and Tilton Market, to both get some things for us, and for Krissi and Mike to bring home. Then it was time for Sunday Stir Stir Vodka (for Susie and I) and Gin (for Krissi and Mike). We decided that Sunday night dinner would be a hors d’oeuvres buffet of sorts, so I was called upon to make my Dad’s Stuffed Mushrooms. It was accompanied by Shrimp Cocktail from Costco, Eggplant Meatballs from BF Mazzeos, Buffalo Chicken Sausage from Bagliani’s (along with Blue Cheese Dressing from Charlies), and a charcuterie platter with delicacies from Bagliani’s and Passion Vines!
Susie and I relaxed while the kids took a walk around the neighborhood. That night we played a rousing game of “That’s What She Said,” and laughed a lot! After a good night’s sleep, about 10:30 on Monday morning Krissi and Mike headed back to their new condo in New Rochelle, where we will turn the tables and be their guests in two weeks!
It was a great weekend with our middle child (by 2 minutes) and her husband, and just another clue that our lives are returning! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again – we may even have a road trip in our future!! Thanks again Moderna!
Last Saturday, April 3rd at about 8:15 AM, Susie and I pulled the Honda CRV out of our garage and headed towards the Ninth Street bridge. Just about an hour later, at 9:12 we crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, entered the city of Philadelphia and our neighbor state of Pennsylvania. For the FIRST time since we returned from Florida on March 14, 2020, we had left the state of New Jersey! 4 states, and about 7 hours later, we pulled up in front of our son and daughter-in-law’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Grandma and Grandpa were ready to spend Easter weekend with our three precious Grandkids and their Mom and Dad!
Last year, on January 30th, 2020, on our way to Florida, for what we thought was going to be a two month stay, we stopped overnight to see Billy and his family. The next morning, when we left, headed south on I-95, we expected that we’d see them again in a couple of months later on our way home from Florida. Little did we know that on January 31st, 2020, we would see Lori, Bill and Layla, Henry and Annabelle for the last time till last Saturday afternoon. At that point we knew nothing about something called Covid-19, or what America and our family would look like during a pandemic, or that we’d lose an entire year out of our Grandchildren’s lives!
Our son’s family had been at Busch Gardens for several days, and they arrived home about an half hour after we got there. It took zero time after hugs and hello kisses for the kids to put us in Grandparent mode…and we loved it after a year away! It took Annabelle a bit to warm up, but before too long she was calling us Grandma and Grandpa, and we were so happy to once again be back in our three Grandchildren’s lives! Billy and Lori went out to shop for Easter brunch, and Grandma and Grandpa had Chinese food with the kids and then settled in for a night of playing games!. From Henry and Grandpa playing with his Nintendo Switch, and Grandma and Annabelle playing with Stickers, and Grandma and Grandpa as a willing audience for Layla’s performing, up to and including watching some show called the Haunted Hendersons, we had a great night!! When Lori and Billy came home, they thanked us for watching the kids. We thanked them for giving us several uninterrupted hours with our 3 favorite people 7 and under!
Easter morning was wonderful as we watched them hunt for Easter Eggs and try and find where the Easter Bunny had hidden their Easter baskets. Then we were almost as excited as they were as they discovered what surprises were in the eggs they found, and dove into their Easter baskets!
Then it was time to check out Easter presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa, before it was time to shower and get dressed before the rest of the family arrived!
The rest of the family included Lori’s Mom Kathy, her sister Keri and husband Bill, along with their two kids Molly and Max, and Lori’s brother Sean and his girlfriend Lauren. Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we were all thankful that everybody in the house (but the kids) had had both vaccine shots! It was wonderful to once again be with family. To eat (oh what a spread Lori and Bill put out), drink, and as they say, be merry! The kids played, the adults played, and a good time was had by all!
We slept very well that night after a day spent with young kids. They were all wonderful and we were so glad to be back on track after a year of FaceTime calls! The next morning, after breakfast and getting dressed, we were off to see Bill and Lori’s new Lake House! The cars were packed, Layla and Henry rode with Grandma and Grandpa, and we departed Wake Forest for the hour and a half trip to Roanoke Rapids lake!
To say we were thrilled by where Lori and Billy’s life has taken them would be an understatement! What a wonderful life they have created for themselves, and their 3 incredible kids, and what remarkable memories they are going to create with this great Lake House! They’ve done, and had done, a lot of work already, but the vision is very clear and we loved it! It’s a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath house, but Lori came upon with this great idea to convert the upstairs bedroom to a bunk room, which is able to sleep 10 people in comfort! A great idea and we loved the execution of Lori’s idea by their handyman Oscar!
We totally enjoyed the rest of Monday, on the large deck overlooking the lake, on the pontoon boat on the lake, and around the fire pit that night! It was a magical time, in a magical place, with 5 people that we love so much!
Tuesday morning, after some more Grandparent/Grandkid time, it was time for Susie and I to head back to Ocean City. The traffic wasn’t the greatest around Washington, DC, but what’s new about that? We safely got home, with nothing but wonderful memories of Easter, 2021! Thanks to the Miracle of Science, and the Modern vaccine that Susie and I got back in February, we were once again able to enjoy hugs and kisses from our family, and to put memories of 2020 in the background, as we move ahead to make many more new memories in 2021 of Family Time!! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again!! Thanks Moderna!
Here’s the final part of our look back at the year that was the most different of our lifetimes!
Early in August, the hurricane with the almost unpronounceable name came to Ocean City to visit! There was rain and wind…a lot of wind…and a tornado was sighted just west of Ocean City and cut a path of destruction up through Marmora, our neighbor town to the west of 34th Street. It did damage in OC too, taking the steeple off a small church on 32nd Street and Central Avenue, blowing small structures over, knocking over porch furniture and destroying awnings all over town.
At our house, it tossed about the furniture on the porch pretty good, even upending the couch. Then there was a knock on the front door…it was our neighbor Meade telling us that our Gazebo was now next to his house! Although it was staked down in the back yard, and had seemed fine every time Susie or I had checked on it that morning, at some point a gust of wind was more than it could take! Not only did the wind take it down, but it carried it over the cottage next door, and slammed it into the side of Patty and Meade’s house! With the help from some renters, we carried it away from their house and into our garage, where Susie and I proceeded to take it apart, as the canvas was ripped, and many of the uprights were bent. In short, the Gazebo was no more!
After the very casual way Isaias had torn apart our backyard Oasis, we were determined that we needed to make a statement that it might be different, but was still there! We bought a couple of tables from Amazon, strung some new lights, and we were back in business! It wasn’t the same, but we were confident that our new Oasis would withstand whatever Mother Nature threw at her! Early in the fall, we even added a fire pit to the mix!
At the end of August, needing a release from being cooped up in their house with their two teenage children, our son-in-law Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe rented our neighbor Neen’s rental property around the corner on Third Street. Once the rest of the family found out about it, our daughter Krissi thought it might be a great way to have a “Socially Distanced” visit to the old folks. Krissi and Mike got a room with points at a nearby Hampton Inn (Mike would make it a “work trip” by visiting some local liquor stores….Mike works for a wine distributor), and Mike’s folks, Jerry and Paula, got a place at a local Ocean City Bed and Breakfast!
We socially distanced in our garage, in the backyard and our new Oasis, and on the Pennlyn Place Beach! It was different, but it was great to see some family again!!
September and October
We continued our lives in our little seaside community as well as we could considering the year we were in. There was time at the beach, relaxing on our porch, our dinners out at Angelo’s and Charlie’s, and a take-out meal here and there. Rather than real life visits, there were pictures and Facetimes from Billy’s family where we got to see and interact with our Grandkids. There were phone calls and Facetimes keeping in touch with our twins in Astoria and Florida. Having been without wheels since they arrived in Florida, in the beginning of October, Kenny and Chris bought a used car…a 2014 Mazda 2. As the weather got colder, we enjoyed the heaters at Angelo’s and time at our fire pit in our backyard! We continued our weekly traditions and began to play cards every afternoon at 4 for at least an hour!
In November, as the weather continued to cool off, we enjoyed our last outdoor meal at Angelo’s in AC. Going forward it was take-out or home cooking for us. As many restaurants (including Charlie’s and Angelo’s) had opened for 25% indoor dining, we were not comfortable eating inside, so we didn’t.
The boys decided to come up and spend Thanksgiving with us, and after getting negative Covid tests, they got in their little car and drove up! I wrote a rather extensive blog about their visit, our Twins’ Birthday, our Thanksgiving celebration, and putting up our Christmas Tree with Kenny and Chris. If you want to re-visit that, you’ll find it here…
After the boys headed back to Florida, we continued our preparation for Christmas. Although, it was only going to be the two of us, for the first time in our married life of 41 Christmases, we did our usual. I wrote about it in a blog called Christmas 2020 Cancelled?? https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/20/christmas-2020-canceled/
Susie and I enjoyed our different Christmas, and although we missed our kids and Grandkids, I wouldn’t say we suffered in any other way. We used Facetime and saw Kenny and Chris in Florida, Krissi and Mike in New York, and Billy and Lori and the kids open gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. We stayed in our PJs all day, and watched Christmas movies. We also got to partake in one of those D’Elia Family Traditions, as we took drives to look at Santa Lights in Ocean City! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/22/santa-lights/
Between Christmas and New Year, and my January 2nd birthday, we continued our quest to watch as many Christmas movies as possible, to continue to eat the wrong food, and to enjoy the holiday season. All in all, different, but not bad.
And that takes us to the end of the year known as 2020! It was by no means a normal year, but our family was lucky in that we got through it better than many. As I write this, we are looking forward to a new year with a lot more promise. Hopefully the vaccine will roll out better than it has in the early stages, people will realize that wearing a mask is not an impingement of their freedom, but rather a medically smart thing to do, and before 2021 is over, we can get back to some semblance of the life we left behind!
Susie and I send our best wishes for health and happiness to you and yours, and look forward to you joining us as we march through the next 12 months!!
As the calendar turned to May, the weather turned better, and a major beach replenishment started in the North End of Ocean City! Seems like 2020 was the year of renewals, and we now have more beach sand, but it did take most of the summer. May is, also, of course, the month of Susie’s birthday, and we looked forward to a celebration at Angelo’s because, like mine in January, Susie’s May 28th birthday also fell on our regular Thursday night Angelo’s night! Alas, Covid changed the plans, so we substituted an Angelo’s take out meal and a cake made specially by her boys!
Late May and early June also brought protests all across our country regarding what many thought was the out of control behavior of many Police Departments towards our black citizens. The phrase Black Lives Mater was heard across the country, and even in our little beach town on the Jersey Shore! After a march in nearby Atlantic City had turned to destruction, there were fears that a similar thing could happen here when a march to Ocean City was planned, but our community and Police Department kept the action level headed and on target. It was a day to be proud of our community!
June also brought beach weather, and since our porch was completed and in great shape again, a lot of beach and porch time. It’s what living at the shore is all about, and we made sure to take advantage. Susie and I always like going to the beach early in the day, and we continued doing that this year, which made it very easy to not get too close to our fellow beach goers!
Let’s just admit something here…”Our Boys” (Kenny and Chris) were bored! Sitting on the beach or sitting on the front porch reading was not their cup of tea! They did exercises, walked the beach and neighborhood, but really needed a project! One day, Chris came in and told us that Doc got a new backyard grill and that he’d said that Chris could take his old one. Suddenly we had a grill and the boys had a project! The Oasis was born!
As we share a backyard with our co-owners, the first task was creating a private area on our side and easing access to the back yard. We headed over to Lowes and purchased pavers to make a walkway to the back, and some palm trees for a little privacy. The boys now had a project! Neighbors across the street were throwing out some old small wicker tables, and Chris had another project…repaint them! Then Susie saw a gazebo structure online at Lowes, and we went back and purchased that. Another project…build the gazebo! The Oasis was well on the way! Then a set back…suddenly one day, as steaks were grilling, flames came out of the firebox and started the control panel on fire! Oh Boy!! The fire was put out, Doc’s old grill went to the curb, and we went back to Lowes and purchased a brand new grill. Stools were ordered, lights were strung, and the Oasis was in great shape! The boys had enjoyed the project, and we had a new backyard feature!
The last time Susie and I had eaten in a restaurant was back in March, at a Cracker Barrel on our way home from Florida! We’d done take-out, and a lot of cooking, but we missed our Tuesdays at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and our Thursdays at Angelo’s in AC with all our Thursday Angelo’s friends! Early in June, many places started outdoor dining, and we were lucky enough that two of them were our weekly favorites!
Angelo’s converted their parking lot to outdoor dining. They had an extensive waiting area, a beautiful outdoor bar, a free-standing bathroom, and a very nice “dining room”, not under a tent, but covered by colorful sails! All our regular Thursday friends were back, and it was great to be back in the fold! We missed sitting at the bar with our friend Michael, but many times, Michael was our waiter. At other times it was our friends Theresa, or Rhonda, or Patty who’d serve us a couple of Grey Goose Martinis and a selection of the food we loved!!
Charlies took half of their parking lot and erected a tent, and although they were not open on our usual Tuesday due to staffing issues, and were serving a limited menu, we went Wednesdays when our friend Sue (or her daughter Carlye) was the hostess, and other friends like Jessie and Brett were delivering food! It was good to have two of our favorite weekly anchors back in place!
The Boys Head to Florida
Late in July, Kenny and Chris made good on their plan to move to Florida! Entertainment was gone, the cruise industry was closed down, and they needed to move on to their next adventure. Chris had been studying for months to take his Florida real estate broker license, and they’d found a nice Air B&B in St. Pete’s beach and paid for 6 months rent up front. It was time to leave Mom and Dad, after being locked up in the house with us for 4+ months at this point! After a couple of “Good-Bye” Dinners, it was time.
The boys rented a mini van, loaded as much as they could into it, and headed out! Once down in Florida, Chris continued his studies, took the test, and was now a licensed Florida Real Estate Broker – – color us proud! Kenny is now taking the same online course that Chris did!
Please stay tuned as we finish up our look back at 2020 in 2020…Year in Review – Part Three
The 2020 version of Susie’s Christmas Letter started this way:
“I ended last year’s letter with, “ I wonder what the next year will bring.” Well, to say it’s been a doozy is an understatement! I’m sure we can all agree it’s been a very trying year.”
As the clock approached midnight on December 31st, 2019, 2020 appeared to be shaping up to be another good year for the D’Elia Family! Our kids were all married and healthy. A third Grandchild had joined our family in 2019. The boys had been with us for Christmas, Billy, Lori and our 3 Grandkids had visited us right after Christmas and we were looking forward to 2020, including our plans to spend several months of the winter in Florida!
in January, we celebrated my 70th Birthday! First with the boys at Angelo’s because January 2nd fell on our usual Angelo’s night of Thursday!
Then a week later, the twins and their spouses (Krissi, Mike, Kenny and Chris) surprised me with a birthday weekend at Harrahs in Atlantic City!
It was a great way to celebrate my 70th trip around the sun and the kids totally surprised me!
The next weekend, Kenny and Chris started their new job of flying to various cities around the country and officiating at Dance Competitions. All expenses were paid, they got frequent flyer miles, and working 4 days a week, they made what they’d have made in a regular job. It was a lot of work, with long hours, but they seemed to be enjoying it. Meanwhile, Susie and I were putting Christmas, 2019 back in tubs and transporting it to our storage place. We were also packing and getting ready for our trip to Florida at the end of the month! On January 30th, we left Ocean City, with our first stop at Billy and Lori’s brand new house in Wake Forest, North Carolina! Little did we know that would be the last time we saw them in 2020!
Then, towards the end of the month, Kenny and Chris had a weekend off from their job, and came down and spent mid-week to mid-week with us! It was great showing them a place we liked a lot, and they liked it too! They loved going to the beach, exploring the town on foot, and checking out several great restaurants
The last week of February, on the 25th, Susie got a call that her Mom had died. She was 95, had been in full on dementia for a while, and had been in a Nursing Home on Long Island for several years. We were very happy that we’d had a great visit with her in January before heading down to Florida, but now the problem of the boys and us being in Florida and planning and getting to a funeral that was taking place that weekend on Long Island.
The morning after the funeral, Kenny and Chris drove back to Ocean City, Billy caught his flight out of JFK, and that afternoon at 4:15, Susie and I were on another Delta flight, heading back to Florida (where our car was waiting for us at the long term parking at the airport), and what we thought was going to be our second month in the Sunshine State! After a brief overnight at a Hampton Inn near the airport, we were off to six wonderful nights at the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach! To say we love being at Hilton’s Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach Florida would be an understatement..see what I mean in this blog! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/12/doubletree-resort-hollywood-beach-florida/
I think the morning we drove away from the Doubletree’s Valet Parking, was the last time that Susie and I thought that 2020 was going to be a normal year in our lives! Our next stop was at my cousin Jeanne and Walt’s in Barefoot Bay, Florida. Just above Sebastian on the East Coast of Florida, we’d stayed with Jeanne and Walt several times in the past, but this year was going to be different. A couple of days after we arrived, Jeanne and Walt were heading to Hawaii, and Susie and I were going to be residents of Barefoot Bay for the rest of March! “Were Going to Be” are the operative word of that sentence!
Two days later, on Monday the 16th, the boys returned from what would be the last weekend of their new Dance Competition job. Susie and I wondered if we should go to Charlie’s the next day for St. Patricks at the back bar with our friend Sue. We didn’t have to make the decision, as Charlie’s and most of the rest of our Jersey Shore Community closed down! One week later I wrote another blog about a Strange Time…little did I know! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/21/a-strange-time/
Honestly, most of 2020 has been a blur that went by way too fast. I wrote one blog post early in April (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/04/) and then nothing again till August! In the midst of all this, I just didn’t feel like writing. I started a couple of blogs, but they just never went anywhere! Therefore, my plan for the rest of this Review of 2020 is to look back at the calendar and some of our pictures, and try to recreate the “high” spots of the next 9 months!
The Front Porch Gets Rebuilt
April brought the start of major work on our house’s front porch. We had an issue in the front right corner, figured that we had some rot, and made arrangements for OC Fiberglass to start work when we came back from Florida.. Of course, nothing could be determined till it was opened up, and when they did open it up, there was much more damage than we imagined. Turned out we had to have the 4 front columns replaced, the entire outer structure of the porch, and it involved our upstairs neighbors too! Because of the supply issues with Covid, and Mother Nature, what should have taken a couple of weeks took well into mid May! A lot of time, and you don’t want to know what it cost us!
We’ll pick up with May in 2020…Year in Review – Part Two…stay tuned!
There was nothing better to do this time of the year, when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little, then to pile into the Ford Taurus station wagon, and drive around Mineola and the surrounding villages and look at what we called “Santa Lights.” That term came into being, because on one of our nights looking at the houses, one of the kids wanted to know why some houses were decorated, and others weren’t. Susie and I creatively informed our 3 little ones that the ones that were decorated had little kids living there, and the lights were so that Santa could more easily find the houses on Christmas Eve. Thus was born the term, “Santa Lights!”
Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny when we moved into the Mineola house, and Billy hadn’t had his 4th birthday yet, so we indeed did have little ones at home in those early years in Mineola, and did our best with Santa Lights! We must have pictures someplace, but in the late 80s and early 90s, years of everyone not having a digital camera in their pocket, the numbers of pictures we have of things like our house decorations are not large. The Mineola house had a front porch, and ours was the site of an annual Christmas portrait! Right in the center, there was a fireplace (a fake fireplace that was in the first house we bought in New Hyde Park, and although never used inside, traveled to Mineola with us) that included a burning fire (well, a nailed together group of logs and a carefully placed flicker bulb which made it look like a roaring fire), which was outlined with lights, and complete with stockings hung from the chimney with care! To one side was a Christmas tree (a fake tree that was a hand me down from my work friend Johnny Donovan) , and one of our porch chairs, that Santa was sitting in (Santa was a plastic type character suit, that was stuffed with newspapers every year). Of course there were presents under the tree, and Christmas music playing from a hidden speaker! To the left of the porch, on the lawn, was an illuminated manger scene complete with a creche I’d made with firring strips! Very fitting we thought for a house that had 3 little Santa recipients in residence!
As the kids got older, and tastes changed, we went from colored lights to all white lights out front, and the fireplace, tree, Santa and the Manger scene morphed into garland and wreaths and lighting up the fence around the house. Things were added and we refined the look as the years went on, and honestly, as we got older and the kids no longer lived with us, we went for ease of decorating too! The last year we decorated the Mineola house was Christmas 2016, before we sold the house after 31 years. Here’s a look at that!
Although we no longer have little kids, and that faithful Taurus station wagon is long gone, we now live down at the beach in Ocean City, and looking at Santa Lights is still a nice way Susie and I like to spend some time at Christmastime! In fact, as I write this, we’ve already made three passes at Ocean City in our Honda CRV to check out the neighbors and their Santa Lights!
Here’s a look at some of our Pennlyn Neighbors…
And here’s what we can see from our front porch.
Here are some of our favorites that we saw around town!
Christmas is now, and always has been a big event in the D’Elia household. Early in our relationship, I discovered Susie’s love for Christmas, so much so, that on Christmas Day, 1978, I asked her to become my Mrs. Claus, and she said “yes!” This Christmas Day will be the 42nd Anniversary of “the day she said yes!” On our first Christmas in 1979 in our Port Washington apartment, I wanted everything to be perfect! We bought a much too expensive real tree ($75 way back then), but then forgot to get a saw to cut the bottom off before we put it into the stand, so we used our Ginsu knife to do the task! Christmas morning we opened presents while drinking Andre Champagne (it was $3.99 then) and watching Susie’s favorite movie, White Christmas! Unfortunately, WABC TV was showing the movie, and had cut it to 60 minutes including commercials, so unless you knew the movie, it made no sense! After our morning alone, it was time to pack up and move on to Susie’s Mom and Dad’s and the Johnson/Vincent/D’Elia Family Christmas Day Celebration! That first Christmas pretty much established the pattern that would be our Christmas for years to come!
Once the kids came along (Billy in 1982 and Krissi and Kenny in 1986), it just got more so. The entire period from Thanksgiving to Christmas was full of events like cookie-making, shopping (Dad took one of the 3 kids out alone on 3 days after work so they could shop for Mommy while Mommy did the same thing for Daddy!), wrapping, decorating, and just enjoying Christmas and all it meant to our family! Even before there was such a thing, we did our best to make it a “Hallmark Christmas Movie” holiday!
I think back fondly to our Christmases when our three were small. It always included Christmas Eve Lobster Dinners at Grandma D’Elia’s in Bayside, then running to the Community Church of East Williston for the Christmas Pageant and Christmas Eve services (Krissi was miss-cast as an Angel one year), returning to our house, often with my Mom in tow, and the D’Elia Family traditions of Italian Cold Cut Sandwiches, more Andre “cheap Champagne,” and watching Christmas Vacation! Once the kids were all in bed, it was time to attack their stockings, making sure to remove any Toys R Us tags from the packages and Dad’s task of assembling any toys requiring it! Christmas morning ALWAYS came too early, but the rules were the kids couldn’t go downstairs without us, so “Santa” would always leave a little something at the foot of their beds to occupy them, while the adults pried open their eye lids! Downstairs, everybody took their established places around the living room, presents were passed out, and the chaos of opening presents and keeping the presents separated from the wrapping paper got underway. They were fun days, that I’d love to be able to turn the hands of time back to….even the one year Kenny hated all his presents because he hadn’t gotten a kilt! Soon after presents and something to eat, it was time to either (A) clean up, because the entire clan was coming over to our house, or (B) walk away from the mess, dress, and travel to Susie’s Mom and Dad’s or her sister Barbara’s house to celebrate with the entire clan!
This year, however, how many folks will be singing along with the Christmastime classic, “Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? A recent Good Housekeeping article, had the rather ominous title, IS CHRISTMAS 2020 CANCELED DUE TO COVID 19?”. In Italy and Germany, all Christmas Markets around the country have been canceled. In NYC, visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center will be a new and different experience this year, requiring tickets! Why, even here in our decidedly “Hallmark Christmas Movie Town” of Ocean City, NJ, many holiday events like Miracle on Asbury on Black Friday, the Christmas Parade, First Night and First Day celebrations, have gone the way of our 4th of July Fireworks, the Night in Venice Boat Parade, and the Boardwalk Air Show…all events where folks might gather, have been canceled!
Obviously, things will be very different for many families in 2020, and a lot of folks are really having trouble finding their Christmas Cheer! Thanks to the Corona Virus, over 300,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives, and millions are affected by those deaths! A lot of folks are unemployed with little prospect of getting jobs, and entire industries have shuttered and many have no idea when, or even if, they will be able to get back to work. For many, many families this year, Christmas is indeed canceled!
It’s sad, but I’ve heard so many people say that they just can’t get into the holidays this year. They wonder why they should put up a tree or decorate the house. “It’s just not going to be the same,” many of them say, “so we might as well forget it and skip it this year!” Why even my very own Mrs. Claus had some trouble finding her holiday spirit early on! I’m sure a huge part of the reason for us is that this will be a very different Christmas for the D’Elia/Fox/Mikowicz Family. Blessedly, Covid has not directly touched our family’s lives, as it has so many around the world, and in our local communities, but for the first time in our married life, we will be spending the holiday alone! On one hand it’s very sad, that we will not see our kids, their spouses, and our Grandkids, but there is a part of us that’s kind of looking forward to the luxury of doing whatever we want, whenever we want, on Christmas Day! We may absolutely hate it, but for now, we are looking forward to finding out what we’ve never had in our 43 years of being together is like! In the end, Christmas Spirit did indeed find the D’Elia Household, and kind of like in Show Business, The Show Must Go On!!
So the tree is up and decorated..
The Manger is in place…
and Susie’s got her SnowMan/SnowWoman Village together…
The Windows are decorated…both inside..
The outside of the house is in the Christmas mood…
And even the Honda CRV is ready!!
Susie’s got her wrapping station set up in the den, and gifts for our kids and Grandkids have been wrapped, packed into boxes, and after multiple trips to the Ocean City Post Office and UPS, just like Santa and his sleigh, the gifts are on their way to North Carolina, Florida, and New York!
Traditions are an important part of our holidays, and while some are going to be different this year, the ones that have been and will continue to be maintained are like a warm hug! Lord knows, we all could use a hug this holiday season! So no matter what you celebrate, I hope the magic and the spirit of the season is able to find you, and bring just a little bit of joy to your heart. We can’t forget the people who are no longer with us, or those suffering spiritually, medically, and financially this Christmas. All we can attempt to do is to share the warmth of the season with those we love, and look forward to a better Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in 2021! Susie and I send our love to our whole family…those that joined via birth, those that became members through marriage, and those who who are part of our family because of friendship!
Happy Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!
PS – Two pictures from our first married Christmas, 41 years ago! Susie that morning in our living room in our Port Washington apartment, and the Manger under the tree..the same Manger I might add, that is pictured above! Bought for our first Christmas in 1979 at A&S in Hempstead and still with us!
We are now in probably the most “Family Tradition” intensive time of the entire year. The period from a couple of days before Thanksgiving, through the New Year’s celebration are the time when tradition after tradition unfolds almost daily. I know that this year, many of those traditions are going by the wayside thanks to the Corona Virus, but even in our amended holiday season, many of those traditions will take place, albeit a much more limited version. Here’s a look at our family and what traditions are taking place this Thanksgiving, and which ones we’ll hope to resume next year!
On Thursday November 20, 1986, just 7 days before President Ronald Regan declared the 27th as “a national day of Thanksgiving”, our twins, Krissi and Kenny joined the D’Elia Family! That means that as the date of the 4th Thursday in November moves back and forth, our Thanksgiving celebration often starts a little early with a Twin Birthday celebration! For the last 14 years, youngest child Kenny, has been away working, and has not been a part of our Thanksgivings or have we been able to celebrate his birthday with him! That changed this year, as Kenny and his husband Chris, joined us for both his birthday and Thanksgiving! Once again this year, he wasn’t able to co-celebrate with his sister…..
A new tradition that we started 2 years ago, was traveling to Maryland to celebrate the holiday with our son-in-law Mike’s extended family! Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe, play host to their extended family, which we are lucky enough to be included in. From little kids to teenagers, Moms and Dads, cousins, and in-laws, it’s a huge family celebration, with Gabe spending most of the day outside smoking a turkey or two! It’s been so much fun to spend the day with our Maryland Family, but sadly, like so many others across America, a celebration like that was off the table this year! Fingers crossed for next year!
So Thanksgiving 2020 called for the smallest celebration in Susie’s and my married life…just the 4 of us, but small or large, some Thanksgiving traditions are written in stone!! We had all the traditional D’Elia Family Thanksgiving dishes…just a little less! There was turkey (just a breast as nobody wanted dark meat), and Susie’s traditional stuffing – some in the turkey, some in muffin cups, and some in a bake-in bag. The boys made a great creamed corn and their own version of the long standing traditional green bean casserole, but with all fresh ingredients! Then there was the one staple of D’Elia Thanksgiving that always is a part of the meal, almost as important as the turkey: Turnips, Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar Cheese.
This is a dish that Susie brought over to our family from her Johnson Family Thanksgivings, and really uses rutabagas rather than turnips, but the names are used interchangeably many times. This involves pealing and chunking the rutabaga, cooking it till tender, and mashing. We usually do that the night before Thanksgiving. The next day, the potatoes are pealed (usually during the Macy’s Parade), cooked and mashed, with lots of butter and heavy cream. Neither of these things could be done without Susie’s Pressure Cookers (due to the smaller size of this years celebration, she only used one, not her normal two!), which she’s used for years, and swears by! Then both mashed “vegetables” are mixed and lots of shredded cheddar cheese is added. By the time it’s done, it has a golden yellow color, and a taste loved by the whole family! It was even a part of the Smith Thanksgiving in Maryland, as it was made and brought the last two years!
Of course, almost as big a part of the holiday as the dinner on Thanksgiving, is the day after “leftover” sandwich! Ours are on white bread, with mayo, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce! Yum!
Thanksgiving weekend is also traditionally the time that our Christmas trees goes up in Ocean City. This is a holdover tradition from the years we didn’t live here, but were always here Thanksgiving weekend. In preparation for the holiday, Susie and I made 3 trips from the storage unit to our house with our Christmas boxes. As the boys were here, we put the tree up Friday….
And yesterday, while listening to Christmas music, we all decorated the tree!
Susie also set up the Manger, which has been a part of our Christmases ever since our first married Christmas in 1979!!
During the rest of this week, we will continue decorating the house, including assembling Susie’s Snowman (and Woman) Village! Traditions are a part of the holidays, and although our holidays are all going to be smaller this year, many of the traditions will still be a part of them.
Susie and I hope everyone enjoys their holiday traditions, and the celebration of the special times that are a part of the coming weeks. They may be smaller this year, but they are still an important part of all our lives. Be it Christmas, Chanukka, or Kwanzaa, we hope you enjoy them, that you stay safe, and that you do what we need to do so that next year at this time we can all enjoy our traditional holidays, shared with family and friends that are like family, and share HUGS!!!
While the usual purpose of this blog is to write about adventures that Susie and I have in our life, occasionally I may deviate from that norm, because of a subject that interests me, and that I think deserves my attention. This is one of those subjects, and will contain some family info that is probably good for my kids to know.
My Dad and our oldest son Billy
My Dad, Frank D’Elia (no, my Mom and Dad were not too clever in the naming department), was born in New York City on October 5th, 1910. He died a couple of months after his 73rd birthday, back when our first born Billy was just a year old. That would make the year 1983, meaning that my Dad has been gone for almost 37 years. That’s the end of the story. Let me go back to the beginning of not only his story, but of the D’Elia Family in America.
So, back to our story. In 1890, at the age of 18, Francesco arrived all alone by ship from Naples, Italy at Ellis Island. As was the norm in those days, he surrounded himself with other folks from his homeland, and in 1891, at the age of 19, he married Rafaela, who also had been born in Italy, but who was only 15 years old at the time of their marriage. Their family started to grow when their son Joseph was born in 1893. On August 2, 1900, at the age of 24, after giving birth to 5 children. Rafaela died. They had been married for just 9 years.
I knew the story of my Grandfather having two families, and my Dad being part of the second one, but didn’t know as many details prior to Ancestry. I also hadn’t heard of all these children, so I assume that some of the babies died shortly after their birth, as all the children from the “first family” were born in the 1800s, and were thus considerably older that those in the second family. The first born, “Joe” (born in 1893), was dead before I was born, but always was revered as the family’s “Older Brother”. He owned a taxicab, and was one of the more mobile members of the D’Elia Family in those early days. The daughter Mary, who was born in 1895, was my Aunt Mamie, a wonderful lady who lived with her husband Frank in Lynbrook when I was a kid. They were fun people, but I don’t think either of them was even 5 feet tall! They got club soda delivered in squirt bottles and always let a little kid (me) play with it! The next daughter, Rose, was born in 1897, who was my Aunt Rose who lived up in the Bronx when I was a kid. So, there were three children who were under 7 years of age when Rafaela died in 1990. The two names that I didn’t know, and assumed died in childbirth or shortly after, were Anna in 1896 and Angelina in 1900. No details, but since Angelina was born in 1900 and Rafaela died in 1900, I’m going to assume the two events were connected.
Now, let’s go back to a bit of “Family Lore” before we delve into some more facts from Ancestry. I’d always heard from my Dad and his brothers and sisters, the story about how my Grandfather married the babysitter, and started family number 2. Turns out, it’s true. My Grandmother, Anna Marino, was born in New York City on December 24, 1886. Not quite a year after the death of his first wife, my Grandfather married Anna on July 11, 1901. The story I’d always heard is that one day my Grandfather went to my Grandmother’s Catholic School and told the Mother Superior that he was there to take Anna Marino out of school. When she asked him why, he said that he’d just married her, and she had to stay home and take care of his children. If you haven’t done the math yet, let me help you. On July 11, 1901 when they got married, Anna had not yet had her 15th birthday! He was 29 and she was 14 on their wedding day!! Obviously, a different time!
Together they had eight children in the following order. Margaret (my Aunt Margie) was born in 1907, followed by Cono (my uncle Coonie) in 1908, then my Dad in 1910, followed by my Aunt Jean in 1912, Raphaela (my Aunt Ray) in 1914, Antoinette (my Aunt Nettie) in 1917, my Uncle John in 1918, and the baby of the family, my Uncle Tom in 1923. My Dad always said that he was from a family of 13, but I could never understand that, because when I added the 3 from the first family, and the 8 from the second, I got 11. Adding in the two children that there are no records available beyond their birth, we get to the number 13.
My Father was born in Manhattan, in Little Italy on October 5, 1910. At the time of his birth, his Dad was 38 and his Mom was 23. I don’t have a lot of details of those early years beyond stories I heard from my Dad. I know that he was baptized at the Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration on Mott Street, which today is in the heart of New York’s Chinatown, and that serves a mainly Chinese community. It has been a Catholic Church since the middle of the 19th century, calling itself the “Church of Immigrants”, and over the years has served Irish, Italian, and now Chinese populations in the area.
Over the years, I heard lots of stories from my Dad, about his growing up years. I know that my Grandfather was a Junk Man, and my Dad said he rode around with a horse and wagon picking things up. Not sure how secure an occupation that was back then, but can’t imagine the family was doing very well financially at all. I remember stories my Dad told me about his Mom having to go down to the green grocer, and buy day old produce, and soak it in cold water to bring some life back into it. I remember him telling me that he painted a huge room in the house one day with just one can of paint, that he kept extending, so the color of the room changed as he painted. The D’Elia Family’s story sounds like one typical of the Depression Era, but it apparently never stopped them from having children, as 5 more kids came into the world after my Dad!
By the 1920 Census, the D’Elias were living in Brooklyn and there were now 7 children in the family. Money continued to be tight, and after completing 8th grade, my Dad left school, and worked to help support the family. I heard stories about him selling pretzels in the park, and I know that he worked for a number of years as a clerk/messenger down in the Wall Street area. In later years, he was a wonderful tour guide for that area that he’d walk daily doing that job. This was, however, not to be his life’s work.
My Dad – Age 18
I have no idea how, and now I’m very sorry I never asked him why, but my father from a young age decided that he wanted to be an Opera Singer, not a normal expectation from someone from his neighborhood or standing in life! He started singing lessons very early with a woman who believed he had the talent to indeed be an opera singer, and she took him under her wing. Her name was Madame Novelli, and although I never met her, I heard stories about her from an early age. She really thought my Dad had something to be nurtured, and she practically adopted him, played a huge part in his life and in him becoming who he grew up to be. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that she saved his life! I’d heard not only my Dad, but the rest of his family talk about “Madame” in reveered terms.
In 1936, my Dad’s father died at the age of 64, and was buried in the huge Catholic Calvary Cemetery (365 acres) in the Woodside section of Queens. There are two stories I remember hearing from my Dad concerning this period of the D’Elia Family’s life. Both made a lasting impression on me. The first had to do with what my Dad did after he lost his father. He was 26 years old at the time, and I’m going to assume very Italian! I say this because the story is that every day for weeks, he’d travel by bus from the family’s home in Brooklyn to visit his father’s grave. Rain or shine, nice weather or bitter winter snows, if he could get there, he went. The results? He caught pneumonia, and was very sick. I don’t know if he told me that story to point out how the older Frank thought his younger self to be foolish to have done what he did, but that’s the message I was left with, and why we’ve only been a brief handful of times to my father’s grave. In my mind, my Dad lives in my heart and my thoughts, and not in a box in a piece of ground. I can visit him any time I want…and I do!
The second story had to do with how distraught my Grandmother was at the death of her husband, and how the family needed to move out of their Brooklyn apartment and the neighborhood where everything reminded her of her late husband. In what was probably a huge move, they crossed the Brooklyn/Queens line, and rented a house just off Metropolitan Ave in Forest Hills. This was a much needed development in the family’s life, and a way to try and get out from under the grief of their father’s passing, but couldn’t have been easy, as the D’Elia Family was still in the throws of the Depression. I’m not sure what, if anything, anybody else in the family was doing, but know my Dad had some WPA work, singing on radio shows and the like, in addition to doing a little work with Madame Novelli as her “secretary”. Just as everything was settling down, another huge problem was thrown in their path. They had spent everything they could scrape together to make this move and to afford the rent on the Forest Hills house, and after a month, the landlord said they had to move out because he wanted to sell the house!
Faced with this new dilemma, my Dad took the bull by the horns, and arranged to buy the house for his family! Madame Novelli came to his aid, over representing the “work” he did for her, and making it into a full time job. It was enough to get a bank to approve a loan, and now the D’Elia Family was safe in their new home…if my Dad was able to come up with the monthly mortgage payments! In reality, my Dad, almost single handedly, dragged his Mom, several sisters, and several brothers through the tail end of the depression. It was why I have always thought of my Dad as the White Sheep of the family. But life goes on!
Late in the 1930s, my Dad auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, and was hired as a member for the 1940/41 season at the huge sum of $75 a week. The season was short in those days, running only from late fall to early spring, but $75 a week must have felt like a fortune to him. What with the recent family home purchase in Forest Hills, NY, I’m sure that this job and it’s paycheck took a lot of pressure off him. However, the outside world entered his life in the form of a draft notice. He went down to his local draft board to try and get an extension through the end of the Met’s season, and was told by the gentleman he spoke to, “It’s you kind of jerks that wouldn’t sign up if Hitler was marching down Fifth Avenue!” I have no way of knowing if this really happened, but the way my Dad told the story, his reply was, “If Hitler is marching down Fifth Avenue, I doubt if a short fat Italian Opera singer is going to make much difference!” True or not, he got his extension, and was able to finish his first season at the Met!
My Dad backstage (the short one) preparing for a performance of This Is The Army
Knowing the way the government worked, my Dad expected he’d have a gun in his hands and be shooting at Germans in short order. I can just imagine his surprise when he was ordered to Camp Upton on Long Island and detailed to Irving Berlin’s All Soldier Show, “This is the Army.” He spent the war performing on Broadway for six months, spending six months in Hollywood making the movie of the show, and then the rest of the war traveling the world, performing for soldiers up and down the Italian peninsula, all over Africa and the Middle East, and island hoping through the Pacific. Sometimes they were in big theaters, sometimes they were close to enemy lines, performing on makeshift stages. Their mission was morale, and at the end of the war, the entire company received awards for having done much for the morale of the soldiers, sailors, and marines they’d performed for.
He was mustered out of the US Army, just in time to start rehearsals for the Met’s new season, and after 4+ years in the service, had no clothes that fit, and came to work that first day in his uniform. And that was the day he met my Mom, but then that’s a story for yet another day!