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Coming Of Age—Barbara Does Not Love This Right Of Passage

Coming Of Age — Barbara Does Not Love This Right Of Passage

Tuesday, December 25, 1973 was the day I knew I had grown up. 

The day before, carrying shopping bags stuffed with wrapped Christmas gifts and an overnight bag, I had gone into work. At 5:09 p.m., I was one more Dashing Dan, chugging out on the Long Island Railroad to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve. An hour later, I was squeezing into one of the Massapequa Park Taxis — three passengers with luggage and packages in the back seat. The taxis — a good 100,000 miles on their odometers with pens stabbed into their soft dashboards — were ramped up in front of the bar where most of us hung out and listened to local bands once we were eighteen. Chances were pretty good a bunch of us would be back there at 10:00 p.m., for a reunion of sorts before we drove home for Midnight Mass or to open presents.

Christmas morning, I was up at 6:00 a.m. and in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother, making a buffet breakfast for the family, getting dinner ready for the descending hordes of family driving out from Brooklyn and Babylon around 2:00 p.m. After my grandfather died, my grandmother came to live with my mother and father, and our house was holiday central. Enough people to violate fire safety regulations would be squished around the dining room table and at kids’ tables set up in the living room.

We nibbled provolone, prosciutto, olives, clams oreganata, shrimp scampi and bread sticks. We ate lasagna, ziti, meatballs, sausages, braciola and crusty bread. We drank sodas and Manhattans and Whiskey Sours and Daiquiris and wine. We sang. We told the same old stories over and over again. We exchanged gifts. We ate again. This time, turkey and all the trimmings. We sang some more. Told more stories. The nuts and fruits and cheese and pastries and pies came out. We ate more, vowing with each new nibble that this would be our last bite.

Some of the men went into the living room, sat on the sectional sofa and fell asleep. The women cleaned up. They yelped for their husbands to help put away the folding chairs. Then, the action moved into the living room and the cookies and candies in dishes on the coffee, end and TV tables strategically placed around the room so no one had to stretch too hard to get more food. 

About 11:00 p.m., my brother and his friends were heading out to see another band. I was hauling my shopping bags, stuffed with my gifts, and overnight bag down the stairs. I was getting a ride back to New York City. Work tomorrow. Bright and early. Bloated and miserable. Bah-humbug. I wanted to be sitting on the couch with the button on my pants open or in my jeans going out with my brother and friends.