Christmas 2020 Canceled???

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..

And out!!

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!

Our Big Adventure, Day One

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So, the end of day one on the road finds us in the Econo Lodge in Streetsboro, Ohio! We left the house in Mineola at 8:20 this morning, made a stop in Astoria to drop off our daughter Krissi (she came on Friday night to spend the last weekend with us), and then it was over the Triboro Bridge (or the RFK if you choose to use it’s new name), up the Major Deegan Expressway to the George Washington Bridge, and onto Interstate 80, where we spent the entire day. We drove up to the hotel at about 5:10, so not a bad day of driving at all. We went from New York, to New Jersey, to Pennsylvania, and now Ohio. Four states in day one and we drove a total of 451 miles and are are still on our first tank of gas!

The weather was sunny when we left Long Island this morning, and there were occasional sprinkles all through New Jersey, but when we got to Pennsylvania, boy did it start raining! We stopped at a rest area to use the bathroom, and took a shower at the same time. I felt bad because Susie was driving through a lot of it, and on a couple of occasions, it was almost like a switch was flipped as we went from showers to torrential rain in the blink of an eye! Not fun to drive through! Then we came upon an accident in one of the more mountainous regions of Pennsylvania. Some yahoo in a pickup truck was sideways off the road (I say yahoo, because rain or shine, we see folks driving like they are late for their wedding and not giving a damn about safety). There were Police and a wrecker already there, but as we were 3 cars from the accident, they stopped all traffic so that the wrecker could pull the truck back on the road. We sat there for better than 15 minutes…in the rain…such fun!

imageSome highlights of today…First breakfast. We chose to stop at a place we have eaten at more times than we can count, the Landmark Diner just off exit 309 of I-80 in Pennsylvania. This place has a lot of history in our family, and in Susie’s family before there was an us. For years and years, Sue’s Mom and Dad would spend a week at a golf resort in Marshall’s Creek, PA called Mountain Manor. Over the years, they made good friends who also vacationed there during the same week and who lived near them on Long Island. The Landmark Diner was about 2 hours from Long Island, and they would all rendezvous there on the morning they checked in, and have breakfast. Year after year, more folks would join in the group, and eventually we were part of the group who would have breakfast at the Landmark. The summer of 1983, we took a very young Billy there and Frank’s folks even joined the group! When Kenny and Krissi joined our family, we would still head up to that area and always stop there, Turn the clock ahead a few years to when Billy was going to Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. We discovered the best way to get there was to head out Route 80 to Pennsylvania and then go north back into New York State, and yes, then too we would pull off 80 as soon as we crossed the Delaware Water Gap Bridge and have breakfast. Susie thinks that the last time we were there was about 4 or 5 years ago, and we were thrilled to find this morning that it was just as good as we remember! Susie had Creamed Chipped Beef over toast (probably the last time we see that on a menu) and I had a Pulled Pork Omelette! Oh, and don’t forget the home fries….they are still wonderful! The restaurant is a little bigger, the counter is gone (where you could watch them cook the food) and the bathrooms are no longer behind the building, but enough is the same to still make it a special stop off!

Then we were back onto Interstate 80 West heading towards our adventure! At mile marker 111(FYI..at the NJ/Penn border on 80 you are at mile marker 310 and at the Penn/Ohio border you are at mile marker 0) we came across an interesting sign. It said, “You are now at the highest point on Route 80 east of the Mississippi – Elevation 2,250 Feet”. Impressive for Pennsylvania, but not where we are going. Forget the Rocky Mountains or even Pikes Peak, when we are at Mount Rushmore this Friday we will be at 4000 + feet already! Start storing oxygen now!!

So dinner tonight was at Ruby Tuesdays, a place we haven’t been to for years. Even though there is one less than 2 miles from our house in Mineola, we traveled 450+ imagemiles for their salad bar tonight! Then we filled the car up with gas (Sheetz Gas…I kid you not) at $1.95 a gallon, headed back to the hotel and are relaxing with some vodka on the rocks (in our travel plastic cups!)! Tomorrow we hope to cover just under 500 miles and stop near Janesville, Wisconsin…a place we’ve visited before when Kenny was performing at the Armory Theater there.

imageOh, The Big Adventure tip of the day has to do with an App that my cousins, Jeanne and Walt Pratt shared with us called iExit. It cost me 99 cents at the iTunes store, and Jeanne and Walt said it was useful finding what kinds of food, gas, hotels, etc. are at every exit on the interstates. In addition, it gives you the latest prices for gas at the various stations so you always know what you are getting into. When we started trying it out today, Susie started talking about a little hand held digital gadget we had way back in the 90s. After you told it what road you were on, what mile marker you were near, and what direction you were heading, it would tell you how close the next rest stop was and what services they had there. She said it’s too bad they don’t make an App for that. Well, I hit a couple of buttons on iExit and discovered it will also search for rest areas! It was perfect, and we made use of it several times today looking for places to switch drivers. Thanks Jeanne and Walt…welcome along!

On the Road Again…….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvwojnLeMH4

 

Day Two….Sunny Afternoon in Georgia!

So, the end of day two finds us in Darien, Georgia at a very nice Comfort Inn.  Our room tonight is much nicer than the Days Inn was last night.  Lesson learned……You get what you pay for!  Today we traveled from Virginia, through North Carolina, South Carolina, and into Georgia.  Driving was good, but if some of the folks we’ve encountered on the road today, did what they did on imagethe Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike, I think they’d be dead.  Lets just say, interesting drivers.  We’ve spotted license plates from 21 states, the District of Columbia, Official US Government, Quebec, Ontario, and a bunch of US Army Humvees in full battle gear, with no license plates.  We drove by Paris Island,  Pope Army Air Base, and saw huge GI helicopters come in low over I-95.

imageThis morning, when we crossed from North Carolina into South Carolina, we passed South of the Border.  We’ve heard from friends that it’s a shell of what it used to be, and although we didn’t stop, it did bring to mind a story from one of our very early trips to Florida with the kids.

I guess we were nuts, or perhaps just didn’t know any better, but we loaded up our 1986 full size Ford van with two 18 month old twins, our almost 6 year old son, our baby sitter, and started down I-95.  Among the things loaded into the van were two porta cribs, which we unloaded and set up at every hotel.  Nuts, or what?

So, as we leave our first night’s motel, I notice that one of the tires on the van needed a little air.  I filled it before leaving, and when we got to the North/South Carolina border, we decided to stop at South of the Border to check the tire.  Once again it was low, so I decided to see if I could get it looked at.  The guy at the gas station in South of the Border said he had no empty lifts, but if I brought him the tire, he could fix it.

I went back to the car, got Susie, Eileen our baby sitter, Krissi, Kenny, and Billy out of the car, and started to jack up the van.  The way to jack up that generation van, was to slide the jack way under the frame, and then lift it off the ground.  Just as I was getting the jack under the frame, two Air Force fighter jets buzzed South of the Border at about 100 feet!  From that time on, Susie loved telling the story of how, when the planes flew over, I dove under the van, totally abandoning my wife and my 3 young children to protect myself!

So that’s my South of the Border story for today.  Tomorrow we have about 4 hours to Walt Disney World, and our reservations at Disney’s Port Orleans, French Quarter.  Tonight we are in 60 degree temperatures, tomorrow we’re hoping for the 70s!  Also, looking forward to using my ABC/Disney Retiree discounts!  Ah, retirement!!