In the past few days my family has shared one particular photo on social media and through group texts to each other. The picture is of a particular ornament we each have displayed prominently on our Christmas trees. The sharing of it feels like a big group hug although many of us live hundreds of miles apart. I’ll tell you why, but first, let me tell you about Pop pop.
Francesco (Frank) was the son of a newly immigrated Italian couple to Washington DC. He grew up above the little grocery store that they owned and at a very early age, understood the value of working hard. He began delivering newspapers and went on to have many other jobs including cab driver, fireman and real estate investor. He was married, had twin boys and a daughter, and as was common at the time, they were primarily raised by his wife, while he focused on work. Sadly she died just as the children were grown and began to have their own families.
Although Frank continued to focus on work, he miraculously fell in love with a darling woman. Judith Darling to be exact. Judy became the thread that stitched a now large family tighter. She gave him the impetus to be the father and grandfather he’d never given himself permission to be. There were family trips, huge barbecues, new rituals and the best Christmases that had ever Christmased! Each Christmas morning his 3 children, their spouses and their combined 15 children gathered at Pop pop and Gram’s house, which is what we all came to call Judy, for all out revelry. Pop pop wore the same red plaid pants every year, without fail, and passed out the gifts, despite his poor eyesight, and Gram’s famously difficult to read cursive. Before we departed on Christmas, there was always a picture taken of Pop pop and his big herd of grandchildren.
In 2001, Pop pop died after a very rapid decline.
The story as I understand it is, Gram had him prepared to be buried in his red plaid Christmas pants. One of my cousins requested that the pants not be buried with him. He had a better idea.
Pop pop’s pants were cut into 20 pieces to become the covers for 20 tiny books whose pages display years of photographs of a very loved grandfather and his adoring grandchildren. The books were small enough to be slipped into a little metal envelope and hung on the Christmas tree.
Frank and Judy are now both gone from this earthly plane and whose memories we keep alive every Christmas.