By: Victor Normand
Around the holidays, the real estate business slows down. For a while we put aside the tips on staging your home, decluttering advice, valuable home improvement suggestions and the like and we get a little sentimental. Thoughts turn inward to hearth and home, being with family and friends and memories of Christmas past.
Personally, I still believe in the spirit of Santa Claus though my faith was challenged one Christmas time when I was six years old. My cousin Donny, who was eight and considered himself more “in the know” came for a visit before the holiday with big news he shared only with me. He told me there was no Santa Claus, and more to the point, it was actually our Uncle Walter all dressed up.
My mother was the second youngest of twelve children of Adam and Mary Ruszczyx. Except for Joe who died during the war, all of my aunts and uncles along with all my cousins gathered for a traditional Christmas Eve meal at my grandparent’s place. Back then we lived a few blocks away in a tenement building on South Bridge Street in Holyoke. The whole family lived in Holyoke as well. Extended families should be so lucky these days.
After the meal was over, tables cleared and dishes washed, the main event would occur. Santa would arrive with big bags filled with gifts for all the children. As you can imagine, the run up to Christmas Eve was a much-anticipated event. As children, we felt doubly blessed to have this extra visit from Saint Nick, so Donny’s news was very confusing and of great concern to me that year.
It was a secret I could not keep to myself. I told my mother what my cousin had said; she assured me that his information was not correct. This put my mind at ease though I remained a bit unsure wondering why Donny would have said what he said.
Finally, the big night arrived, the meal consumed and everything made ready for the special visitor. We gathered in the living room in a big circle nervously waiting. The phone rang. It was Santa himself announcing that he was only a block away. The air was electric!
As I fidgeted in my seat ready to jump out of my skin, I noticed who was sitting right beside me – Uncle Walter! Then Santa came through the door; his jolly old self carrying big bags filled with toys and shouting out Merry Christmas as he handed out gifts to each child gathered around the room. When he got to Donny, the room grew quiet as he presented the unfortunate lad with a big plastic mesh stocking filled with charcoal.
Later in life my mother confessed to me that because of Donny’s misguided, though admittedly accurate information, plans for that night changed and my Aunt Jenny padded up and became the jolly old elf.
As for Donny, I can attest that he was not scarred for life though lessons were learned that Christmas Eve.
It has been a very long time since Santa stopped making his visit with the grandchildren of Mary and Adam but the memories of Christmas past live on, fondly in my heart.