Christmas Memories with Dad

Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is winding down for 2015. This week’s prompt is to share memories of the person with whom you most identify with the holiday season.

In my case, that has to be my father, George Michael Sabo. He’s been gone for 30 years now, but I am lucky to have memories and photos of those years. I also am the proud owner of many of the vintage hand-blown glass ornaments that were carefully placed on the Christmas tree each year.

Seeing Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was the start of the Christmas season. My dad loved Christmas and I remember year after year, we got in the car and drove down to the neighborhood around St. Michael’s Church in Passaic. The train tracks ran right through there so warehouses lined the street past the church. Some of those warehouses pulled in extra money by selling fresh Christmas trees, shipped in on the train from a tree farm.

Dad was very particular about the Christmas tree that would be coming home with us. I think they were about six or seven feet tall and the needles were the short kind, about an inch or so long. The trees were probably Scotch pines. He inspected the tree very carefully, having a clerk hold it upright so he could check its fullness and if there were any wide bare spots. Dad would also check for freshness. If the needles bent, the tree was fresh. If they cracked in two, they were past their prime.

Once the perfect tree was chosen, he and a clerk would hoist it up on top of the car’s roof for the 10 minute ride back home. The tree always went up on Christmas Eve so it was stored on the side porch until the big night.

Side steps onto the porch

Door into the house

Ignore the people in the photos! These are the best two views of the porch that I have. In the top photo, you can see steps going up onto the porch behind my grandmother. In the bottom photo, this is where you’d be if you went up those steps. The Christmas tree would be laying on the porch to the right of my uncle. (Just FYI, that’s me as a toddler.)

Dad always had the Christmas tree set up in the same place each year, right inside the door to my aunt’s left. Decorating the tree was a family affair. We lived in a two family house and Nana lived upstairs. She always came down to help decorate the tree. First, the lights went on the tree – Mom and Dad always did that until I was old enough to help. However, everyone put the ornaments on. The finishing touch was the tinsel, which Dad taught me had to go on only a couple of strands at a time so the tree glittered evenly from top to bottom.

Here are several pictures of the trees through the years:

Dad and Linda, 1956

Christmas Tree, circa 1959

Christmas Tree, circa 1960

This is one of the oldest family ornaments that I own:

Christmas Ornament

This ornament has a metal cap on it, so it either pre-dates or post-dates World War II when new ornaments were made with paper caps. The glitter and color are well worn, so it could date to around 1940, but it has taken its place on the family tree for at least 65 years.

Take a careful look at this tree from about 1961:

Christmas, circa 1961

You can click to enlarge the image, but look at the green arrow on the right. There is my ornament! It was a bit pinker and shinier way back then, but it has aged gracefully.

The tree always came down on New Year’s Day and, as the family decorated the tree together, we took the ornaments down together. I remember the tinsel always getting caught on the ornament hooks, to be found the following year when the ornaments again came out of their boxes.

It was always sad to watch Dad haul our Christmas tree out to the curb to be taken away with the trash.

Merry Christmas, Dad!

George Sabo






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