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Ghosts of Memories of Christmas Past

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Patti Turchon

Patti Turchon

Since my Moms death was on Christmas Day, 3 years back, it seemed imperative that I recall what happy times occurred to us as a family with our family of four (Johnny & I were young) then came baby Mickey, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I asked myself, if I don’t recall and share, then who would…….I delight in this chosen job of joy…..with little dwelling on the difficulties.  (Denny was born when I was in high school, so I was out of house on my own before he went to kindergarten. He was like my “chance to practice at enjoying a baby” immediately before I had babies of my own.)

Now as I sit alone on my couch curled up with infectious virus, listening to old tyme carols & feeling sentimental, I will ramble on…

First, I recall the loving schedule of the holidays of the 50s and 60s. Christmas, Easter, and sometimes New Years Day (hangovers dependent). On the two main Christian celebrations our fun and anticipation made us giddy. Johnny and I were always ready before dawn. We would want to drag Mickey out of his crib,  because Mom couldn’t deny that reality. Mom and Dad were dog-tired with late night preparing, drinks, and fun as I recall their shannigans of giggles and frustration. The pieces of bike or wagon parts just wouldn’t fit….then suddenly they did fit. I must have thought they were helping Santa with the tree, decorations, and toys because I was certain of the Santa Facts until I was maybe, 10.

XmasTreeAfter all the commotion of tearing paper and tying ribbons around my neck, we played with intermittent hollering. Dad would say, “keep it down.” Then Mom retired to the bedroom to begin readying for Mass. Soon after Dad left, “come on get ready, lots of time later for this.”  Since I was allowed warm milk before Mass and Communion i ran to drink my concoction and all other gussied up. Mom had gotten special permission for milk when other had nothing after midnight. Thanks, Mom!

Every Christmas and Easter we had NEW OUTFITS.  This got the whole family in a excitement of being so so great looking. Even Dad and Mom. The radio was playing festive music which added to the incredible heart racing enthusiasm….we almost could not bear. I tugged on my pretty cotton and ruffled dresses, starched and pressed by Mom, the Expert of Ironers. I soon seen their gifts for each other, watches, ties, sweaters, and even travel plans (which was seldom, but done.) Dad always wore a suit and tie and freshly shined shoes. Mom had her dresses or suits that made her look like a movie star. She often wore a corsage on her shoulder from Dad on this two festive days a year….baby roses of red and white, for example, along with her purse and hanky and white gloves. Wow. Like her, I wore my patent leather “Mary Janes,” white socks, purse, and gloves, too.

AND HATS…we always had hats on for those special days, but the men and boys must pull off the hats when entering the church (really any building,  but you were severely admonished if not taken off and clipped to the back of the pew affront.)

Johnny was handsome in his winter suit with tie, shined shoes, and hat….Shy, but funny, he proceeded into the car with antics of how wonderful the weather for playing when we returning from Mass….almost two hours. It was HIGH MASS. Long, singing, candles every, several priests in golden vestments, and a multitude of altar boys.  We all had Missals for praying the Mass, the Latin, and  readings of the priests (many and read by priests only) and ALL IN LATIN. We caught on after a while, even Mom and Dad too.  Dad was Greek Catholic and Mom was used to her Episcopalian.
They both converted to Roman Catholic around the time of Mickey’s birth. I remember lessons they took to learn to be fully Catholic….Mom was Baptized and indoctrinated joining the rest of us Four.  And they received a certificate of being invited into Catholism 50s style.

After we sang the Latin High Mass for the Holyday, we came home or often stopped by a local restaurant for breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Returning home meant the fun begins again after we felt so blessed with holy water and incense and with belly’s full.

Trains and dolls and wagons and bikes (or half empty Easter Baskets) put aside we went off to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. There house was so diffetent….4 floors of rooms, but one bathroom on the second landing, 2 porches and two huge swing open garage doors.

In the “formal” dining room, table was being set by Aunt Gerry, her only daughter. Uncle Paul, Aunt Clara, Uncle Richard, Uncle Bob, great aunt “little grandma” (4′ tall?) were gathered throughout the house with Grandmother was always in the kitchen….Grandpa was ALWAYS in the basement or garage usually talking to Dad about tools but drinking his stash. House was steaming hot, smelling of potatoes, pirogies, poppyseed roll, chicken and beef, and veggies. Plenty, but on the bland side.

Barely fit all at the big table. Table cloth was white to start out, but rarely stayed that way. Talked and eat for hours. Then when the table thinned out, on came the TV with wrestling or the orchestra music. Aunt Gerry and Uncle Paul were the funniest. Uncle Rich hid along with Grandpa, but never together. Johnny got to be funny too as he grew. I would dance. As I grew, I grew bored too. Till I discovered Grandma had a story to tell. I am grateful for this.

To escape the routine, our family left the scene only after doing the dishes, grandma style with all the females that weren’t preoccupied with children. Ride home seemed long but Johnny, baby Mickey, and I occupied our time with one new toy taken on the voyage from under the tree.

We fell asleep by the end of their driveway from pure exhaustion. It had been an incredible day. I can imagine that Mom and Dad took the biggest sigh of relief that most of the day went without a hitch. Nobody got hurt and no body through any fists.  Peace with the Turchons happened most of the time.


What a delightful Holyday memory you let me indulge. I assume I am fairly accurate with some grace of forgiveness. This is how those days went for us. I didn’t get to practice with Mickey, like Denny, but I did have regular buggy and stroller duties alternating with Johnny. And we even got to do it outside if weather was good. Those were the days.
Editor’s Notes: Thanks to AFL member Nina Turchon for sharing this story, written by sister-in-law Patti Turchon. (Yes, Patti gave permission for its publication.) Patti notes: This is “dedicated to Mom, Dad, Mickey, & Johnny……et al deceased Turchons. Only one survives from the story, besides me…My best to Uncle Bob living in Florida.


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