Christmas Eve, 1965

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The fireplace kept us warm while we sat on the couch and drank bottles of Little Tom. We would open presents soon. One of the perks of being Polish is that we always open presents on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until morning. In ’65 I would’ve been 6. When you’re 6 years old, anticipation grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. There were just three of us back then — me, Mom, and Dad. My brother Ed was born 9 months later. I remember Mom sat to the left of me, Dad to the right. I think they were excited about Christmas, too, because they were laughing and giggling and holding hands with each other longer than they usually did. Then they stood up and left while I sat there on that big couch by myself. All alone, nothing but a half-empty bottle of pop in my hand and no presents to open. When they returned, 24 minutes later, it looked like Dad just woke up. His hair was messy, his shirt was opened, and he had this goofy grin on his face. Mom was blushing like someone told a dirty joke. I still have no idea why Dad was smiling so much. Maybe he thought he was getting a train set for Christmas.

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