Our family lived at 355 Camden St. in the
third floor apartment right under the roof. The middle room, a bedroom,
had one window facing out on an alley and another about 7 feet up
at the very top of the opposite wall.
It had "bathroom door" glass so you couldn't see clearly
what was on the other side. The window faced out onto our hallway
and flat up against it was a ladder that led to the roof.
One year at Christmas our mother told us that if we sat on the
bed and look at the window that we would see Santa Claus. We sat
and waited and, sure enough, all at once we saw Santa in his red
suit climbing up the ladder. We raced the twelve feet or so into
the hallway but, by the time we got there, Santa was gone.
Many years later, our mother told us that Santa was her rather
rotund uncle dressed in red long johns.
We lived with our grandmother who was a wonderful baker. Although
our kitchen, the only room that was heated, was limited by today's
standards, she turned out delicious cake and cookies. This was especially
true at Christmas.
The baking would go on for days and resulted in beautiful Springerle
cookies from molds now over 100 years old, Stollen, butter cookies,
cinnamon stars, anise drop cookies, and kisses. The cookies were
a constant lure. To keep them from being raided, my grandmother
hid them in the wringer washing machine. Little did my cousin know
that they were only a few feet from his bedroom door.
Another fond memory was shopping for Christmas presents at the
5 & 10 with our own saved money. This was very special. As children
we did this on our own, with care. It was an early experience of
the joy of giving.
Our house was only one door in from Springfield Ave. then still
paved with Belgian blocks. If we had snow at Christmas we would
be treated to the sound of "bells" as traffic went up
and down the avenue. It came from the traffic's tire chains hitting
the stone blocks. The avenue, always bright with neon signs, was
decorated with Christmas lights spanning the street from light post
to light post every 20 feet or so.
Our tradition was to open presents on Christmas Eve. This was much
more peaceful and beautiful than opening them on Christmas morning,
something I didn't do--and then only a few times--until I was an