Special Edition: The 2012 Christmas Issue
SFPNN Special Edition: Friday, December 14th, 2012
A Family Tradition
By Joseph J. Mazzella
It was mid-October when I first spotted them. They were nestled in next to the candy and Halloween costumes as I walked through the store. They were the first Christmas decorations of the year. It was the beginning of the 10 week period when the stores do all they can to get us to buy all we can. It was the great Christmas shopping rush and the bigger the gifts the better. I shook my head sadly and walked on, but then a wonderful memory came back into my mind.
It was late-December from several years earlier. I was shopping alone trying to pick up some thick Winter socks to warm my frozen feet. As I rounded the corner in the store I saw a Christmas tree full of paper angels. On each angel was the name of a needy child whose family couldn’t afford to buy them a gift that year. Shoppers who picked an angel could buy a simple toy or gift and the store would wrap it and send it to the child that Christmas. Around the tree I saw a teenage boy and girl picking out several angels apiece. Their mother was smiling while she watched them. I walked up next to her and started talking with her. She told me that her children started this several years ago when she first explained to them what the Charity Angel tree was for. Each offered to give up one of their toys that year so that a needy child could have one. It didn’t stop then, though. Each year since the kids had saved money they earned throughout the year and bought more and more children the gifts they wouldn’t have otherwise.
It had become a family tradition. I smiled when she finished, walked over to the tree, and picked out a few angels too. I left the store feeling in touch with God, Christmas, and life once again.
May we always remember that life is about the love you share not the money you have. Life is about the people you help not the things you own. And may we also see that it is never too late to start a family tradition that makes the Father of us all smile.
~ © Joseph J. Mazzella
Thanks to author, Joseph M. Mazzella for sharing today’s SFPNN Special Edition…
The Flour of Love
By Joseph Walker
Bud wasn’t expecting presents for Christmas that year. It was the height of the Great Depression, and he was living in a boarding house thousands of miles away from home. There wasn’t money for gifts. Every dime was precious, and was needed for the family to survive.
But they WERE surviving – him in the east, and his parents and brothers out west – and that was gift enough during those trying times. He was just grateful for a day off from work, and he was looking forward to the sumptuous Christmas dinner Mrs. Rossi had promised to prepare.
Wonderfully savory smells drifted from Mrs. Rossi’s kitchen as Bud showered and shaved and put on a clean white shirt and tie. Mrs. Rossi wasn’t as good a cook as his mother was, but her culinary repertoire was significantly more exotic. She had introduced him to pasta – something his mother had never prepared – and wondrous varieties of Italian cuisine. He had a special fondness for her spaghetti and meatballs, but that wasn’t the smell coming from the kitchen. It was similar, but different – and it smelled similarly good, in a different sort of way.
One thing Bud knew for sure was that fresh homemade bread would be involved in the meal. He could pick out THAT smell from a thousand miles away. Bud was something of an expert on the smell of bread baking. His father was a miller – his Star Mill was just a couple of hundred feet from the family’s kitchen. And his mother took that good Star Mill flour and baked fresh bread for her six sons every day except Sunday. Just as his father could tell if something was amiss by the sound frequencies emanating from mill machinery, Bud had smelled enough baking bread that he could tell if a loaf was properly done by the aroma wafting from the oven.
And the bread Mrs. Rossi was baking was done. Perfectly.
As good as whatever it was that Mrs. Rossi was preparing as the main course of their boarding house Christmas dinner might be, Bud was most anxious to bite into a thick slice of that homemade bread, still hot out of the oven. As soon as all six of his fellow residents were seated and a blessing on the food had been properly pronounced, Bud extended his long arms in a classic boarding house reach for the plate of bread.
“No, Bud,” Mrs. Rossi said firmly. “That bread isn’t for you.”
Bud looked at her, puzzled. She smiled broadly and produced a plate bearing a small, brown, rounded mound of . . . well, he wasn’t exactly sure what it was. It appeared to be a bread-like substance. But it was too large to be a roll, and too small to be a loaf. And it was all crusty – not like a slice of any kind of bread he knew.
“This is your bread,” Mrs. Rossi said, beaming.
Bud eyed it suspiciously. It didn’t look dangerous or anything – not like that calamari-thing Mrs. Rossi served around Halloween. This looked almost edible. Maybe if he put lots of strawberry jam on it he could get it out of the way so she’d let him have some REAL bread.
He picked it up and looked at it carefully. He sniffed it – it smelled wonderful, and familiar. He pulled off an end piece and took a bite. The flavor was unmistakable. A wave of sensory fulfillment washed over him as the taste transported him to his mother’s table 3,000 miles away, flooding his mind with happy memories and indescribable feelings.
“Where did you get this?” Bud asked, dumbfounded.
“From your mother,” Mrs. Rossi confessed.
“She sent you this bread?” Bud asked again, confused. “It feels warm. It tastes fresh.”
The old woman shook her head. “Your mother sent me the recipe and a small box of flour,” she said. “It wasn’t enough to make a full loaf, and I didn’t have any pans small enough for the amount of dough it made. So I did the best I could to shape it in the bread pans I had.”
“But when . . . how . . .” Bud was overwhelmed with feeling and emotion.
“Your mother wanted you to have a little taste of home for Christmas,” Mrs. Rossi said as she gave Bud a quick hug around his shoulders. “Merry Christmas from her!”
Suddenly that unappealing little lump was the most beautiful loaf of bread he had ever seen. He couldn’t bring himself to eat it. He carefully wrapped what was left in a napkin and tucked it into his pocket for safekeeping. As he reached for a helping of something Mrs. Rossi called “lasagna,” he couldn’t help feeling this had been an uncommonly bounteous Christmas.
Enriched, as it was, with the flour of love.
~ © Joseph Walker
Thanks to author Joseph Walker for sharing today’s SFPNN Special Edition…
The Snowflake – A short movie
By Robin Lang
The Snowflake is a heartwarming Christmas story for all ages about the fall of the first Snowflake and the innocence of a child’s wish, whose father is lost at sea.
~ © Robin Lang
Thanks to Susanne H. for sharing today’s SFPNN Special Edition…
The Christmas Weiner of 2011
By Ellie Braun-Haley
While we were at Disneyland, just after Christmas, we stopped one evening to buy a hot dog. Mine was heavy with relish and mustard and it tasted so good. We headed out of the section we were in and I was still eating the hot dog.
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I tried to cough and there was the tiniest of sounds. I had stopped because I was feeling alarmed and fear was beginning to overtake me. I was grasping at my throat and trying to get air in or whatever was blocking , out.
My youngest daughter, Laurie noticing something was definitely wrong, spoke to me quietly, “Do you need help mom? Can you breathe?”
I shook my head in answer indicating I was indeed having difficulty.
Though I was frightened, it is strange how I noticed all the people walking along chatting and enjoying the evening. A Disneyland staff person had stopped near us as she had noticed my dilemma and I believe was waiting to see if she was needed.
Laurie drew behind me, and placed her arms around me and immediately began the Heimlich maneuver. It was barely seconds and I felt something release and I began to bring in gulps of air. I wanted to cry I was grateful to be able to breathe and intensely grateful for a loving daughter who knew exactly what to do when called on in an emergency.
We never know when we might be needed in a life and death situation and I am so grateful when I needed help that someone who was level headed, calm and knowledgeable was at my side. The words “Thank you Laurie!” surely don’t seem to be enough!
It’s great to be around to see another Christmas!
~ © Ellie Braun-Haley
Thanks to author Ellie Braun-Haley for sharing this portion of today’s SFPNN Special Edition…
Flash Mob Christmas Caroling
Journey of Faith performed a Christmas “Flash Mob” at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach on December 18, (2010) much to the delight of local shoppers. Thanks to all who participated. Merry Christmas everyone!!
Sit back and enjoy about 5 ½ minutes of heartfelt singing.
Thanks to Gloria M. for sharing this part of today’s SFPNN Special Edition…
By Joseph J. Mazzella
Christmas is a time of great faith, hope, and love. As you get older it is also a time of cherishing wonderful memories. This happened to me as I was sitting quietly listening to Christmas carols today. I relaxed, closed my eyelids and felt my eyes tear up under them as I allowed the flood of childhood, Christmas memories to wash over me once again.
I remembered how we were a poor family by today’s standards. We lived in my Grandma’s old house that was a combination of two shanty cars and several other rooms that my Dad later built on. Yet, we were so rich in all the important things in life.
I remembered getting up on a bitingly cold, December morning and watching my Dad build a fire in the stove. I remembered pulling on my oversized winter coat that had been my older brother’s and warming myself by the fire before heading outside with my Dad and brothers to chop down a Christmas tree. I remembered Dad letting me pick the scraggliest, ugliest looking tree over my brothers’ objections and how the limbs could barely support the ornaments and lights when we decorated it. I remembered watching my grandmother, “Nanny,” slowly pulling her ancient Nativity scene out of a box and putting it under the tree with such reverence, gentleness, and tenderness. I remembered too the kiss she gave the baby Jesus before placing him in the manger.
I remembered listening to my Mom sing along with the Christmas carols on the radio while she cleaned the house. I also remembered the beautiful look of pure peace and happiness she would get on her face whenever she sang, “Silent Night.”
I remembered the note my Mom and Dad wrote for Santa and put on our front door, because I was worried that he would skip our empty house while we were at midnight Mass. I remembered as well trying to stay awake for the whole midnight service at our Church, but falling asleep on my Mom’s lap instead.
I remembered the Italian-American Christmas dinner where freshly baked bread was served along with the turkey, Pasta Fasul was served along with the mashed potatoes, and you could get Provolone cheese as well as pumpkin pie.
I remembered the eager anticipation of waiting to open my presents on Christmas morning. They were few in number and never very expensive, but they always brought joy to my young boy’s heart. I remembered playing with them too for months and sometimes years to come.
Most of all, though, I remembered the unwavering love in that house. It made every day feel like Christmas. It was there in our hugs and smiles, laugher and tears, arguments and agreements, triumphs and tragedies. Even when that house burned down, the love remained. It gave me a hint of the Love that God has for us all. With it we felt like the wealthiest family in the whole world.
Mom and Nanny have passed on to Heaven now, but the memories of their love at Christmastime and all through the year live on in my heart and mind. It is like what the great author Leo Buscaglia once wrote: “Love never dies as long as there is someone who remembers.”
May your life be full of loving memories at Christmastime and always. And may you create new ones every single day. Have a Merry Christmas.
~ © Joseph J. Mazzella
Thanks to author Joseph M. Mazzella for sharing this part of today’s SFPNN Special Edition…
By Boyz II Men
I’m not usually a “Boyz II Men” fan but their acapella version of Silent Night is one of the nicest I’ve heard. (There is a brief commercial prior to it but it’s worth the wait.) Merry Christmas, My Friends! And a happy new year!
Blessings, from Jeanette and the entire SFPNN Team
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About: Jeanette M Pintar
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