This morning I have been sitting on my very small porch at my present dwelling at the Crestwood Apartments where I now abide. Most mornings if the weather allows me, I will light up a cigar and tune into the Pandora music network that I am privilege to enjoy. This morning the music that I am listening to is the music of the 30s and 40s and 50s.. By doing this I can travel back in my mind to a time many years ago thinking of in a very real way a very important time of my life when I was privileged to spend many a day with the best father that a young boy could have. Who I am today I am and have been throughout my more than 80 years of life are only in truth an extension of him. I might add not that good an extension. He had taught me many important and meaningful lessons of life, however today my thoughts have been dwelling on some of the most simple and meaningful events that I was privileged to bring forth allowing me to smile remembering this wonderful man.
The night before Christmas at the Presslaff home was always a fun as well as a wondrous and I might say chaotic time. The tradition at the Presslaff home was always to wait until the night before Christmas to put up our very large and ornamental Christmas tree. During that day much was made out of going out within our small village or perhaps a nearby village to select a tree. The tree would be brought back to our house and during the evening be stood up as well as decorated. Dad was always in charge. He would select where the tree would be located and how it would be decorated. The ornaments would be brought down from their storage area which were placed there after the tree had been taken down the year before. Even this was a part of our tradition for our Christmas tree was always removed and the ornaments on it placed away on the first day of the new year. The decorations would be inspected and in addition some new ornaments would be now added. At this time the many colored and bright lights that would be placed on the tree were the type that were on a long string of Christmas lights that would only work if all the lights worked. All the strings of lights had to be inspected and bulbs replaced if necessary. Dad was always the one who very firmly took control of this important event. As I can remember this was always a very chaotic time where my father would instruct us on how this should be done sometimes in a very impatient manner. No one within our family, which included Mom, Mart my brothers and myself found this very disconcerting and always accepted it as part of this wondrous time. Eventually the tree would be decorated and we would sit back and smile at one another with a great deal of satisfaction. When I was very young I would be told along with my brothers to go upstairs and to sleep. After we had left it was only then that Mom and Dad would place the hidden Christmas presents under the tree waiting for Christmas morning when the whole family would wake early to arrive at a wondrous scene. What an exciting moment that was. As I grew older after the tree had been set up and decorated my brothers as well as myself did help dad and mother place the many colorful wrapped gifts under the tree in addition to adding the gifts we had bought for each other. As the years went by being that my brothers and myself had our own families my brothers and I did not take part in the Christmas Eve tree tradition, however, we all brought our family to our Woodmere home and added to the many gifts that were placed under the Presslaff tree. I might add here that after I married my wife Mimsie and I had our own tree however it still was the custom that the tree was put up on Christmas Eve and taken down soon after the New Year.
Playing cards with dad in our sunroom has always been a warm memory that I hold even today. Today I do not enjoying playing any sort of cards. When dad and myself would play our card games it was a lot more than the games itself. It was sitting alone with him and enjoying the father-son relationship which was always so special. We would play gin rummy or perhaps casino. To tell the truth, I can’t remember how to play casino at this moment, however at that time dad and myself would play for hours. When dad told me that he had the desire that we should play cards, no matter what I had planned for that evening was put aside. I never wanted to miss this time with my father and I thought it was important in his mind to spend it with his son. I can remember more than one time I broke a date because Dad had said to me that we were going to have our card game. I believe at this time I might have gone overboard in my thinking and actions, however I never wanted to have my father think that I did not desire to be with him and I never had the desire that he should not have my presence and be alone. As I think back about this Dad would not have been alone for mom has been always within our home. Just sitting with my father and having our time together was always a big part of my life.
My brothers, as well as myself have always been sports fans, however, as I remember it Dad and myself were the ones that took most of the sporting events held at Madison Square Garden, the Polo grounds, Brooklyn’s wonderful and colorful baseball field, West Point or even Philadelphia.. Many times my uncle Mitch would go along with us. These were an exciting time for me. There were certain sporting events that were yearly traditions that Dad, uncle Mitch and I attended. We attended most of the indoor track events at Madison Square Garden. We always attended a few NFL football games. That was a time that they were playing outside in very cold weather. As a small boy I remember almost freezing to death at these games however I never complained. It was a time that the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns were good teams. Dad always loved to watch the Army games at times played up the Hudson river at West Point. He enjoyed watching the cadets march before the game. I believe he enjoyed the marching cadets more than the game itself. A remembrance that is still clear in my mind is when dad would take me to Yankee Stadium to watch a baseball game. We would walk from under the covered stands to our seating area where for the first time I would see the large bright green baseball diamond and the very busy stadium itself. It was such an exciting site for a small boy to take in. In addition to these many sporting adventures that we took in together Dad and myself for many years attended the Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Garden. Whatever was happening within the three rings of the circus just being with my father was the most important part of the day for me. I never wanted the day to end. What a wonderful time of life this was for me.
Then there were always Sunday dinners. Each Sunday morning Dad and Mom would round up their children and inspect us to see that our Sunday dress was proper for church. Dad had very high dress standards. After church the Presslaff family would go back to our Woodmere home where Mart had readied our traditional Sunday dinner. The dinners were always held in our dining room which was only used for Sunday’s and special occasions. There was always a clean white linen tablecloth spread over Mom’s very large antique table. The table itself was set in a very impressive manner. Mom’s good silver was set on the table with the other special and formal tableware. While we were at church Mart had prepared a feast fit for a king and his court. Quite often my uncle Harry, Dad’s brother, would come home with us along with his family. Dad would sit in his king’s chair at the head of the table with his brother Harry to the right of him. There was always much laughter and storytelling’s at these feasts. Dad would tell a story as only he could about growing up as a very poor boy in Hoboken, New Jersey, which was always followed up with another story by his brother Harry. These diners would go on for hours. During the storytelling and conversational part of the dinner there was always plenty of coffee being poured from Moms very large sterling silver coffee container. Three or four different types of cakes and other dessert continued to come forth from the kitchen. The music plays on memories keep coming back. I don’t need drugs it is so simple for me to get high on what my mind can bring forward.
A special time of the day for me as a teenager was walking from our home, which was only a block and a half from the Long Island railroad station where dad would arrive home at around six each evening. If I was in the area not playing some sport or being any other place in town with my friends I would walk to the station with great anticipation knowing that my father would be coming home from New York City. As the train rolled into the Woodmere station standing on the opposite track platform I could not see the individuals that departed the train. I could see from under the carriage of the cars the lower legs and feet of the many businessmen who departed the Long Island railroad. It was always easy to identify dad by only seeing his shoes and lower legs, for he had a walk which was peculiar to him. Dad walked across the tracks after the train had pulled out and we continued our journey home together. What a wonderful time of the day that was for me.
Mom with a smile would refer to dad as the Marine Sgt. Dad had been a Marine during the first world war and was always proud of that. Dad was big on the fact that his boys’ shoes had to shine like they were going to be inspected by the Inspector General. Every Saturday night when his boys went up to sleep Dad would go up stairs to our bedroom. I would peak from under my covers and I would see dad walk into our closet picking up our shoes that would be worn the next morning at church. Dad would bring them all downstairs where he kept his shoe polishing equipment. He would “spit shine” each so that you could see a reflection in the toe area of the shoe. While we were asleep he would then bring them upstairs to our bedroom where we would find them the next morning. It was common as a teenager and even while I was attending college when at home if I were to go out for any special occasion or on a date to first before leaving walk into Moms and Dads bedroom for an inspection. I expected this and found it always amusing as did Mom. I can’t remember the time that dad was satisfied with the necktie that I had picked out to wear. As I stood in front of mom’s door length mirror with dad nearby I can still hear him saying; “you are not going to really wear that ugly tie are you.” This was all being dad and it was all fine with me.
Well, I guess that I have mentioned enough of these special simple times that are so meaningful to me and brings me in a very real way even at this late stage of my life being able to spend a little time with my hero and father. How fortunate have I been to have been able to spend these many simple and meaningful times with him once more.