Simple gifts

I was lucky enough to have parents who made Christmas time the most wonderful time of the year for me. My story is more about the love, and simple things, during the holidays, that seem to be forgotten.

My parents were from the old country, and they settled in New London. They loved this city. This was their home, and Christmas was such a beautiful time for them. So my dad wanted the house to look nice outside, and I think my mom would start cooking and thinking about Christmas dinner as early as December 1st.

I remember being bundled up, and my dad and I would go outside and decorate with those big, fat Christmas light bulbs, string after string. When a light was burned out, he wouldn't get mad; he'd find where it was out and replace it.

After we were done, we stood back and looked at our beautiful lights. We'd have my mom come out in her cooking apron. She always said they looked nice, but we put up way too many lights. But that was the masterpiece my dad and I created. (I have those original big bulbs on my own home even now.)

I remember my parents dressing me up in a leopard coat and hat outfit (a photo I still have) and going to the Crocker House to see Santa.

Downtown New London back in the 60's was such a festive place to be, and that memory will live with me forever. The Crocker House was on the corner, and it had a big front window, and there right in the window was Santa (a real perfect looking one too), sitting with all the kids.

The passersby would stop and look. Snow would be falling. It was a scene from a Christmas card. I remember sitting on Santa's lap and looking back and seeing my parents' eyes light up. I wonder if they ever knew that that happiness in their eyes would forever be with me.

One of the most anticipated times for me was when we drove my grandparents home after our Thanksgiving dinner. They lived downtown. We'd all pack into the car, sitting close, waiting for the heat to come on.

I am 51 years old, and sometimes I can't remember what I had for dinner yesterday, but these memories I can recall down to the tinest detail.

As we approached the fire station, there they were, the beautiful Christmas lights of downtown New London. It was like you were going through a tunnel. New London used to decorate with green, thick swags from one light to another. Pole to pole, with those ever famous BIG green and red bulbs.

My dad would drive slowly, so we could look up and see those so bright lights shining down on us. Then as we approached the gorgeous, huge Christmas tree near the Nathan Hale schoolhouse, he would wait for everyone to see it.

Taking that ride, with the people I loved, always started the Christmas season, and every year, that was our tradition. Whether there was rain, snow or sleet, after Thanksgiving dinner, we did this.

On Christmas day, I was so excited to open the gifts. Yes, I was excited about getting gifts, but believe it or not, I enjoyed the wrapping paper, and throwing it everywhere, and seeing the living room piled with it.

However, I did not get very far with that. You see, my dad was the type who, as I opened a gift, was right there to toss the wrapping paper into huge garbage bags. I could never make the mess I wanted. My mom and I would laugh, and tell him that maybe he should open all our gifts, so he could throw away the paper faster.

As funny as that was, I find myself doing the same thing now with my family: throwing away the wrapping paper as the gifts get opened. Traditions live on.

There are many more memories I could write about. These few are my favorites. My parents have since passed away, my dad in 2008, and my mom in 2009. I cannot even explain how much I miss them, especially during the holidays.

I so want to honor them for all the love and wonderful, caring Christmas memories that they have given me, and I want to share those memories with readers. These loving, Christmas memories that my parents, George and Veronica Borkowski, have given me, have forever showed me the true meaning of "Love."

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