Note: All the events in this entry occurred back in December 2011. For more updated trips and/or entries, please refer back to this site at a later date. An updated trip or entry will NOT include a note like this. Thanks and enjoy!
For the holidays this year, I did something completely different. From December 13-December 21, I visited with my parents, grandmother and old friends in my hometown in Florida. However, from December 22-January 3, I decided to spend Christmas, birthday and New Years with my maternal third cousin Orlando and his friend Tony in CT. The reason why I chose to spend the holidays with my third cousin was because of my proximity to his home because I was living in Boston at the time, financially it was a good idea (the only reason why I was able to go home was because my boyfriend surprised me with plane tickets to visit my family in FL) and also he and I had never met before. I had heard his name mentioned ubiquitously by my maternal grandmother and my mother and of their memories of seeing him back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Therefore, Orlando and I planned my visit for the Christmas holiday, however during my visit to my parents in Florida I learned that I was going to join him and his roommate, Tony to visit his family located in Long Island and they were curious if I would be comfortable with this. I told Orlando that I did not mind spending part of the Chirstmas holiday in Long Island with Tony's family because I love to travel and meet new people and I appreciated their invitation to me.
Anyway, I arrive in CT on December 23 by taking a bus from Boston to Hartford, where Orlando and Tony met me and took me to their home in Bristol. Before arriving at the house, we stopped at a small Italian-American eatery where I had a huge dinner of baked ziti, salad and bread. Then we went home, I was shown to my room, and after watching some tv I went to bed. The next day, we packed up the car and headed to Franklin Square, Long Island. It was a two-hour trip from Bristol to Long Island, but despite the traffic we made it alright. Before arriving at the home of our guests, we stopped at a diner down the block (I apologize to all my readers that I have forgotten the name of it!) However, the food was really great; I remember that the menu was huge and I tried their Texan Omlet I believe, which included jalepenos, cheese, onions, mushrooms and beef brisket, it was huge but one of the best meals I've ever had out in my life! One of the most comical aspects of this trip was when I first arrived on Long Island with my great-uncle and his friend; we stopped in a local diner for brunch, and my great-uncle and his friend decide to put "holiday style hats" on: Orlando wore a Santa Claus hat while Tony wore an elf hat and entered the diner with them on! The hostess got a big kick out of them, taking the joke even further by saying that Santa and his elf had just entered the building!
After our fabulous lunch, we arrived at Tony's brother's house, which was two blocks away in Franklin Square. Tony's family lived in a two-up two down house, which was filled with people. You see, Tony's family is Italian-American and have lived in the New York City area their entire lives, so yes most of the people over and coming in and out of the boistrous little urban home were members of this very large, nuclear family! When we first arrived, Orlando, Tony and I spent most of our time at the table, talking with our host and their sons, who were in their 20s like me. One of our host's sons dated a young girl who worked at a local bagel shop and had a whole bag of bagles on the table for the family and their guests to indulge in. I tried one of the bagels, because well I was in the New York City area and figured it was about time that I tried a New York style bagel-the only thing I can say about this experience is wow! I tried a plain bagel, not toasted and without cream cheese and trust me even though I'm listing these serving suggestions its not to make you think that I regretted not having them, however the opposite: this bagel was so good, you didn't need to toast it or put cream cheese on it. The exterior was perfectly crisp and brown, and the interior creamy, buttery, and fondant. To this day I have not had a better bagel than that, and I will tell you it's the best bagel I've ever had.
The store where my fabulous bagel came from actually has an interesting story; it was opened by an Italian immigrant who came over to Long Island with nothing but a suitcase, but now he's a millionaire because of his bagel business and other shops; I tell you, that's the American dream people.
Several of Tony's nieces and nephews had lots of children; we probably had ten children over between the ages of 4-16. They came over not only to see their grandparents and get their gifts, but also to meet the Santa Claus of Long Island.
"Whose the Santa Claus of Long Island?" I asked the wife of my host.
"The local firedepartment has this tradition to where every Christmas eve and day they drive around Long Island with a man they had dress up as Santa Claus to come greet all the children in the area with presents and Christmas cheer. I always give Santa a box of chocolates when he comes by."
Sure enough I heard the sirens of two fire trucks come by and stop in front of the house. From the window, I could see a man dressed up as Santa Claus come down from the truck into the front lawn and was wishing Merry Christmas to everyone. The kids were excited and immediately went outside with their grandmother in order to get their presents, take pictures with Santa and for my hostess to give him the box of chocolates she had gotten. Santa came by several times that night and also Christmas morning; now even though I don't believe in Santa anymore and I know that the Santa Claus of Long Island is really a fireman and not him, what I like about this tradition is that it makes Santa Claus real for the children and the community because they know that every Christmas Eve and Day they're going to see Santa and he's coming with gifts. It gives the people of Long Island and their children hope and cheer and the realization that the Christmas spirit is truely alive in their community. I will say that it was this tradition, my wonderful hosts, and my great-uncle Orlando and his good friend Tony who made this Christmas one of the most special, unique and dearest to my heart.
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