Christmas Traditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chars!!!  Bonkers!

Christmases Past, Present, and Future

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Christmas in Mineola

On this Christmas Eve, 2018, a little Christmas reflection…..

Christmas has always been a big deal in our household.  Early in our relationship, it became obvious that it’s Susie’s favorite holiday, and one that she waits all year for.  Indeed, because of her love of the holiday, it was on Christmas Day in 1978 that I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! Talk about giving…her saying yes was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten!  So from our first Christmas in our apartment on Firwood Road in Port Washington, just months after we were married in 1979, we have always gone all out to decorate and celebrate the holiday!  

Every year, when the kids were small, sometime in early November, we’d journey to Lancaster, PA, for a weekend in Amish Country, and every year, that’s when the D’Elia Family started listening to Christmas music!  Indeed, our selection of Christmas music grew over the years to the point that when we cleaned out our 100 CD changer, close to half the CDs were of Christmas music.  Now we’re all digital, with music stored on the Amazon Cloud, but Christmas music still makes up a large percentage of it!

Our Ocean City house became ours at the end of January 2005, and when the next Christmas rolled around the decision was easy…we were going to decorate two houses!  That first year we got a table top tree and bought ornaments, and house decorations on the cheap from Big Lots.  It wasn’t as grand or beautiful as we did on Long Island, but we even had a small Manger we’d gotten at Big Lots, and lots of outdoor decorations.

Over the years, more and more items were added to both our Mineola house and to the Ocean City house.  A year ago, on November 9th, we sold the Mineola house, and made Ocean City our permanent residence.  That meant we now had to meld two Christmases into one.  Think that wasn’t a hard job?  Well, the fact that we had to make 3 trips with a fully loaded SUV to transport our Long Island Christmas decorations, to the shore, and the fact that our Christmas Decorations then took up fully half of our rented store room, may give you an idea about the scope of the job!  Last year, the consolidation started, and it’s continued this Christmas too!

First things first…the Christmas Tree! 

From our first 1979 Christmas, a live tree was the only way to go for the D’Elia Family.  We did the “cut your own” version, but the kids got kind of tired of that after a couple of years, and after one year of doing it ourselves, Susie and I tired of it too, so it was a yearly trip to Hicks to pick out a tree!  That lasted till we started going to Ocean City and realized when we got home the beginning of January, the tree was severely dead, and we’d missed a lot of it’s life.  The next year the first artificial tree made it’s debut in the D’Elia’s living room! 

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IMG_1556As I said,  for our first Christmas in Ocean City (2005), we bought a 4 foot tree at one of the craft stores, and put it by the front door, on top of our porch table, and we decorated it with ornaments we’d purchased at the Big Lots in Somers Point.   We continued for a number of Christmases in Ocean City with that table top tree and the our Big Lots ornaments.  In 2012 we bought a new artificial tree for Long Island.  It was our 2nd “fake” tree, was much more lifelike and sophisticated, prewired with lights, and all the set up we had to do was pop the three sections together and it was done and wired!  Of course, the next Christmas we decided to get a thinner version of that same tree for Ocean City.  When our last Christmas on Long Island was over in 2016, we decided to take our bigger tree to Ocean City, move some furniture in the living room for the holidays, put the big tree in a new location, and enjoy more room for presents under it!  It was worth it.

 

 

 

Mineola                                   Ocean City  

 

The Manger

Of course, the Mineola Manger won out over the Big Lots version.  The Manger scene that graces our Ocean City home now, has been with us since that first Christmas in Port Washington 39 years ago.  Bought from a long defunct Long Island department store, (A & S), with additional pieces purchased at a 5 & 10 on Plandome Road in Manhasset, it moved from a table near the front door in Mineola, to the top of a book shelf in our living room in Ocean City!

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The Big Lots Manger

 

 

 

Mineola                                                             Ocean City

 

Snowman Village

For a number of years, Susie put up a huge Department 56 Snow Village display in our Dining Room on Long Island, but furniture and styles changed, and the Snow Village went bye-bye.  Susie has always loved Snowmen (and women), and with a desire to go in a new direction, she did a Snowman display on the top of our entertainment center on Long Island, with a smaller version in Ocean City.  Of course, now her big production has moved to our corner cabinet in the living room, that transforms from a bar to a winter wonderland during the Christmas Season.

 

 

                                         Mineola                                                              Ocean City

And that’s but a small part of the Christmas Displays at our home during the holidays.  Over the past couple of years, we have weeded through lots and lots of ornaments, bows, house decorations, Hallmark animated displays, and hundreds of Christmas items, big and small, cheap and expensive.  It hasn’t been easy.  We know that when we unloaded our storage room into our garage this year (2 trips with the CRV fully loaded), we realized we still have too much Christmas “stuff,” and perhaps this year, we will be able to part with some items.  But there are regrets….like the two snow globes we had, one from Susie’s Mom and one from my Mom.  These globes graced our living room in Mineola for many years, but sadly when we decorated in Ocean City last year, they were nowhere to be found.  Did we make a conscious decision after Christmas 2016 to let them go, or did we put them in the wrong box, and it got left behind?  We’ll just never know, but every Christmas, we will think about them, and wonder what happened to them.

There you have the story of our Christmas dilemma and how we tried to solve it.  Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress! 

 

 

As we share our Christmas this year with Family and Friends, near and far, just one last thought.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Ocean City – Part Five

Just for continuity, understand that much of part five takes place at the same time as the developments in Part Four. 

img_0769-1So, having made our decision, things were a little different when we came down to spend our 3 weeks at Denise’s house during the Summer of 2004.  We had something else to do besides go to the beach, eat out, and do some gambling in AC during our vacation.  We had to now add house hunting to our list!

Our local realtor Ray Elias had sent us listings all through the spring, and by the time we got to Ocean City in July of 2004, we were primed to start looking at properties. We met img_0773with Ray 3 or 4 times a week, traveled the island, as he showed us various houses at different price points and different parts of the island.  Although we had always rented in the South End of town (first the 3200 block of Asbury when I was a kid, then the 3900 block of Central, and now the 4900 block of Asbury), there was something we liked about the newly found area of the island called the North End.  I say “Newly Found”, because to be honest with you, in close to 50 years of coming to Ocean City, I had no recollection of ever traveling to the North End.  I know that Susie and I had never gone beyond 9th Street with our family, so this was all new to us.

I don’t know what the legal definition is, but to our mind, the North End starts just beyond 9th Street, and runs till you get to the much more residential (not as beachy in img_0772-1other words) Gardens section of Ocean City.  Ray had showed us several interesting houses, on the shorter East/West streets in that part of town, and we found them very attractive.  First of all, having rented on Central and Asbury, where you have traffic traveling the length of the island, a house on a quiet street running just a couple of blocks was an interesting prospect.  Then, those streets were also on the boardwalk…not the commercial part of the boardwalk, but an area just a couple of blocks north of Gillian’s Wonderland.  That meant a trip to the boardwalk was a walking event, not a driving and finding parking event.   That sounded good too!

The interesting thing was that during our summer hunt, we’d even looked at a couple of properties on Pennlyn Place, including the upstairs of our now good friends Jane and John!  Yes, we continued to look at other places, in other areas of town, but we kept coming back to the North End.

Kind of like Las Vegas, Ocean City had been experiencing it’s own growth in property values.  The yearly jump was quite substantial, and we even had a first hand brush with that growth.  One of the properties Ray had to show us was an empty lot and plans of a house to be built on St. James Place in the North End.  He’d showed us some of the builder’s other work, and wanted to show us the plans and the lot, but we had friends coming to town, and rather than go on Friday, we put it off to the following Tuesday.  Well, over that weekend, the calendar changed from July to August.  On Tuesday morning he came to our rental house, laid out the plans for a second floor and owner’s cottage 4 bedroom 3 bath condo, on the dining room table, and we liked what we saw. The price was at the top end of our range, but doable for such a nice property.  Before we headed to look at the lot, he called the real estate that was the broker, wanting to make sure it was still available.  Yes it was, but when he checked the price, it was $50,000 more than he quoted us, just because it was now August and not July!  Needless to say, we didn’t see that lot!

Our vacation ended and we had still not identified a house we were interested in, but we had time because the Vegas house hadn’t been sold yet.  We planned to come back to Ocean City between Christmas and New Years as we’d done for the last couple of years. 0F1B810F-3729-43BD-A467-E57096BAC502Houses were much cheaper to rent at that time of the year, and we loved the empty city that morphed into a much fuller town as New Year, and First Night approached.  Well, when looking for a rental that year, where did we find one, but right on Pennlyn Place!  It was about mid block, and a perfect place for us to house hunt from.  By now the Vegas house had been sold, so the clock was ticking.

Ray came over the day after we arrived with several houses to show us.  We loaded into the car, and traveled to a brand new property on West Avenue.  We were impressed by the newness, but had doubts about the layout of the property, and the fact that it was on West Avenue in the teens.  First of all, it was a long walk from the beach, second, it was a very commercial area of West.  It was nice, but we had our doubts.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen Ray took us to the second property of the day, and that was just down Pennlyn Place from our rental.  This property was a first floor, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, in a house that had been built just 3 years earlier.  We loved the street, loved the way the property was decorated, loved the fact that it was just down the street from the beach.  In short, we loved everything we’d seen.  It was a little more expensive than the West Ave property, and to help us,  Ray did a workup for us of what the mortgage costs of the two properties would end by being.  It turned out that there was just dollars difference per month between the two properties.  I think the kicker was that Susie and I agreed that if we bought the West Avenue property, we wouldn’t even consider vacationing there, so if we bought that, we’d continue to pay Denise to rent her home, rather than stay at ours.  The West property would just be an investment.  Those two week’s of rent would more than make up for a year’s worth of mortgage difference.  The decision was getting easier.

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854 Pennlyn before it was OURS!

It was December 28, 2004, and that was the day we saw our future home at 854 Pennlyn Place!  After looking at the place again, we had Ray make an offer, and before we left from our week’s stay on Pennlyn Place, we got the word…if everything else worked out, we would shortly own a house in Ocean City.  Our dream was that much closer to being reality!

 

To Be Continued…..

FYI….

Ray Elias…https://www.longandfoster.com/AgentSearch/AgentInfo.aspx?PersonID=10451215