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Just Ramblin’: What Were Great Christmas and Chanukah Holidays

By Art Penchansky

When Marion was alive and healthy, Christmas, and then she added Chanukah, was always her favorite holiday. Every year she put up simple decorations, not only within the house but outside on all sides of the house and grounds. When I joined the family (Marion and her four children) I designed greetings to be lit on each side of the front of the house which had large flat walls like canvasses, on which you could display a message. On one side I put “Happy Xmas” and on the other “Shalom,” hoping that the string-of-lights display would show that both Christians and Jews lived happily in this home. It had to be Shalom as Happy Chanukah wouldn’t fit. One of Marion’s sons suggested we place nails in the walls so that the next year all we had to do was follow the nails to make it easy to replicate the designs. Marion was in all her glory with her family around her, great food on the table, and games to be played. She was a delight.

Art Penchansky
Art Penchansky

After the second year, people of all religions told us they knew the holiday season was here when they saw the lit greetings on the house. This included people we didn’t even know; some would even drive up and knock on the door to tell us they appreciated the message. Naturally the display couldn’t compete artistically with the people that fully decorated their properties with lighted displays completely up, down and around, but ours was a small house and many of the large houses were lit so brightly that neighbors made them turn off the lights after a certain hour so they could sleep.

For years our home served as the family holiday center as all children, spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and grandparents joined the fun mostly for the meal Marion always produced. (She traditionally burned the dinner rolls.) Turkey with all the trimmings, pumpkin and pecan pies, homemade ice cream and flavored toothpicks were some of the delights. After the first holiday I was there, I asked that she no longer make black-eyed peas and brussels sprouts as they stunk up the house for days and nobody ate those dishes anyway.

Following the midday meal came gift giving and then everyone but me and Marion’s father played board games and, in later years, computer games. Her father and I listened to opera as we both loved most of that music genre. Then I begged off and used the computer to check on HVAC sales for the month, quarter and year-to-date. Hey, just like you, those sales put cash in my pocket up until 2008 when the fit hit the shan. The same as you, my pockets got emptier. Alas, Marion took ill about this time and the Christmas/Chanukah dinners ceased.

Unfortunately, as a trained economist with three degrees, I had predicted the crash as early as 2005. The reason was I couldn’t believe all the luxury homes going up and the low-cost loans being made to people I thought would be unable to sustain payments of their mortgages. Not being as close to the money markets as I once was, I didn’t realize the illegal deals the banks were putting together. I thought we were just over-building and it would ultimately get straightened out. I never missed a call by that wide a margin and hope never to do it again.

I want to wish each of you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons and a safe, profitable New Year.

Sincerely… Art.

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