Archive for December, 2011

Buon Natale

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Ho Ho Ho & Mistletoe!

Madness Mom and Me wishes you and yours a very merry!


Santa Takes a Tumble (a guest post by Len Boswell)

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Please enjoy today’s Christmastime MADNESS guest post by talented author, writer and friend, Len Boswell. And have yourself a very merry!

My father told yarns. Big ones. Yarns about fish of impossible dimensions. Yarns about ghosts and leprechauns. If something was impossible, impractical, or downright strange, my father had a yarn for it. So it should have been no surprise to me that he would have a yarn or two to tell about Santa.

I was on the cusp between belief and disbelief, and not quite sure which way I’d fall that particular Christmas. Was there a Santa? It had all seemed so clear the year before, but now as Christmas Eve wore on and we set about trimming the tree with strung popcorn and paper chains, and setting out a plate of fresh-baked sugar cookies for Santa, I was not so sure. I wanted proof—and I had a plan.

“Dad,” I asked, “is there really a Santa Claus?”

Dad didn’t miss a beat. “Well, of course there’s a Santa Claus. Where do you think all the presents come from?”

“Your closet, maybe?”

He was clearly taken aback, but like all tellers of yarns, he was quick to recover. “Oh, those, they’re just extras, little somethings. I couldn’t possibly afford the gifts that Santa has been bringing you.”

I shrugged. “I guess.”

He had a point. No one would confuse our humble Thank God for Duct Tape existence with, say, our neighbors, the Sharpers, who had a real Lionel train chugging around their tree and a new shark-finned Cadillac in the driveway.

“Well, good, I’m glad we had this little talk.” He turned and threw a handful of tinsel at the tree, which was now leaning in a way that suggested imminent collapse.

I wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily, though. “But how does he get in here? Our fireplace is fake.”

It was true. My father had installed it himself, complete with a stack of fake logs over a crinkled up piece of parchment that rotated under the logs and was backlit by a red, flickering light. It was just pathetic.

“Well, of course he doesn’t come down the chimney. We don’t have one.”

“So how does he get in?”

My father paused only briefly to take a bite of one of Santa’s cookies, his lips coming away sugary red. “Why, he just walks in the front door, is all.”

He almost had me. It was a time, believe it or not, when people rarely locked their doors, day or night. “So what if we locked the doors tonight? What would he do then?”

My sister, who was five years older and well past the cusp, decided to chime in as a co-conspirator from her perch atop the back of the living room couch. “Don’t be silly. Santa can just walk through walls.”

My father could have taken the easy way out and agreed with her, but he saw the look of incredulity on my face and decided to take a more yarn-worthy tack. “Oh, some believe that, that’s true, but I think if we locked the door tonight, he’d know—he’d know in the way he knows who’s naughty and who’s nice—and he’d just leave the presents on the roof.

My sister gasped. “Or just outside the front door,” she said quickly, sensing well before my father where this conversation was headed.

“Oh, no,” said my father. “He’s much too busy for that. No, I’m sure he’d leave the presents on the roof, call out, ‘On Dasher, on Blitzkrieg’ and so forth, and fly away.”

My trap was set.

“Oh, really?” I said, standing and walking to the door, locking it with a tad too much bravado for a boy in Daffy Duck footie pajamas. “Good night, then.”

I strutted from the room, down the hall to my room, and closed the door. A brief, though muffled, conversation than ensued between my father and my sister. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I did hear my mother walk into the room and say something that sounded like scolding. But then, just moments later, they all laughed.

And then all was quiet. I listened as hard as I could, and tried to stay awake, but sleep overtook me.

The ambulance arrived a few hours later, lights flashing, siren blaring, awakening me with a start. I raced from my room, down the hall, into the living room, and out the open front door, where I saw my father being lifted onto a stretcher, my mother and sister hovering over him, surrounded by what must have been the entire neighborhood. Even the Sharpers were there in their matching bathrobes.

“What happened!” I shouted.

“Quiet,” said my sister. “Dad fell off the roof.”


“Don’t worry,” said my mother. He was just helping Santa, and he slipped. He’ll be fine.”

I turned and looked back at the roof of the house. A bicycle was sitting on its peak, and other presents, wrapped and unwrapped, were scattered from the peak to the eaves and on the ground below. It looked like an avalanche of presents.

My father, not one to ignore the opportunity of a crowd, beckoned me to his side and, through gritted teeth and the pain of a broken leg, announced for all to hear what would become a neighborhood legend and the reason many children continued to believe in Santa for years.

“I was just helping Santa with the presents, and slipped when he and his reindeer flew away. Surely you saw it. I mean, Rudolph’s nose is as bright as the ambulance’s lights.”

Some adults and older kids laughed, and a few even clapped, but we children on the cusp just turned and gaped at the bicycle on the roof, our Christmas totem. And then, as if by signal, little Bobby Sharper shouted, “Presents!” and everyone scattered, each running for home and the treasures that awaited them.

I think if my father, the Great Embellisher, were telling this yarn, right about now he’d throw in a large group of carolers in turn-of-the-century garb, all holding candles and singing your favorite carol, whatever it might be—you know, the one that brings tears to your eyes and joy to your heart and makes you remember your very best Christmas ever.

But to me, the idea of carolers showing up at 3:00 a.m. is kind of disturbing, so I’ll just end this tale with what we kids imagined that Santa must have said as his sleigh lifted into the air and my father’s eyes grew wide as he began his tumble: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

(ITALIAN LESSON: Guest of honor = ospite d’onore)

SANTA SAYS: Head back to the home of Madness HERE and be sure to visit some of our NJ Italian insanity posts!

Nostalgia Warning! You Know You’re Italian if….

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

When I found this wonderful video this morning, MAMMA MIA my eyes watered! So many little bits of nostalgia I can relate to, and I hope you can too — or simply sit back just enjoy (and be Italian for the day).

ITALIAN LESSON: have fun, enjoy yourself: divertiti

A few I considered the pepperonis on my pizza were:

• The “sangwich”! Dad always enjoyed a nice prosciutto, salami and provolone cheese sangwich (and pile on the peppers)!
• Being almost as tall as your grandmother by age seven. CHECK!
• Thinking nylons were supposed to be worn down by the ankle. MY NAN ROCKED THAT LOOK
• Catholicism – the only religion there was, right? UNLESS YOU WANT A ONE-WAY TICKET TO HELL
• You have relatives who are not really your relatives. YEAH, I’D SAY I HAVE 984 COUSINS TO BE EXACT
• Talking loud is normal. REFER TO MY ORIGINAL LOUD FAMILY POST.

I’d love for you to share any of your memories PLZ COMMENT HERE whether you are an ITALIANO or not. GRAZIE!!!

Top O’ the Christmas List

Monday, December 12th, 2011

“Christmas makes me happy no matter what time of year it comes around.” ~ Bryan White

Before I get to Mom’s annual yuletide meltdown (which is pretty funny, and no one was harmed in any way — except an inanimate holiday decoration — year after year I might add) I wanted to jot down a few of my Christmas traditions I still cherish, and I’d love to hear a few of yours.

SANTA CLAUS! Waiting with hot cocoa in hand outside in the chill of winter for Santa to arrive on the roof of Epstein’s department store in Morristown, NJ. After Santa made his descent to the crowded pavement to greet his adoring fans (courtesy of the fire department’s bucket ladder) I was able to meet the one and only Saint Nick and whisper my top gift picks in his ear.

Holiday Specials: I couldn’t wait for CBS to announce when the cheerful array of Christmas classics like Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and all the rest, would air. We’d make a family night of it, enjoying trays full of Ritz crackers with dabs of peanut butter & jelly, washing them down with bubbly Asti Spumante.

Peek-a-boo! Mom and Dad would have my gifts wrapped and stored away in our attic, but being the naughty little rat in search of my cheese that I was, it was my own tradition to grab a glimpse of a couple of my Christmas gifts. I became quite skilled at tearing just a tiny bit of wrap to peek at what was waiting for me under that paper, then I’d quickly tape it back up. Yeah, I did feel a bit guilty, but I just couldn’t help myself!

Opening one gift on Christmas Eve: Even though I may have been a naughty little bugger and peeked at a few gifts already, I was always pleasantly surprised to open my goodies from ma & pa Santa! Just one on Christmas eve — all the rest would be waiting for me under the tree for the official opening Christmas morning.

Chocolate Cherry Cordials: My favorite gooey and delicious holiday treat. I hope Santa brings me a box this year!

Christmas Lights! Dad used to drive us all around the neighborhood to ooh and ahhh at the pretty Christmas lights and displays – this was such a treat, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do!

ITALIAN LESSON: What is your favorite = Il tuo favorito?

Please share one, two or more of your favorite holiday traditions in the comments section, RIGHT HERE!

There is a Santa, little doggie

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Before I get to Mom’s looney (lack of patience) Christmas post, please enjoy this video of a cute little furry fellow who still believes in Santa. Do YOU still believe in Saint Nick?

Stay jolly

Poppa’s Perfect Placement

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

“Tinsel is really snakes’ mirrors.” ~ Stephen Wright

“Poppa” (my Mom’s dad from Hungary, Nan was the Italian on this side) considered Christmas decorating a very serious affair (inside and out — just see photo below). Poppa was a skilled maestro, a pure perfectionist with his tinsel, or “icicles” as some call them — those thin leaded silver strands amateurs simply chuck on their trees by the handful. No no no, not my grandfather. Nobody could mess with Poppa’s method, which was one strand at a time. Yes, one thin, shiny s-t-r-a-n-d at a time (and there are hundreds of those little buggers in a box!)

I admired his patience and dedication to the art of decorating the Christmas tree, and his home, for all to marvel at. He probably swore like a gypsy doing it, but Poppa was in the habit of talking under his breath — sometimes in Hungarian Hmm…now I know where I get THAT from!

After Poppa passed away, the holiday decor at my grandparents’ house took a radical turn, when Nan bought a bright white “space age” tree and adorned it with pink, purple, yellow and blue strobe lights. I guess “bring in da groove, bring in da funk” was the in thing for holiday decor at the time.

ITALIAN LESSON: Christmas tree (evergreen tree decorated at Christmas) = Albero di Natale

BONUS: HUNGARIAN LESSON: Christmas tree = Karácsony fa

I miss seeing Poppa’s perfect little icicles hanging in a row, and I miss seeing him stand proudly next to his decorated masterpiece. I was lucky to have inherited his love of decking the halls for the holidays, but DAMN! not his patience. (my next Madness post is about Mom’s holiday lack of patience — pretty funny stuff!).

PLEASE SHARE: How do you decorate your tree? Are you a popcorn & cranberry type, ribbons & bows, or garland? And lights — Do you go for twinkling white, or technicolor?