By Ted Potrikus
I welcomed Christmas Past into our family room a few nights ago by playing Bing Crosby 78s from my parents’ record collection.
Knowing these belonged to my Mom and Dad brings me great joy, and as the perfectly scratchy discs played, it was nice to be sitting again in the village where they lived and played those same records dozens of years ago. Of course I thought of them as I often do, and, back in Cooperstown as I am, Bing brought back welcomed memories. Midnight Mass at St. Mary’s, with the village’s beloved junior high English teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, always delivering the First Reading, from Isaiah 9:1-6. For many years, I served as that night’s altar boy and knew, every year, that Father Sise would shake his head before the opening procession and tell us, “You would not believe the number of people who called the Rectory today to ask ‘what time is Midnight Mass?’” (To be fair, that got confusing later on, when he himself moved it to 10 p.m.) Marveling that through thick and thin, my parents — and then just my Mom — found a way to pack the living room with presents under the tree.
Time marched on to starting Christmas traditions in my own family — some borrowed from the past, like teasing our daughters in the same way my father did to all us Potrikus kiddos by requiring them to sit (or bounce) at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning while us parents went downstairs to “check to see if Santa had arrived.” Taking the entire morning to just hang out and eat two or three breakfasts. Spending Christmas Eve with our dear friends and their children.
This year finds our daughters on opposite sides of the country. It will be different being apart, but they’ll be creating their own traditions with their husbands to carry them through the years.
Despite those bittersweet overtones, Christmas Present is, indeed, my Christmas present. Three months ago, I was standing on Christian Hill with family and friends on a postcard-perfect October Saturday as our younger daughter married her lifelong love. The wedding was at my brother Joe’s renovated barn and farm house; Joe and his family did a top job preparing the buildings and the grounds for something quite spectacular. Had you told me that afternoon that a few weeks later I’d be moving to Cooperstown to work at this newspaper, I’d have thought you were perhaps dipping into some of that stuff from a Massachusetts dispensary.
Life is funny, sure enough.
Here I am, taking my morning walks now on a path that retraces my old morning paper route. Seeing people I’ve not seen in years. Walking to work. Going to meetings in a high school building in which I’d not set foot in 40-odd years. And perhaps the most mundane thrill: a glass of water from the tap. Trust me: Cooperstown’s tap water is outstanding. The stuff we’ve been drinking for the past few decades around Albany has a lingering hydrogen peroxide afterburn that’ll have you reaching fast for a bottle of that pricy Essentia stuff to rinse it out.
What about Christmas Future? I couldn’t have predicted where I am today just a few months ago. A few days ago, one of my Twitter pals started a thread in which he asked his followers to ‘post a picture of you taken in 2020 before you knew what was to come.’ I get it and everything, but my response instead was this: “Post a picture of you taken earlier today before you know what is to come.” We didn’t know then and we don’t know now.
The best we can do today is enjoy the who, what, where, and why of our current when. And certainly we all can hope that Christmas Future finds us with our loved ones, celebrating an end to this hideous pandemic existence, and finding peace and ease we jokingly request from Santa Claus.
I hope to see you all there.