The Blizzard of 48 stopped Brooklyn in its tracks. Schools had to close for days. No trolleys, cars or trucks could move either. The 9th Street subway station had to close too. When school finally reopened the kids could not stop talking about the snow storm. We traded war stories about the snowball fights we had and the extra money we made shoveling snow. Our parents and Teachers told us that we may never see a Blizzard like this one as long as we live. A lot of the snow melted but it didn’t make a dent in all the snow we shoveled into the street. Coffey Park looked untouched because there was no reason to move the snow there. When I walked there to see what was going on I see that somebody made a snowman sitting on the park bench. The darn thing looked real. It was hard to get around but I think that everybody had a great time. Roger the Professor set up the Christmas tree stand on Union Street and we worked our ass off for ten days selling these trees night after night in the freezing cold weather.
I didn’t make twenty bucks I thought I would selling trees but I did pretty good anyway. I made a total of twelve bucks. I was a little piss off because I felt that Roger screwed me out of at least five bucks. With all the money I made shoveling snow plus the twelve bucks Roger gave me it’s still a good payday for me. Christmas Eve is a couple of days away when we just about finished selling all the Christmas trees. There were three trees left on the stand when Roger came up to me and says. “Hey Pepino, Thanks for not bailing out. It was tuff work standing out here in the cold and snow every night selling these trees but you didn’t quit on me. You did a great job and I want you to take one of these trees home with you tonight for Christmas.” I stood there looking at him for several minutes. I was frozen and it wasn’t because of the freezing cold. I finally said, “Thanks Roger, my Mom would love to have one of these beautiful trees for Christmas. She’s not going to believe it when she sees me walk in the door tonight dragging this beautiful tree into our apartment. She is going to be blown away. Thanks Roger for this gift, I’ll never forget it.” Roger started laughing and says,
“Cut the crap shithead. Don’t get all mushy on me and you better not cry either, Merry Christmas.” He was right because I was about to cry, I turned and started walking home with my beautiful Christmas tree. I could not believe that Roger was being so nice to me. It’s not like him; he’s always trying to screw me over, what in the hell got into him? Maybe his brain got frozen and when he wakes up tomorrow he’ll come to his senses. I’m so happy about the crazy thing he did. I don’t care what made him do it. When I dragged the Christmas tree up to our apartment on the second floor I knocked on our door so that somebody would open it for me. My sister open the door and says “Why are you knocking? Can’t you just open the door?” That’s when she got a good look at the tree I was dragging. And said, “Wow, where did you get this thing? It’s beautiful.” She finally opened the door all the way so that I could drag the tree into our dining room. The dining room is the biggest room in our apartment. It’s the only place that we could set up a Christmas tree. My mother wasn’t home from shopping, boy will she be surprised. I hope that my Mom is as happy about the tree as my sister is.
My sister says, “Wow, this is some tree. I’m so happy that we have a Christmas tree this year. I’ll help you decorate it. I’ll buy some lights and tinsel from the five and dime store today. You know that Christmas is a couple of days away so I brought home a Sears Wish Book for you. This way you can look at and wish for some of the toys that you want Santa to bring you this Christmas. Watch out, it’s heavy.” I took the sears book from her. Wow, it’s about the size of a telephone book. The cover of the book has a color photo of Santa; I think that, in this picture, Santa is supposed to be writing a list of kids who were good and kids who were bad this year. It’s like when our parents would tell us if you’re bad, Santa will bring you coal this year so you better be good. Ha, more bullshit. I open the book and turn to the toy section when I see a page in beautiful color photo of a perfect Christmas tree in a room with toys in a book case. My guess is that this photo was taken in a house were rich people live, because in our old neighborhood in Brooklyn nobody has a room that looks like this. This wish book has got to have a thousand pages in it. I love it; this book has everything in it for adults and kids to wish for. But this Santa thing my sister is talking about is bullshit. The only Santa I know is my mother and farther. I don’t think that they have enough money to buy be anything I pick out and put on my Sears wish list.
But its fun to look at all the toys and stuff that Sears has in this book. A least I can dream about getting some of this stuff for Christmas. I thanked my sister for the book and helped her set up our tree into a corner of our dining room. My sister went out and came home with a couple of light sets and only one box of tinsel. After we put the lights and some tinsel on the tree we can see that it needed more decorations on it.
That’s when I remembered that Roger gave me about fifty labels to mark the price on each tree that we were selling. I stuffed the extra labels in my pocket. I told my sister that I have I bunch of labels that we can color with crayons and put them on the tree to give it more color. We did that and ya know when we finished, it looked beautiful.
In the next couple of days I have to help my mother get ready for Christmas Eve. Most of the fun we have together is during Christmas Eve. You can’t eat meat on Christmas Eve so my mom and her friend cook all kinds of fish and calzones stuffed with all kinds of chesses. Then they make a ton of cookies and they buy wonderful pastry’s for dissert. The adults drink homemade wine, Italian cordials and espresso. Then we go to midnight mass at Saint Stephens Church and eat again when we come home. We play bingo or cards for pennies, laugh, eat, drink and have fun for most of the night. A lot of the kids fall asleep, but the adults keep going as long as they can. It’s like they don’t what the celebration to end. It’s the best time of the year for our family and friends. The only thing I don’t like is when I go shopping with my mother for the stinky fish. We go to the fish market on Union Street to look for Clams, Squid, Octopus, Oysters, Sea Urchins, Shrimp, and live Lobsters and sometimes she buys live Eels. All this fish is very expensive. My Mom and her friends save up all year long to buy the most expensive fish for Christmas Eve. Then they spend hours cleaning and preparing the fish we eat raw or cook it in a bunch of different ways.
I don’t eat everything they make for Christmas Eve dinner. For one thing, the Eels give me the creeps. When I look at them is a tank filled with water they slither all over the place like snakes. I hate snakes and I don’t have the courage to eat one. My family and a lot of their friends like to eat Eel fried up in a batter but they still look like Snakes to me, yuck.
When I talk to my friends about the different fish we eat they think I’m crazy. They say yeah shithead, you can’t eat Eel but then you eat raw Sea Urchins. They’re right because most people can’t bring themselves to eat a raw slimy orange-pink Sea Urchin. I like the sea flavor of the Sea Urchin with lemon on it. Most of my friends like the four inch cut pieces of fried Eel better because it tastes like chicken. It doesn’t matter because when we sneak a drink of homemade wine with our fish dinner everything tastes the same. All of a sudden I hear foot steps in the hallway. My sister calls out to me from the kitchen, “I think I hear Mom coming up the steps. Let’s be quiet and surprise her when she comes in. I said “Okay.” and then we both sat down at our kitchen table. My Mom walks in the door loaded down with three shopping bags of food for the Christmas holiday. She lifts the bags as high as she can and plops them down on the kitchen table. She looks at my sister then turns and looks at me. She knows that something’s up because I never sit in the kitchen with my sister unless we’re having a family dinner. At this point me and my sister crack up laughing and my mother joins in too. She looks a little confused because she has no idea what we’re laughing about. We get up from the table at the same time and hug my mother and we start to push her into the dining room. She still laughing up until she spots the decorated Christmas tree with the lights glowing. We.re still holding her as she sits down into one of the chairs but she never takes her eyes off the beautiful Christmas tree all lit up and decorated with colorful labels. The three of us sit together in the same chair looking at the tree. That’s when my mother starts to cry tears of joy while she rocking us. I am so happy that our surprise made our mother happy too.