Christmas 1966

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It was December 1966. My brother Chris and my sister Marijane were both attending the University of Massachusetts, with plans to head home after mid-terms for Christmas break. My parents and I made our yearly pilgrimage to Edaville Railroad, less than an hour away. The owners of a large family cranberry operation purchased an old steam train and laid track all around the multiple bogs. At night, all the Christmas lights looked enchanting, each bog magically reflecting every twinkling light. Santa was there for photos and to give each child that much anticipated time to explain that one perfect choice made from the pages of the Sear’s Christmas catalog
By this year, my brother was sharing an apartment with a friend in Boston. He met us whenever we went in for shopping and to see the huge Christmas parade. Before their mid-term tests, my folks would drive up and take us all out to dinner in this very stately, somewhat creepy looking mansion in Amherst. Chris and I especially loved the incredibly tall doorman who was a dead ringer for the butler, “Lurch” from The Addams Family TV show.
This was the year Chris benefited greatly when my Nana and Pop made their biennial upgrade to the newest Cadillac, selling him their “trade in.” He was so proud of this car and cared for it as if it was his first born child. Hartley Folklore tells of the winter trip home when Chris discarded his cigarette out the driver’s window and minutes later turned to find his entire back seat engulfed in flames after the cigarette butt must have been sucked back in through the cracked opening of his rear window. Poor Chris pulled over in a panic and hoisted the entire rear bench seat out of the car and tossed what was left of the smoldering padding and springs on the side
of the road. These were different times, several years before the memorable “crying Indian” Keep America Beautiful anti trash campaigns of the ‘70’s.
The icing on the cake for one of our last family Christmas’s came when I was officially quarantined to the den of our house with an awful case of the now politically incorrect named German Measles. Food left at the door for this little seven year old who couldn’t even share opening presents on Christmas morning. I do have many fond memories of long conversations through the door with Chris and Marijane sliding the end of her chewing gum wrapper chain under the door as she made one of the longest ones I remember for her little, sick sister.

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