Excerpt from: “Aunt Sadie and Uncle Lou”

Hiding My Thumb, circa 1952

Hiding My Thumb, circa 1953

08/21/13 – This is my  first memory of my Aunt Sa and Uncle Lou.

In September, I had just received good news; the third surgery paid off and the doctors got clean margins, this time.

That Thanksgiving my husband and I were feeling exceedingly grateful and enjoyed spending it with his family.

That Christmas, I decided to put a tree up since I hadn’t the year before when Mom died.

It felt like a good time to celebrate life.

We brought the ornaments in from the garage.  We only had about three or four boxes and I placed them on the floor at the base of our eight-foot tall artificial evergreen. After getting the lights up and making sure they all lit, we went to work on selecting the ornaments.  I turned my back to the tree and reached down into a box and randomly picked up a globe-shaped object. I held up the gleaming gold ball and I could see the distorted reflection of the tree on its shiny surface. It reminded me of another Christmas, my first Christmas.  Actually, it was more like my third or fourth, but the first one I can recall.

It was Christmas Eve. I was three and a half; my brother was two and was already exhibiting signs of weariness. We were waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus. Somebody pinch me! I could not believe this was happening. Santa was actually coming to Cook Street tonight! Oh, what a magical time. The tree was up and decorated, and the Victrola was playing Christmas songs. I remember a child’s voice singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”Even I thought that was a strange thing for Mommy to be doing.

Both my parents were in jovial moods that night and laughed and joked with each other while waiting for some of the other family members to arrive. First to show up was my aunt Sadie.

I could sense the excitement in the air. Dad prepared a little food and something to drink, which he poured into a shot glass and set aside for our special guest.

I was more than a little terrified that evening. I was definitely happy that Santa was coming to see us, but I had this nagging thought that wouldn’t go away. I was thinking that he just might ask to see the thumb. You see, I was a thumb sucker, and I loved it. But one method of trying to get me to stop sucking my thumb was the constant reminder, from my entire family, that if Santa knew what I was doing with that fat finger, he would be very upset. Oh, God, I didn’t need Santa upset with me!

I must have had a scared look on my face because aunt Sadie called me over to where she was sitting and asked if something was wrong. Wrong? What could be wrong? I thought. Before I could answer her, we were interrupted by the chime of the doorbell coming from the main entrance. My dad dashed out of the apartment into the hallway to see who was there. I heard a slight commotion coming from that direction and getting closer. “Ho, ho, ho!” The moment was upon us. He was here. He had reached the threshold to our apartment and did a half circle with his head until he zoomed in on me. I stood frozen, hiding my right hand behind my back. He approached me with his large sack of goodies draped over his shoulder and bent low to greet me. I silently prayed that he wouldn’t ask to see the thumb. I was so caught up with that thought, I just couldn’t wait for him to get the hell out of there. I was relieved when he finally left. Santa never did ask to see my thumb.

As soon as I found the opportunity, I popped that digit right back in my mouth to comfort me from all the stress.

I discovered years later while glancing at family photos that Santa was my uncle Lou. My mom confirmed this. She also told me he visited all the family children that evening and we were first on his list. I quickly calculated this in my head. That meant he visited at least six different families that night. What a joy that must have been for the last group of kids. By the time he got to their house, I’m sure he really thought he was Santa riding the skies on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Knowing our family and friends, we would not have been the only one to offer him a drink in a shot glass that night.

I must admit he was good at playing Santa. He had me and my brother convinced. But then again, how difficult is it to fool toddlers?

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