By Steve Svetovich
The Christmas season usually brings out the best in people.
And we all have and share our best Christmas memories.
This scribe is lucky to be raised by parents who always made Christmas the best day of the year.
And thanks to my two boys it continues to be a special day as we carry on the tradition.
My dad, sister and brother and his family remain a part of it. My late mom made sure every Christmas with her grandchildren remained special right up to her final one in 2012, eight months before she passed away.
This scribe vividly remembers the Christmas of 1968 when my mom said she smelled something burning. My dad quickly checked the cellar and found a fire. I remember grabbing my sister Denise, four at the time, and running out of the house screaming, “Fire, Fire, Fire!”
Then the thought of the pet cat, Minsky, crossed my mind, “Get the cat out of the house,” I screamed.
Yes, our calico-colored cat Minsky was saved. My dad got her out.
And thanks to a quick response from the Scranton Fire Department, most of our Woodlawn Street house was saved. Still, we spent a good part of our Christmas Day sitting in our pajamas in the basement of the home of our Green Ridge neighbors, the Dreaters.
This scribe remembers the Christmas of 1969 when we decided not to tell my sister Denise, five at the time, that Christmas was the following day. We wanted to surprise her and figured this would be the final chance to do this. After all, she would be in first grade for the next Christmas.
So she, my mom, and I roamed the stores Christmas Eve warning shoppers not to mention Christmas to Niece as we affectionately called her. I remember telling a woman in the old Woolworth’s on Keyser Avenue to keep quiet when she said, “I bet you can’t wait for Santa to come tonight.”
And this scribe will never forget the look on my sister’s face when she walked down the steps on Christmas Day. Her green eyes squinted two or three times while slowly walking down the steps. Then her eyes popped out of her head when she saw all the presents. “Santa was here!” she yelled while sprinting down the rest of the steps with her blanket she called a “gee.”
Then there was the Christmas of 1970 when I received my first cassette player and recorder. I used that to record my dad’s comments and conversation as he patiently took three hours to put a train set together. In the background of the recorded tape, an Archie’s record I received for Christmas was playing “Sugar, Sugar” and “Bicycles, Roller Skates.” My dad was singing along, “Bicycles, roller skates and me…”
I still have the old Panasonic cassette tape recorder and the cassette of that Christmas.
This scribe remembers another Christmas a few years before when my mom tucked me in and played, “Silent Night” as I woke up to Christmas. I was six at the time. When I woke, I remember telling my mom that I actually heard bells and reindeer. My mom assured me the reindeer were there right over our roof on Woodlawn Street.
This scribe remembers all the Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, and Paul Simon records I received as a teenager. One of my favorite gifts was when my mom and dad gave me a sneaker box full of my first eight-track tapes. My first record was “Burning Love” by Elvis, the King himself.
The old Strat-O-Matic and APBA baseball board games became a consistent gift during my teen years.And back issues of Baseball Digest were always a highlight as a gift.
This scribe remembers the Christmas of 1974 when an odd, shabby sort of guy came to the door trying to sell something rather insignificant. He appeared to be looking for money. My dad politely declined.
And then I really saw the kind of man my dad was and is. He watched the man slowly walk away before calling him back. He handed the man the only $10 he had in his pocket. And he never told anyone about it.But it is a lasting memory for me.
And then there were the Christmas memories as an adult.
There was the Christmas of 1991 when my brother George and I arranged for two sisters, both in nursing homes, to meet. Kitty and Irene Flaherty, both of Dunmore, had not seen each other in years.
We transported Irene from Adams Manor, where I worked, to Holy Family Residence where Kitty resided. We will never forget the look on their faces as they embraced each other, both in wheelchairs. And it was a surprise for Kitty. It was a special moment.
Then there was the Christmas of 1994 when I transported another Adams Manor resident, the late William Treitz, to my Shawnee Avenue home in Green Ridge, to see the Christmas tree. A simple man in nature, Mr. Treitz, a Luxembourg native, was in awe of the tree. And all he wanted was to pay a visit to Dominic the Tailor in Green Ridge and have a donut and coffee at Krispy Kreme. But he had a gleam in his eyes as he gazed at the tree and its ornaments. My cat, Meow, Meow, caught his attention as the tabby cat played with the ornaments. “Curious creatures, aren’t they,” he said.
And then I was able to arrange a surprise meeting at Adams Manor with his nephew Junior for Christmas. Shortly after, Mr. Treitz called me to his room from my office. He presented me with a wrapped gift and insisted I take it. It was a flannel shirt, one of my most treasured gifts ever.
The more than dozen Christmas days I spent with my former wife Beth were all very special. We always enjoyed surprising each other. I will cherish all of them.
There have been many special Christmas days with my boys, Dylan and Ryan, now 19 and 16.
I will never forget the great anticipation of Christmas Day in 2003 as we drove in a snowstorm following a visit to West Pittston. We arrived to our Parrott Avenue home and they kept yelling, “I love you Santa!” as they opened their gifts.
There was the Christmas of 2009 when our pet cat, Rosalita was losing weight, not eating and declining rapidly. She couldn’t jump and her once proud eyes became sullen and sad. We took her to the vet and it was determined she was dehydrated and hypoglycemic. Water was injected intravenously, a pill was prescribed and she was provided with a B-12 shot.
Still, she sat motionless two nights before Christmas Eve as my boys petted her. The tears were flowing. We thought Rosie would not make it for Christmas. She was down to two pounds.
My son Dylan came home early on Christmas Eve to find Rosalita eating for the first time in eight days. My son Ryan later saw her eating. And she kept eating. ‘It’s a miracle,” my boys shouted. “A true Christmas miracle!”
And there was Rosalita on Christmas Day frolicking in the Christmas wrapping paper as my boys opened their gifts. Curious as a cat, Rosie was sniffing, smelling, prancing and checking everything out. My boys’ prayers were answered.
And then there was that Christmas in 2012. Another miracle. My mom, who recovered from a brain aneurysm in time for the Christmas of 1995, this time came back from a near death experience not once, but twice– to give us one final Christmas with her. And she did it all that Christmas – with my dad’s help. Cooking, cleaning, presents, entertaining.
I was there when she came out of a two-month coma. That was a special moment for me. And my boys and I were there when we saw her and my dad shopping for Christmas presents at the Steamtown Mall just weeks after recovering from her coma. That was another special moment, another wonderful Christmas memory. A memory that will last forever.
Yes, there is a Santa Claus.
Merry Christmas, everyone.