It's rare that I'm able to do this, but I'm posting PSC Best Day's last post of 2020 on the last day of 2020. This year has been insane. This year has been a mad rush. This year has been a full stop. This year has been a learning experience. This year has been nothing but noise. This year we got knocked down. This year we pushed back. This year we lost and found important parts of our life. This year we made progress and we made mistakes. This is a year that might make more sense a few decades later. For some of us, this year will never make sense; and that's okay.
A lot of our stories this year were about COVID and racism. A lot of them were just about shopping, catching up with friends and finding weird radio programs at 2AM. Our lives will never be the same after this year, but they will keep going.
It's weird to have lived through a year that we all know will go into textbooks and encyclopedias. It's weird to think that our grandchildren's grandchildren will look at COVID-19 the same way we look at the 1918 Influenza. It's weird to consider that there will come a day when most people will have no idea what it's like to live through this pandemic; even the deniers and conspiracy theorists still lived through the same year we did.
I hope this blog, or at least its stories, will survive long enough for our grandchildren's grandchildren to read it. And I hope that they can read all these stories from all these years, and understand what a pandemic meant to us. These stories are personal, and they tell the truth in a way a textbook or biopic can't. And haring these stories with future generations is what Best Day's all about.
Happy New Year, and enjoy the stories:
No Reservations Needed
My adult daughter and son usually spend the Christmas holidays together, now that she is married and lives fulltime in California, and I have a home in Philadelphia. I often travel to California. The cost of three people coming east is more expensive than one (my traveling) plus, I get to spend the warm season in the West.
My daughter came along this year. She did not have to decorate our home in CA and I chose to decorate at a minimum. Door wreath, candles on the table and lights around the window. My Christmas tree all of 2-3 inches with lights and decoration in place adorned a shelf, with some tiny presents (containing no gifts) were prewrapped. Our time was our own.
Christmas we set out to find a place opened and we started our search down South Street on the bus. We found a few restaurants opened (no one inside) we were not defeated, as we panned on the bus. My daughter had seen an interesting place, that caught her eye. It was a great find, an authentic Mexican Restaurant. The service and the food was excellent.
The only complaint that I have was a lady from the neighborhood (regular) who after a few minutes of conversation, as she sat across from us, acted as if she was a member of our table. My daughter tried with little success to get her to realize that she was not a guest at our table, even the event was a little disconcerting. We had a great time, and I will visit the restaurant again.
Holidays Growing Up
I missed all of those holidays. I never got Valentines’ cards and all that. I never had birthday parties either. I threw myself a birthday party when I was seventeen. I invited over some friends and had them sing “Happy Birthday to me.” About seven people showed up. We had some music and a cake that my brother and I made. My brother was a pretty good cook. At that birthday party, that was the first time my mother allowed me to smoke one cigarette. The next day, my mother walked in and saw me lighting up. Her hand came out of nowhere and my head one way and the cigarette went another way. I said “But you said I could smoke.” And she said “That was on your birthday.” I felt so grown when I had that birthday cigarette, but that didn’t last. But by then I could throw my own birthday party because I’d been working since I was ten. I started in the wood cellar making bundles of wood, I sold shopping bags at 9th Street Italian Market (5 cents a bag), I worked on a fruit wagon with a horse down at the navy yard projects going door to door. “We got peaches, we got tomatoes!” I had a shoeshine stand and newspaper stand right outside Snockey’s the old Snockey’s at 8th and South. He was pretty well known at South Philly, and when the newspaper stand and shoeshine place closed, I opened up my own shoeshine stand and caught people coming out of Snockey’s.
That was my first birthday party. I always had people telling me “Happy Birthday,” but we didn’t have any money, and I never expected my parents to spend any extra money on me. It was just another day to me.
One time when I was twenty-five, or maybe even older, somebody gave me a birthday present. I’d never gotten one before, and I didn’t even know she knew it was my birthday. At first, I was stunned for a moment, and I looked at it. And then she said “Happy Birthday. Today is your birthday.” And I said “Oh oh oh…thanks.” It wasn’t as enthusiastic or as grateful as she was expecting, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even ask my friends to bring presents to my birthday party. To this day, I still have trouble celebrating my birthday party, and I thought that nobody else thought birthdays were a big deal either.
Back in those days in the 30s, 40s, 50s, the only holidays we readily acknowledged were Easter (we got a Sunday suit, shoes and a hat), Thanksgiving (we had a nice dinner) and Christmas (we got a new coat and a brand new suit.) These became Sunday clothes that you only wore to church. We outgrew these and the stuff we got at Easter wouldn’t last us until Thanksgiving. Being the younger brother, when my brother got new clothes, the old ones were usually handed down to me. I mean, that wasn’t just my family. Any family that had siblings, like older boys, when they outgrew what they wore, the older clothes were usually passed down to the younger siblings. Nothing was thrown away. I can remember, I was so happy when my brother’s long pants that he had outgrown and they were passed down to me. I was so proud because I had finally become a big boy, I had big boy pants! Back in those days, young boys used to wear short pants or knickers (pants that come down to your knees) with long socks and suspenders. And you’d wear belts with long pants instead of suspenders, so my mom would always used to say “You don’t have enough butt to hold up long pants.” So when I got my older brother’s long pants, I’d felt like I was grown up.