The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

December 25, 2011

Tom Lavis | Holiday memories last a lifetime

Merry Christmas, friends.

I hope everyone has a blessed and memorable day.

Other than recognizing why we truly celebrate Christmas, perhaps the most pleasant thing about honoring the holiday is creating memories.

Having enjoyed more than six decades of Christmases, my memory bank is full.

A good Christmas has nothing to do with the number of dollars that are spent.

As we are bombarded by retailers offering us door-buster bargains and free shipping, my attention has turned to the simpler things.

Ironically, I find that material things are the least of my treasured memories.

It was waking up Christmas morning to see that Santa did come, despite all the threats of stockings filled with lumps of coal or worse yet, “shooloo.”

Shooloo is an Eastern European expression that has nothing to do with anything pleasant.

My Grandma Machak laughed uproariously anytime we asked her what shooloo meant.

She didn’t find it funny when one Christmas morning, as our family walked into church, the parish priest asked if we received presents?

“Shooloo,” my brother, Bob, blurted out.

I think the priest covered his mouth so we couldn’t see him smile.

But grandma wasn’t laughing.

“He meant shoelaces,” Gram said.

“No, grandma, I said shoo- ...,” said Bob, as my dad reached down and covered his mouth.

Let’s just say the word was “eliminated” from grandma’s vocabulary.

When I was a youngster, Christmas was about company.

By company, I’m not talking about Hasbro, Fisher Price, Mattel or Kenner.

Instead, it’s the memories and the times we share that make my holiday special.

From an early age, I knew Christmas meant visiting every relative in our immediate family.

I see now that it was a blessing. Most of my relatives worked in coal mines and lived only several miles apart.

On these visits between Christmas and New Year’s, my brothers, sisters and I would play with the toys our cousins got. Everyone shared.

But it was watching the adults around us that I remember most.

These memories were most vivid when our relatives reciprocated and came to our house a day or two later. Like I said, there was a lot of visiting.

This is perhaps the only holiday my parents offered mixed drinks to their guests. Any other time, my dad and uncles drank pony bottles of beer.

The reason this was most memorable is because we kids usually found the case of 7-Up hidden in the cellar that was reserved for Christmas. Over a period of two weeks, my brothers and I would sneak down and polish off a few bottles at a time. Soft drinks were a rarity in those days and we pilfered it when we could.

But as the company gathered at the house, I heard my dad’s bellowing voice come from the cellar.

“Who drank all the 7-Up?” he asked.

It took my mother a while to calm him down.

That and two fingers of Four Roses over ice tempered his fury.

Two years ago, my wife and I wanted to create  memories with our oldest grandchildren, Lauren and Parker, by taking them for a ride through their neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.

After about 20 minutes, the kids began to get sleepy as the lights were not as plentiful as we had hoped.

Suddenly, in the distance, I saw a beam of light shining forth and urged the children to awake and behold the upcoming display.

As I rounded the bend, we came to a brilliant glow of white lights shining on the yellow facade of a tire, muffler and brake store.

Last week, Parker jokingly asked me if we could go to the tire store to see the “Christmas lights?”

I hope you make a few memories of your own in the coming days. They are priceless.

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Tom Lavis

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