Advent Calendar – Day 6
If our Mom was the architect of Christmas Giftery, then my Father was the architect of our Holiday Esthetic. The most joy I get from Christmas, comes from decking the halls with my family. This is due to the legacy and sincerity of a highly creative man, that did his best with what we had.
We grew up not knowing we were poor. We weren’t as bad off as some, but we shared some hard times. Over the course of my childhood, my Father got laid off from work a couple of times, and my Mother didn’t work until the mid to late 80’s. If not for family support and friends we could have gone another way.
My parents worked hard and gave their all to us. Christmas was a time we appreciated the pleasures of life from good food, to good company, and even gifts. It may be a little known fact that my Dad put in eight hour days, then would go to the Sears Roebuck Fulfillment Center and work the evening into night filling orders for the people who ordered things from the Sears Wish Catalogues. We made many wishes over those pages, and most of them came true for us.
I wonder now what was going through his mind then, as he walked up Boylston Street past the Ramrod, WBCN Studios, and Fenway Park to report to the Landmark Center area to report for duty. It must have been hard doing that. I get tired just doing seven hour days. Most nights and weekends I’m exhausted, but somehow all those years ago my Dad found the energy to come home and become an Alchemist; turning our ordinary apartment into a Golden Winter Wonderland.
My father had a wonderful eye, and had trained in drafting and architecture. He chose to defer his architectural dreams, when I came along. Despite having shelved that piece of himself, it never really left him.
He could scheme, get materials, craft them into hundreds of parts, and then assemble them together to carry out his vision. A lot of folks that knew my Dayd may have underestimated his ability. Where they might have seen aloofness in certain instances, it was actually calculated concentration and patience. He could stare at something for hours on end finding the esthetic he wanted to bring out of the object. For the entirety of my life, he assisted me in every school project, and any endeavor I asked for help in, which was a lot. But my point is simply that we failed to recognize a dormant talent, that was smothered by the vagaries of daily life. That was of course, excepting Christmas. Christmas presented an opportunity for him to showcase all the things that made him tick.
In the above photo you will notice the walls were covered in aluminum foil. This was done to enhance the lighting effect of the Christmas Tree in our living room, as well as add a level of depth to our small apartment. He gave us the gift of another world in which we could dream our Christmas Dreams. Stuffing orders at night for Sears, and then coming home and using an Exacto knife to cut out cardboard snowflakes, use a glitter glue pen to decorate them, and then affix a paperclip to a hole on one end and hang it from the suspended ceiling.
The run-up to Christmas was full of anticipation and excitement not only for what we hoped we might get from Santa, but because there was always a proper theater ready for his arrival, in which Santa could ply his trade when he opened his sack.
We were lucky to live such childhoods, and to have such parents.
As I grew older, my Father would shift some responsibility to us and allow us to do certain aspects of the decorating. We would excel at some things and not do so well in others. But, the result was a niggling feeling that would crop up as we got close to every Thanksgiving, and carry on throughout the Holidays. We improved year by year, had our own families, and developed our own strategies of decorating steeped in the foundational mastery of a modest but talented man.
My absolute favorite thing to do with my Father during the decorating, was to assist him with the stringing of the lights. We tested the lights once when we took them out of the box by plugging them in, but then we didn’t turn them on again until they were all in their appropriate places. Once the arrangements were made, we would put on Christmas tapes and turn out the lights. Then if I was lucky, or if my Sister was lucky, we would be called upon to put the plug into the outlet.
The initial lighting of the season could not be topped. We would sit for moments at a time, staring at the scene while being enamored by being transported to a magical kingdom of wonder and delight.
We would listen to Perry Como, or Nat King Cole, or Dean Martin sing sweetly and solemnly. In a quiet moments, perhaps the most quiet moments, I would look at my Father’s eyes as he surveyed the room and the magic he created, and in those moments I lived the joy of Christmas. I discovered the feeling of being with family and sharing accomplishment and satisfaction, and realizing that no matter how plain something was to begin with, you could always improve it with a little patience, and imagination.
If you liked this post, please take a look at the last one…Advent Calendar Day 5
If anyone is in the Metro Boston tomorrow night, please consider joining me, and my best friend, the West Coast Bandit, and now my favorite second cousin, Jack, as we attend a night full of entertainment for a great cause at: Don’t Forget Your Art!
I performing a piece that means a lot to me. You should really come by and see if the poem is about you. How will you ever know if you aren’t there? Are you willing to take that chance? I wouldn’t, I’d definitely be there, just in case.