Well it was eight months ago I hung up the badge after 35 years and began retirement. No more call outs in the middle of the night, no meetings no court appearances or out of state travel for training . Finally all the projects that were often planned for Saturdays that never got done are now in progress or completed. I miss the people I worked with but many of my friends who worked with me or in other law enforcement agencies have retired as well. I don't miss the crazy hours or the administrative drama. I have had more time to devote to my hobbies and working on the beards and wigs. What used to take days to complete a wig set I can now do in a day or two now that I have time. I have experimented with some thirty year old sets I had in storage and have refurbished them. If anyone has some old sets that they want to give a second life to contact me. I am looking forward to spring so I can finally get back into the garden and work on the koi ponds. May brings the Santa gathering on Cape Cod which I am looking forward to. I plan to attend more Santa events I never had the time to in the coming years.
Given the snow this past winter it was great to be retired and not have to venture out in the storms. Spring can't come soon enough!
Last thursday night I was off to a nursing home close by for birthday visit to my last relative of my folks generation. My Uncle Bob ,my late mother's brother turned 97. He has been in a nursing home since December and I must say it is difficult to see him there. For all of my life he lived just around the corner and after his wife's early passing he became a daily fixture in my family's home.He was always there all through the illness of my mother and watching over my Dad as he slipped away within two years of mom. Yes Uncle Bob was there,always a story and great laughs. I spent a couple of hours with him recounting many things from the past. His memory works better in the distant past, not so well in the present. It seems not so long ago on his 90th birthday I had to take him for a drivers test to renew his license. I was not looking forward to that as I felt that he probably would not pas and the reality of that would be difficult for him to bare. Well I sat in the back of his K-car and off we went. He passed all the tests including the eye test without glasses. He ended up driving me home.Well as time progressed age has caught up with him a bit and he can no longer live on his own.It is sad to see him there though I know it would be too dangerous for him to be alone now especially with stairs. Our visit went well,a lot of laughs and some great memories recalled. Sadly I know that by the next day he will not remember it. I will have to do it for him. Time moves by so very quickly and the great generation of the WWII veterans passes from us each day. We need to cherish every day with our older relatives and friends,just one visit to a nursing home is a stark reminder to us all.
A little early Christmas magic happened a few days ago when Santa got his whiskers. I am somewhat of a Santa whisker stylist of sorts, all self taught, taking ordinary sets and working them into something better. Always on the look out for that perfect set of whiskers. Well a while back I read of a Santa looking for a certain set of whiskers that are out of production. I know he had seen them in the advertisement on the Rubies site where he got his suit. It was a very nice beard made to look like the Yak sets of a bygone era.Well there is not a lot you can do the good stuff seems to be all out of production. Well I am scanning through the EBAY site and see a box I recognize to be the package from Rubies Santa set 2306,having no idea what was really inside I make a couple of bids.Unfortunately I receive a notice I was outbid so that was it ,so I thought, The ad also incorrectly gave the wrong product number I figured Oh it was not the 2306 set after all. So a week or two later having forgot about this I get a message from the seller that the buyer did not go through with the bid. He asks do I want the set? I ask him to check the tags sure enough they are a 2306. I make the purchase and wait to see what is actually in the box. Several days later the box is wedged in my mailbox. It took some doing to remove it. Well I open it up and behold a brand new Rubies 2306 set in original package with the tags. Well I contact this Santa who I don't know, except by reading some of his posts to see if he wants it. He is surprised to say the least,I tell him it cost half the retail that was advertised and it was his for the asking. I took it out styled it up a bit and sent it off to him. He seems quite pleased with my internet bargain.With a bit of Christmas magic Santa got what he asked for this Christmas his whiskers.
Well fathers day has past, a quiet day of remembrance for me as Dad is gone now almost 11 years. I was recounting to some folks I was talking about some of the things that I remember. Dad was a morning person up with the sun. How I remember all through my school years him waking me up in the morning. I did not inherit his love for the morning,today if it were not for my wife pushing me to get going I would still be in bed at 10 am.My dad however was a different story. He was up shaved eating breakfast all before we opened our eyes.He sang every morning I can still see him in the kitchen shining his shoes at the start of each day. I still have that wooden shoe shine box today.I remember the morning smells, coffee, shoe polish and the Vitalis hair tonic my father used his whole life. Funny how while he was here with me those things never came to mind,another memory was Saturday mornings, I always with him off to the hardware store.My father loved hardware stores as I do to this day. There was always some project my Dad had planned and we would be off to Atlas hardware. The owner was a friend of my Dad's and they spent more time talking then buying paint or nails. I used to love using the scoop and putting nails on the scale. Back in the day before Home Depot you bought your nails by the pound in brown paper bags. Then it was off to Beacon Dry cleaners for my Dad's shirts. He wore a white shirt and tie his whole life. We would get the laundry and it was off to Sam's variety where we would pick up this or that. My father was always overweight so the secret was we would go to Sam's where we would go to the soda fountain. Yes an old fashion soda fountain with big stools to sit on there were milks shakes, ice cream floats, hot fudge sundaes that is what we would have. My mother was not to know of this deviation from his diet though I suspect she knew ,perhaps tell tale signs of ice cream on my shirt would give it away.
I remember every Tuesday night my Dad had Army Reserves he was a Major and I loved to see him with his uniform and medals on. Then there was boy scouts,my dad drove me and the gang everywhere. He would hike into the woods with my next door neighbor who was scout master and end up carrying four of five of the nap sacks that were too much for the scouts to carry. He would help set of all the tents the walk back though the woods to his car. I can still see him in his army field jacket with that white shirt and tie neatly underneath wearing his signature felt stetson hat,not a cowboy one but like they wore in detective movies,heading off from our camp through the dark woods with a small flashlight to light his way. Sunday he would be back to help pack up and drive me and several of my weary friends home from our week end camping adventure.
Yes, fathers day is a quiet day of recollection and reflection for me a little sad perhaps but aglow in wonderful memories.
I sit here Mothers Day just past and Memorial Day just ahead makes one think about a mother who has passed from this life and how she inspired the love of Christmas in me. I spent a quiet afternoon on Mother's day at the cemetery caring for the special place where she has rested these many years. Planting a few flowers and some quiet reflection checking the US flag there for Dad. Many memories follow one as they leave the resting place of loved ones, but soon it was off to visit my mothers older brother 96 years old now still living in the same house alone some 40 years. He always has some Christmas item he finds at yard sales for me,he too knows the Christmas spirit my mother left behind. Interesting that my mother was born on Christmas Day, perhaps that is why the connection was so strong and passed down to me. The last Christmas with mom was perhaps the hardest as she was very ill and in a nursing home. Christmas Eve 1996 after my home visits as Santa in full attire I quietly slipped into the nursing home. Way beyond visiting hours I was welcomed by the surprised nursing staff and ushered to her room. I put a stuffed animal into her hands and she light up a smile I will never forget. She loved to see me in the Santa attire,this would be the last Christmas for her. Ten days later on my Dads birthday she saw all of us one more time before slipping quietly away. I think of this now and can even stand to look at the picture taken that last Christmas eve, though my mother would never have wanted anyone to see her in that terrible state from the cancer weighing only 60 pounds. Never the less I still look at it as a special last happy moment with her.So as we get past mothers day and go to memorial day another visit to their resting place will be scheduled this time remembering not only mom but the Major (Dad) who rest there as well. Another one who loved Christmas and yes beside the army uniform donned the red suit of Santa in my youth.
Well this season got over quickly as circumstances changed rapidly as my wife underwent two heart surgeries the first on December 8th which was supposed to be a day in the hospital which as things would have it turned into major open hart surgery. Thank the Lord she made it through, though we were all the worse for wear with worry. Canceled a number of my regular Santa appearances though I was able to continue my Christmas Eve visits on a smaller scale with the help of a friend to drive and another to stay with the Mrs. All and all I am thankful for her recovery and now look for her to get well. I will start planing for the 2009 season with the hope that I may be able to get to Celebrate Santa this March. Looking ahead there is all the decorations to take down and store. That is the worst time for me, I so enjoy putting them up, putting them away is sad and painful. Look to the new year with hope and anticipation, wish all of you safe ,health and prosperous New Year.
Here it is November how quickly the year has past seems like I was just watching 4th of July fireworks and here I am putting away the whole array of Halloween Decorations we put up every year. I got a call from an old professor of mine from my college years was surprised to hear he is 97 the realizing for a moment I'm 56 a long way from that freshman at 18 when I met the professor. He is off to florida for the winter and I sit here and make my Christmas plans. Along with my to do list I think of years past and how quickly time passes as I get older. My folks are gone many years now my nieces and nephews are grown some with their own children. Uncle Santa will visit them Christmas eve as he did years ago in their childhood years.I think that the fall of the year with the leaves falling the flowers gone we remember those gone from us now. For me the holiday preparations bring be back in time to my boyhood home and wonderful parents and family. Getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas was a big deal in my family as it is for me now today. Thanksgiving signaled the start of the season,my mother had the whole extended family over . Two tables strung together to accommodate all the guests. I can close my eyes and remember all the wonderful smells of turkey roasting and pies that filled the house the night before, that same scenario would be repeated on Christmas eve.I still have that dining table, that for more than 40 years was the place of the family celebrations. Sometimes I look at that table empty now and for a moment I see the whole family aunts uncles cousins and my folks sitting around it enjoying the company of family on the holidays.So now I plan for the memories in the making of the season ahead, getting the Santa suit just perfect for the many visit to come this season and creating for many I hope, reflections of happy times for them.
A friend of mine retired off the job last Friday and it made me think just how quickly time passes. The fellow who retired is a year younger than I am and it make me think. Being on the same job over 30 years and nearly that many as Santa.As one passes into middle age you start to appreciate things more.I recently was asked to assist as an usher in our church I was more than happy to do so. After taking up the collection I passed by the crying room window which cast my reflection. I looked for a moment at that fellow with the grey and white hair suddenly realizing it was me. As I returned to my seat I was smiling my, wife asked me what was so funny. I whispered to her as a young boy I used to look at the old guys taking up the collection as kid we would refer to them as the old turkeys and upon seeing my reflection turns out I am one of them,and old turkey. My late father used to say when Doctors and Policemen look like kids to you your getting old. This year I will be doing Santa visits for second generation of children. Many of my family members cousins nieces and nephews started families of their own so the legacy continues.
Well summer is about to end and fall will be upon us before we know it.I have already seen the fall decorations ,yes and even Halloween candy in the supermarket.I am already deep in the planning stages for the 2008 season with new custom suit belt and boots already in the closet waiting for the first official use. I have my first booking on November 15th an all day Christmas bizzar and craft show. I will be sitting for photos with the proceeds going to a church charity and acting as an official greeter. Should be a good time, the organizers liked my photos and admitted they had someone dress as Santa last year in a cheezy suit,their words not mine The long week end will see the traditional end of summer cook out and soon the leaves will fall and before you know the Christmas items will be on the shelves probably by late September. The anticipation is the best part.
Well here we are July 25th, traditionally Christmas in July. Not very much like Christmas in Boston the temperatures last week were in the 90's and very humid and this week it rained and rained and stayed humid. Well while sitting in gridlock traffic coming home tonight I turned on the radio and to my surprise the oldies station was playing Christmas music. The long slow commute on a Friday night from Boston went from sheer misery to thoughts of Christmas yet to come. I listened to Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and my mood was changed, not an easy feat with Boston drivers .
Well my thoughts drifted to Santa Costumes and search for some new boots and before I knew it I was sitting in my driveway. That painful hour of the daily commute flew by and I actually wanted to sit in the car and listen to that wonderful music. Reality hit when I looked at that lawn in desperate need of cutting after the week of rain. So much for green of Christmas in July I will have to settle now for the ride on the Green John Deere Tractor.
Sitting here on a rainy spring night one might find it odd to be thinking of the Christmas season. Not me of course Christmas is with me always and I hope that it never changes. Last week for instance I has a new suit delivered and had it on for a fitting. Everything fit great except the hat. Too small for my gourd of a head. Well it was off to the post office to send it back to Sam to be made larger. Soon the bigger hat will arrive in the mail and again the suit will go on this time in full make up and whiskers for some sample photos. The new suit is made by Santa & Co.also.the same ones who make the Charles Howard suit. Sam Militello runs the company and all his suits are made in fine rich red wool as this new cola style suit. Well I ordered a new belt and a white shirt to add to the new duds. This suit has a vest made from paintings of the Coca Cola Santa. My next thought goes to whiskers, my search never ends for more realistic set,though the Yak sets are pretty good after hours of cutting and styling. Hoping to find the time to attend one of the Santa events or schools this year. My work always seems to get in the way, perhaps more time for that when I retire. Well I should be thinking about planting, kio ponds and lawn care and I find myself again lost in Christmas thoughts during a warm spring rain!
Yes, a month has past since the magic of Christmas Eve 2007 was upon us all. As darkness fell on the 24th I began my yearly journey into Christmas making home visits and wonderful memories for young and old. Just a month ago checking every last detail of beard and costume ready to step out for the one great finale of the 2007 Christmas season. What a wonderful night it was ,snow on the ground, clear and cold but dry clear roads for travel. I visited many homes greeted many young and old leaving them with a smile and a great memory to carry them until the 2008 season.As many of us who wear the red suit each year know a month passes quickly and our thoughts turn to the season of 2008 a how we can make it even better. Our let down after the trappings of the holiday are safely stored away are now replaced by research and planning. Yes, we are looking for new suits ,better hair goods, for those of us who use them, and working on bookings for the next season. So it is that let down when the season is over is replaced by great expectations of the season that. is to come
Well I sit here at my computer on this January night watching the thermometer dip below ten degress looking out my home office window at a dark cold darkened cul-de-sac which only a few short days ago was festooned with Chistmas lights and decorations of all kinds. It was also the first Christmas in some time we had a substantial snow cover which is all but gone now. I sit here with feeling a bit low as the gloom of winter nights sets upon us.I will have my tree up at least through the week-end but my exterior decor is now residing in the attic.Now the long wait for spring begins, the pre Christmas excitement of seeing the first snowfall behind us I cringe at the nightly winter forecasts. The Christmas cards have all made there way to the trash,the yards of bright wrapping paper are tucked away for the next season. The dreadful though of that livingroom corner with the bightly lit tree covered with hand blown ornaments collected over so many years going dark and empty brings me down.I think of the Norman Rockwell picture of the young boy headed back to school after the Christmas vacation, a bent tree discarded and a broken toy in the background. That is my mood this cold dark January night.I will have to close my eyes and return for a moment to those wonderful nights in December when dressed in red and working on my best Santa portrayal made glad the hearts of all who I greeted.Till next season!
Well today is December 21,2007 and I made an important visit today,not as Santa but as myself but with Santa in my heart. I went to visit my Uncle who is 94 years old and still lives on his own in the same house he bought after returning from WWII. Well as I arrived the house was snow covered the driveway not plowed as he does not drive anymore.The front gate slighty adjar frozen in ice and snow for the foreseeable future only a few footprints on the stairs covered in snow from the last three storms.I quickily unloaded my car with the things I had brought.As usual ther were no signs indicating the Christmas holiday at his home.My first trip up the snowy stairs I carried a beautifully decorated real Christmas wreath and quickly fastened it to the hook on the door where for more years than I can remember I have come by and hung the wreath.The fresh smell filled the porch. Then it was back to the car for the small artificial tree I had brought. No sooner did I come up the stairs ther was my Uncle waiting to see me.I could tell he was grateful just for the company. When you reach 94 and you are still opertaing on your own as my uncle tells me most of your friends including the younger ones are dead. He frequently mentions some of the younger friends who died (most in their seventies) he seems anoyed that they have gone and left him. Well back to the car for a new reading lamp for him and 20 pound of ice melt for his stairs. I spent a few minutes shoveling them off and putting out the ice melt. Then it was inside to set up the small tree in the rather dark and cluttered living room. I set up the lamp and the small tree gets it place of honor by the front door.Every year I bring a small tree of one kind or another and they are usually still up at Easter. Well this year I brought a small fiber optic tree which lights in a magical aray of color as do the ornaments. After he marveled at the rainbow of color he seemed concerned about the heat from all those lights on the tree.After showing him there was only a tiny 12 volt bulb as the source of this rainbow of color I was sure he still did not understand what fiber optics were about.We we sat there in the darked room surrounded by the past recalling years ago and the many stories and good time we all had together all the time watching this small tree fill the room with light. Alas now most of the folks we talked about this cold afternoon are gone from us now including my Aunt gone over 40 years. We sat and enjoyed the long remberences of Christmases past. Before it was time to go I gave him a card putting in a couple of hundred bucks. He did not want the money my visit and the few things I brought were more than enough he said. I insisted making the point that heating oil is up to $3.40 a gallon and Social security does not buy what it used to. We left at the door both happy for the time together, precious time actually especially for one who is spedning his 94th Christmas at home.One thing he said as I left was how he missed my mother ( his baby sister,gone now 11 years) for she was born on Christmas. I said I miss her too every day as I headed for the car with a lump in my throat. I sit here at home tonight figuring out my Christmas eve Santa schedule and I want to say to you all if you have an elderly relative or friend take and hour out of your schedule and pay them a visit over the next 3 days.It is far better than any shiny present you can find under a tree.
Well, Halloween is behind us a fun night for the 189 goblins that paid us a visit. One question was repeated several times by the Mom's supervsing the goblins' "When is that Santa and Sleigh going up?"Well soon, the reindeer all eight of them will soon be brought down from the storage attic in the garage and I will touch the paint as needed. I have already bought some new floodlights and holders(they are impossible to find after the second week of December) Why new flood lights for the display you ask because the grinch came by last December 20th and took all five of them including the extension cords/. I hope they went to good use.Well anyway I was checking out the live christmas trees in the yard and figuring on how many more lights I need this year. Im looking at a new prelit tree this year for the living room,lots to choose from.All of the stores have the decorations up for sale now. The season begins,at last.I waited all year and its almost here.
A couple of weeks ago I had a few days off,my wife and her sister took my sisters grandchildren off to Disney.I went to the attic to reterieve the many Halloween decorations stored up there. Looking around in a dimly lit attic I noticed I was surrounded by Christmas. So many things that have come my way over the years not each thing sees downstairs every year. Some things are rotated over several years.I noticed sitting in a clear plastic bag a stuffed Santa all of two feet tall looking back at me. I drifted back in my memory of some fifty years ago when at the age of five I saw that very Santa doll in Woolworth's Five and Dime I remebered how big a two foot santa of red plush and the face of the Coca Cola Santa looked to a boy of five.It brought back warm memories of my grandmother who when I told her about this big Santa I had seen said to my grandfather "Billie give Tommy five dollars to get that Santa" Well I could not get my mother to drive that 55 Buick fast enough to buy Santa.For fifty years now over many addresses I have lived that Santa holds the Christmas memories and anticipation of Christmas for me. Every year I bring him out carefully unwrap him and sit him in a wooden sleigh I bought and give him a place of honor in front of one of my Christmas trees. I have carefully preserved this little guy kept him clean and neat. He holds dear the many happy Christmas memories of Christmases past and those grandparents, parents and family who are alas now gone from us.
Well for me since I was a small boy as soon as the Halloween decor is stored my thoughts turn to Christmas.Being a child in the fifties Christmas was never rushed the way it is today. It would be unheard of to see a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving I saw the first one for sale in September this year.But in my house tradition ruled. Christmas decorations were put up the day before Christmas and were up until January 6th.Being addicted to Christmas at such an early age and comming from a home where tradition rules,made waiting all that much harder.To break the ice my father would bring down the boxes of Christmas lights about two weeks before Christmas always on a Sunday afternoon. This annual ritual of pulling out all the strings of large bulbed lights and the window candles for a test was an exciting time for me.Back in the day the candle holders in the front windows had I think had about six lights. In those days if one burned out they all went out so testing to find the burned out bulb was a chore.It was a great delight for a child to find the bad bulb and get the lights going. The next couple of weeks were agonizing with the anticipation of the the big day. The next big event was going to the tree lot for the tree and wreath, usually the Saturday before Chrismas. Each day that tree would stand in the stairs to the cellar in a bucket of frozen water waiting to make its grand apperance on the 24th. One thing that made waiting all the harder was more and more people were putting up the decorations earlier. Fake trees were comimg into use and I suspect that it gave rise to earlier appearance of the tree. My mother who was born on Christmas saw how the anticipation was affecting me so she got me a small white feather table top tree to put in my room. With one string of lights and some glass decorations it was the greatest thing I thought. My father would look at this white tree and say "Only God can make a tree" that was Ok as long as I had this little tree to bind me over until the 24th arrived. Another big event was the visit to Remick's department store to visit Santa and get the photo (black & white)it was the fifty's after all. There was a Christmas parade downtown. the cubscout party.Dad was Santa, Christmas events at school ( it was politically correct to have Christmas Events in the 50's). The big day arrived when the tree would come into the house,my mother running around moving everything that might get broken.Then the ritual of sawing the bottom of the tree,clippng some off the top and my fathers annual fight getting the tree into a very old metal tree stand. Once that was done and the debate over which was the best side of the tree to face the room. The best part was lights and decorations. My dad did all the lights as we stood back and admired his work. Then came the glass ornaments ,we all helped. My dad saved the top for a very special Santa light my folks bought in the 40's. I have it today. A small Santa holding a buble light.Once the ornaments were on the finale was the tinsle. made of lead back then. The lights went on and my mother and dad and my sister and I would stand back and admire the magic of it all.So when Halloween is over this week the anticipation begins for me. I will check my lights,bring out a few items and start getting ready.Unlike those days gone by I am a early decorator The Friday after Thanksgiving the first of several trees in my home goes up. That little light up Santa that graced the tree tops of my youth gets center place in the middle of the wreath over my fireplace. I will sit and look at that Santa and the memories of Christmas past will fill my heart with anticipation as it did so many years ago.
As fall is arriving I have begun the annual ritual with my whisker sets. I take them out and wash and rest set them all. Right now in my basement workshop there are three sets all pinned up to styrofoam heads. Each set has been hand washed with baby shampoo and combed out straight. I then go through the trimming and curling process. The beards each get stray hairs trimmed then set with foam culers. The hair is rolled up from the bottom of the beard. The wigs are curled up and under. The longer I leave the curlers in the better the set. My moustaches get a second cleaning ,thie first was last December,then are combed waxed and curled.Then everything is hair netted and covered until the first apperance right after Thanksgiving. I find having my hairgoods ready along with the suits I then have time for all of the other things required in the holiday season.In the fall I have the time to get the beard and wigs the way I want them as I am not rushed by buying presents and putting up decorations.I love decorating as much as I love portraying Santa so putting up the outside decor along with three trees inside takes up some time.
For years I have been working to improve my presentation as Santa. As a reference I used the CocaCola image and one's found in the Norman Rockwell Santa's of the Old Saturday Evening Post. Ever since I got the first beard set I was looking for ways to make it look better. I have bought probably a dozen Santa beard and wig sets over the years. Each set has fallen victim to my amature hairstyling attempts. My latest sets which are yak get washed cut and reset.Each time I try to make the look better. I have found that whatever you see on the internet or in the costume shop needs to be styled to one's own idea of what Santa's beard should look like.Ther search and the work continues. As for the suits I have gone the more professional routes with them though I still own four off the rack ones including the one my father wore. The belts and boots have been real letaher for a number of years. Last year I added a old fashion pocket watch with SC engraved on the cover. It was really noticed by all.I am never quite finsihed in trying to improve the presenation. Alaways on the look out for something better.
I have since I was a child been facinated with the Santa and Christmas. When I was a child my Uncle Phil wore the red suit and was Santa at all the family Christmas gatherings. It was so exciting as a child to have Santa show up right in the house.We all went to a departement store to get a picture but having him arrive during a family party at home was magical. My dad who had the appropriate build was Santa for the cub scout Christmas parties and later for his grand kids. When the grand kids wanted Grampy home when Santa arrived the role was turned over to me. Well that was 25 years ago and Uncle Phil and Dad have passed on but each got to see me work on my Santa presentation and give me advise. Every year I work to make a more realistic presenation. The nieces and nephews are now of the age for their own kids so the saga will continue keeping in the family Christmas tradition and love of the Santa magic.
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