By Mary Nicotera
My dad died on March 31 of this year, at age 88. He has been the subject of a few of My View columns. Dad sure earned this renown because he’s been an integral part of many of the cherished moments of my life. I miss him dearly.
My grief comes in waves. One minute, I’m perfectly fine. Then he sprinkles his juju aura down upon me and I’m suddenly overcome and in tears. He apparently still wants his presence known, and most especially this time of year.
My family is experiencing the first Christmas season without dad. He loved Christmas and was very active in the merriment, leading the holiday charge for our household while his health allowed. Like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” maintaining holiday traditions was mandatory.
For instance, the blue Christmas tree. Back in the day, he’d search for a flawless Douglas fir and then drown it in four cans of artificial snow. Dad’s job was to expertly position hundreds of blue lightbulbs on the tree. Then he’d sit back in his lounge chair and make sure we did the rest of the decorating to his high standards.
Matching ornaments had to be hung in symmetry, and the tinsel applied just one string at a time. No clumps allowed. We kids tried our best to cooperate, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes we’d lose interest, shed a few tears and beg for mercy.
One year, our kitten Maya Plisetskaya thought it was a good idea to climb our spectacularly finished tree. She tipped the whole thing over into my dad’s lap. He bellowed at her and poor Maya went into hiding for days. We were tasked with restoring the tree to perfection. Maya eventually recovered.
Our blue masterpiece stood proud every year until Little Christmas in January, no matter how many pine needles dropped or how much water the tree guzzled. Tradition!
The blue hue continued outside, strewn across all the bushes and outlining the huge handmade star he placed on the peak of the garage. That star was a beacon of holiday inspiration for our entire North Boston neighborhood.
On Christmas Eve, as we began to nod off in bed, our mischievous dad would pound on the roof and shake jingle bells to convince us that Santa had landed. Our bedrooms were upstairs, so he’d make sure we'd stay there until he was ready to summon us down on Christmas morning. Since the bathroom was downstairs, the boys were given milk bottles to do their business and therefore not ruin the surprise. I’m not sure why the girls didn’t merit a similar accommodation.
Each year, dad would stand at the bottom of the stairs, look up at us and say, “It looks like Santa didn’t come this year.” We’d fall for this ruse every single time and start wailing. Right away he’d say “just kidding” and we’d bound down the stairs to be delighted by a living room piled with presents.
There was little room for maneuvering. Mass bedlam took over for about 15 frenzied minutes as we ripped open our gifts with no consideration for order. Yours truly was then tasked with cleaning up and displaying the gifts under the tree before company arrived.
I’m sure Dad will supervise the activities from his vista in heaven. He will be happy to see that his family still lives in harmony and plans to pay homage in our own special way. Probably some blue. Likely some mischief. But most definitely no milk bottles.
Mary Nicotera is a North Boston native. Her dad’s holiday spirit will be in her heart for many Christmases to come.