Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Can I Tell You a (Holiday) Story?

 

I just got a text from my childhood best friend. She texted three pictures from our other childhood best friend. This time of year, people reconnect, share stories, and think of their lives in context — as in the past, present, and future. Let me tell you a story:

I recognized the older sister, the lovely Mary Beth. She was beautiful, blonde, and so talented. Growing up, I was constantly at my friend Kitty’s house. They lived on the next street over, easily accessible through the alley. I asked Mary Beth to make me a dress. I coveted Mary Beth’s navy and black velvet dresses with lace collars. She could sew anything. I found a pink paisley material and she whipped up a gorgeous mini-dress with bell sleeves. I strutted into grade school and got sent home because it was too short. My best friend Kitty lent me her Maxi-coat; so cool that I’d throw off my plain nothing, kick off my ugly snow boots, and put on that beautiful wool coat that dragged the ground. I slipped and struggled over the ice and snow to school because the coat had to have pretty shoes under it. So vain … Wait – did I tell you Mary Beth was deaf? She taught me sign language. Kitty and her baby sister could hear.

The three texted pictures included Mrs. Kitty and my friend Kitty. I was told Mrs. Kitty passed away last year at 91. Both were named Kathryn. This family burns deep into my past memory. Both parents could hear, but five out of seven kids were deaf. Their doors were never locked. You could pop in for lunch or dinner, shoes off. One child, Barry, used to strut around and put on shows for us and make us laugh. He turned out to be gay – no one cared. Through their church, I met Godsen, a guest from Africa. I saw him in the backyard in a white robe and tall red hat, as black as night. I was curious and introduced myself. He told me about his country.

A pretty Oriental lantern with red fringe hung over their kitchen sink one day. What’s this, I asked? A gift from their mission guest from China. She was so sweet and told me about her country. My best friend’s family had one income. They were Italian and the dad was a Sears appliance repairman. He repaired our appliances for free. Seven kids on one income and two small bathrooms.

There was no lack of discipline. When one of the kids got mouthy (they didn’t care if a neighbor kid was present), they got spanked. One memory is of a heated exchange and chasing around the dining room. Being Italian, they always made tons of Christmas cookies for the neighbors. They had a beagle named Spot that howled at night. We all opened our windows and yelled, “shut up!” They had a fish pond, quail, chickens, a tomato garden. Three boys piled up in one room and four girls in another. I remember the Jergen’s lotion in the bathroom. The smell reminds me of them today. We kids once squirted dish soap on the linoleum floor in the boy’s room (it had a drain) and dumped water to create a slide. We got sent home and were told to tell our mom what we did. I was stupid enough to do it and got grounded.

They never lacked anything because the neighbors donated beds, clothes, casseroles, bassinets, especially when baby number seven arrived – a surprise baby.

Seven kids, one gay, one income, an active church open to all cultures, disabilities, so much love. That’s where I learned about diversity. There was always spaghetti and a clean house. Everyone had their duties and you never entered this house with shoes. Twenty pairs in the entry – you had to find yours. Mary Beth still looked beautiful. My friend Kitty looks so Sicilian! They made a difference in my life and so many others. I could go over anytime, kick off my shoes even if no kids were at home, and pull a book off the shelf. That’s where I first read the holiday classic, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, written in 1946. Any kid could pop in for a sandwich. There was always enough food.

I could keep going with more wonderful stories, and the impact this and other families had on my life. I heard years ago that the eldest boy became Principal of St. Vincent De Paul’s School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh. If you don’t think a single family can impact a life, and the world, think again. Family – Faith – Community mattered. Do you remember a family that impacted your life when growing up?

There are 5 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

     If you don’t think a single family can impact your life, and the world, think again. Family – Faith – Community – It’s all that matters. 

    So very true.

    Thanks for sharing this in such a lovely post. I can see your friends, the families, the houses, the alley, the shoes, the chaos, and especially the love, all in my mind’s eye.

    • #1
    • December 3, 2019, at 4:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat

    She (View Comment):

    If you don’t think a single family can impact your life, and the world, think again. Family – Faith – Community – It’s all that matters.

    So very true.

    Thanks for sharing this in such a lovely post. I can see your friends, the families, the houses, the alley, the shoes, the chaos, and especially the love, all in my mind’s eye.

    She – I could keep going. Flying down that bumpy, snowy alley on a sled, Mrs. Kitty hauling out the TV on a warm, summer night to watch funny sitcoms – everyone could hear her laugh – their front porch swing where I’s take a nap. Kitty was mad when I gave her socks for Christmas and let me know it. I was little, it wasn’t my fault – I didn’t buy them. They had a pool table in the basement. We all watched the TV together when President Kennedy’s funeral took place and all the parents made us stay indoors and play quietly. I was allowed to go over to her house. We could feel the sadness in the air.

    • #2
    • December 3, 2019, at 4:39 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    The neighbor families were interesting growing up. I grew up in the North, but of a very Southern family. Also from very old Southern families, in general. Many lines of my family arrived here in the 1600’s. Thus meeting and getting to know these kids where their parents or grandparents had come from the old country and had such different traditions and foods was quite something.

    And now I want some grits.

    • #3
    • December 3, 2019, at 11:55 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The neighbor families were interesting growing up. I grew up in the North, but of a very Southern family. Also from very old Southern families, in general. Many lines of my family arrived here in the 1600’s. Thus meeting and getting to know these kids where their parents or grandparents had come from the old country and had such different traditions and foods was quite something.

    And now I want some grits.

    Me too (the grits)! When my husband moved North he stopped in a McDonald’s and asked for a sweet tea. He was given hot water in a paper cup and a tea bag.

    • #4
    • December 4, 2019, at 5:21 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Patrick McClure Coolidge

    I learned to love classical music and found out men could cook, also from the family of my best friend. I also had a crush on his 1 year younger sister when we were teens. There is no crueler sentence in the English language, to a teenage boy’s ears anyway, than “I love you like a brother”.

    • #5
    • December 4, 2019, at 10:21 AM PST
    • 3 likes

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.