Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Between Christmas and New Year's Day

School was out -- the one toy we received was either worn out or getting there and boredom, I'm sure was setting in.

I remember playing a lot of board games at this time of year. I even played myself in Chinese checkers to see which of four tries I could get to finish first. I had no color preference, therefore, it didn't matter which color "won". It was just a test for me to see how I could out-maneuver anyone else I was playing. I mean some people play chess that way, but I played Chinese checkers that way.

We were not allowed to play cards -- gamblers played cards -- so I never learned any of those "wicked" games that gamblers play. However, did you know that Rook is much like euchre? And Yatzee is like poker?

We were allowed to play Old Maids and Authors. Dull and boring as they were. I think we played "Go Fish", but I don't have any clear memory of doing that. I wasn't a card player even with the games we were permitted to play. In fact, games are not my forte. I hate to lose and therefore, I don't like to play games unless I know for sure that I am going to win.

But back to between Christmas and New Year's Day. One of the big "events" of that time period was our annual trip to Philadelphia to Uncle Joe's and Aunt Rita's. Now, Aunt Rita was the best cook in the family, of that I am sure. No one can ever convince me otherwise. Her spaghetti sauce was the best of anyone's in the family. So our saliva glands were working overtime by the time we arrived at the Sbaraglia's (Uncle Joe came over from Philly to pick us up in his car, and toted us to his home, then he'd take us back home after dinner). And when we walked into their home -- the aroma -- oh, my goodness -- it was wonderful. Garlic, sausage, tomato sauce, roast chicken, garlic bread -- all those smells mingled together was just wonderful. And, fortunately Aunt Rita was ready for us and we didn't have to wait long to sit down and eat.

On these occasions, Uncle Joe said "grace" so we didn't have to wait for Dad to yank our chain with his "I know you're hungry, and I'm gonna make you wait a little longer to eat" prayers that lasted as long as he could think of something to be grateful for. And then we could dig in.

I think I enjoyed this meal as much as I enjoyed our Thanksgiving feasts, maybe more.

I finally got Aunt Rita's recipe and made it. Yum! Only problem, my 65-year-old stomach doesn't tolerate tomato sauce anymore. But now I know how to make it, and the "agita" it gives me is "worth the trip."

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