As we head towards the Christmas season, I thought it would be fun to get your point of view on what reminds you most about Christmas in Duquesne. There are probably many more that I haven’t included, so feel free to add your thoughts if they are not on the list.
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Most of my memories after age 11 centered around church. My uncle was an elder; he’d ask me to help him put up the trees in front of the church – back then, they were tinsel trees, silver, & all the ornaments were gold. There was a small floodlight with a rotating disc that had 4 colors on it, & it was set up to reflect on the tree. I always kinda thought it was boring – I loved multicolored lights & still do. I believe there is no such thing as too many lights on a Christmas tree! The preacher would get a big live tree for the back of the church & the youth group would decorate it with regular & home made ornaments & lights. We’d put candles in the windows, the glass kind with stained glass pictures, & we’d put greenery around them. We’d put wreaths on the windows. People would buy poinsettias & they’d put them all over the front of the church. I started singing in our choir when I was 11, so didn’t see the “front view” of the decorations, but they all were pretty anyway. My most pleasant memories center around church at Christmas. When I was a teen, a group of girls & I had guitars & we’d sing carols using the guitars. When I was in 10th grade, we started going to my church (where the services had moved to earlier in the evening), then to midnight mass at Holy Name. We were quite ecumenical! Of course, I remember when I was really young, every girl would play at having first holy communion, & I was upset that protestants didn’t do that because I wanted to have a party like everyone else in class did! 😉 Of course, our parents would always tell us that either Protestants or Catholics (depending) were going to he–, so we decided to teach each other our religions. I was in charge of teaching people to be Protestant, & they’d teach me to be Catholic. No way did we intend to go to he–!! We figured if we knew both types of religion, we could get into heaven! It lasted through high school, obviously! When Jack & I got married, he had to go on an unaccompanied tour to Okinawa, but when he got back, I was finishing nursing school at CCAC. Transferring to the community college there would mean starting all over – no thanks! But the first Christmas he was home, I drove down to be with him; we got a cheap fake tree & some ornaments & lights from K-Mart & set them up in the motel room we’d rented, one with a kitchenette. I ended up cooking a turkey dinner at a house of someone I didn’t know from Adam, for us & a friend of Jack’s who was housesitting. His friend loved Okinawa; he ate everything with chopsticks that day, even the mashed potatoes & gravy. I won’t ever forget that – our first Christmas, just the 2 of us, finally. The main problem I had at that duty station was when we moved into our apartment. Outside the sliding glass doors where we had our tree set up, was a red maple whose leaves were just then turning color due to the milder temps in Pensacola! It was an even bigger adjustment having Christmas in Puerto Rico. There were gorgeous hedges of poinsettias, & it was 80 degrees during Christmas – but as someone reminded me, that climate was closer to the climate of the Holy Land. Scotland was great! Now we’re near Baltimore, so not that far away. We’ve had Christmas all over.
In school, the chorus for the high school would practice for Christmas concerts & we were allowed to sing “religious” songs. Now, kids my son knew weren’t allowed that (we homeschooled – when Sam quit napping at 3 months & stopped sleeping more than 6 hours a night by age 1, we knew he was hyper & that it would be easier to teach him ourselves) – when he was 5, his friend was suspended from kindergarten for saying “Merry Christmas”! It wasn’t just his family & we who were upset; most of the parents were horrified that it has come to this. BUT – WE LET IT HAPPEN. All of us should have fought harder to stop this insanity. If someone says to me, “Good Solstice,” I say, “Thank you, same to you,” even though my experimentation with the occult in college left me with a bad taste in my mouth for paganism (& eternal gratitude for the reason Jesus came to earth – to die for our sins & be resurrected to seal our salvation if we just accept it). To me, the person giving the greeting isn’t trying to make me a pagan or a Wiccan, they’re just giving me a greeting. I can wish someone “Happy Hanukkah” even though I’m not Jewish; I say it to people I know who are Jewish; they are, & it’s only polite to greet them with, to me, a season-specific greeting that shows I acknowledge them, accept them, & hope they have a wonderful celebration of their holiday. A greeting is a greeting, given in good faith that the person will understand even if they don’t share your faith. Plenty of Jewish people have wished me a Merry Christmas, & I think it’s nice. I’m not offended; they’re not making fun of my belief, they’re just greeting me. But we’ve lost that, along with civility, kindness, manners. I have noticed when I returned to Duquesne in the past, that those things hadn’t really changed, & for that, I am grateful. People are still pretty nice there, like in Scotland, when I lived there, they greet you, smile, wish you a good holiday. They don’t see children as possessions or burdens, but as blessings. The world could use more of that.
I remember all the stuff you mentioned in your poll about Duquesne during Christmas, & then some. Mostly, I remember singing to Christmas music, or my mom playing it on the piano (I was never a very good pianist!). Mom & I did most of the decorating.
My son was a miracle. We had tried for 11 yr to have a child – infertility workups in 2 US & 2 overseas duty stations! I always laugh when I think of it: I had to have an emergency appendectomy, but it turned out the appendix wasn’t the problem, I had a ruptured ovarian cyst from the clomid I’d tried a couple years earlier. They told me not to get pregnant for 6 months & I laughed in their faces – I recited the trials of 11 yr. 2 1/2 mo. later, near Easter, I got pregnant, & our son was born on Christmas Eve – arguably my favorite day of the holiday season because of the Christmas services, plus our family celebrated on Christmas Eve. When Sam was very young, he was eager to decorate for Christmas, & by the time he was 8, he was quite proficient (BTW, his birthday is ALWAYS a separate celebration from Christmas. God gave us the world’s 2nd greatest Christmas gift, the 1st being Jesus; it would be an insult to Him not to recognize Sam’s birthday as a separate event!). He’ll be 22 this Christmas – time sure does fly! For us, since 1989, there has been one extra special addition to the holiday season – our Christmas baby, now all grown up but still loved & celebrated as much now as when he was first put in my arms on Christmas Eve 1989.
Amy, NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!! Thank you so much for your narrative of Christmas memories. I enjoyed every word and I am so happy you took the time to share them with all of us. The type pf experiences you wrote of is testimony to the loving hometown memories we all hold in our heart about Duquesne. Have a blessed Christmas and every other holiday celebrated at this time of year!
Every year at Christmas time, they had the school children walk from school down to the Carnegie Library. No matter how cold, how windy, we walked. There we watched a Christmas movie, sang Carols and then each received a 4 piece Whitman Sampler box of candy!! What more could we ask for?? It made the walk up and back well worth the trip.
Having neighbors of so many nationalities, it was not uncommon for a sweet little hunky boy (me), to receive several of those boxes of Christmas candies. One or another of the neighbors would take me to THEIR CLUB on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in December where I would dutifully stand in line with kids of all ages and backgrounds and get my candy from Santa with a Christmas wish in a foreign language, or at least an accent reminiscent of Louie Adamchevitz, the garbage man on Cordic and Company. Those clubs included Croatian, Slovak, Serbian, Hungarian, Carpatho-Rusyn and probably others I’ve forgotten. So now I’ll say: SRETAN BOZIC, BOLDOG KARACSONYT, and God bless us, EVERYONE.
All of my Imblum relatives getting together at my Grandparents Imblum’s home on Sherman Ave. My Grandma had this beautiful clear plastic tree with it’s own ornaments. I inherited that tree but the sad thing was the base was missing. I tried rigging up a stand but it never stayed upright for very long.
My 2nd favorite memory was Mrs. Kelly’s shiny snowflakes hanging from her living rm. ceiling. Sharyn Kelly was & still is my best friend. When both of her parents passed I asked for the snowflakes & she said that none of the kids wanted them so she gave them to me. They are a very cherished memory of my past & they grace my ceiling every Christmas.
When I got to be 13 or 14 yrs old, I started being in charge of Christmas decorations inside and out. I had to rearrange our living room to accomodate my 5 X 9 foot train platform, on which I had My Lionel Santa Fe twin diesels running, with an HO guage train running around the perimeter. In the center of the platform, there was a mtorized 15″ turntable, to which was attached our rotating Christmas Tree. My Dad built the turntable out of Maytag washing machine parts, and it had a wooden drum underneath with two strips of copper, and as the drum turned with the tree above, the tree lights were powered by two brushes contacting the copper strips. My Dad was an overhead crane operator with US Steel for 47 years, Duquesne Works, pouring molten steel into those tall ingots on railroad cars. He was very inventive with scrap materials. Modern generations have NO IDEA, it seems, how to be self sufficient. We also made wooden frames, complete with all the outside sockets & lights already installed, so all we had to do was mount the frames on the windows and doors on existing studs, plug them in and voila !! … outside lights installed in no time. People were amaxed when they came in the house(right across from St Joe’s), and I switched on the trains AND the rotating tree !!
Then with the home all decorated, there was the anticipation of the whole Christmas season with families visiting each other, opening presents, going to midnight mass, and coming back to nut rolls, cinnamon buns, schmeer kase, cookies in Christmas shapes, ham sandwiches, and the music of the season. What a grand and magically innocent time it was. Nothing of the sort has transpired since. Now we just have socialist liberals and the ACLU tearing down all that we loved and cherished.
Family, Food & fun…all the relatives all together every night of Christmas week.