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Family joy is a treasure

Opinions writer Paul DiSclafani, 10, right, with his

Opinions writer Paul DiSclafani, 10, right, with his younger brother, Anthony, 6, with Santa in 1967. Credit: DiSclafani family

If I had a time machine, it would be tempting to go back and invest in Long Island real estate or hit it big by betting on the 1969 Mets, but that’s not what I’d do.  

Instead, I’d go back like Ebenezer Scrooge (without the scary ghost of Christmas past) to witness some of the happiest moments of my life, Christmas mornings with my family. I’d love to relive that childhood anticipation one more time.   

I'd like to be a fly on the wall to watch my 8-year-old self on predawn recognizance missions with my 4-year-old brother, Anthony. It was 1966, and we snuck around like ninjas in our Brooklyn brownstone, careful not to wake our parents.

Around the tree, we saw unwrapped presents, like a bicycle or a train set. However, we were most intrigued by the mysterious wrapped ones. If it was hard to get to sleep knowing Santa was on his way, it was even harder once we knew he had come.

As children, we were too preoccupied with presents to see the reactions of our parents. What I wouldn’t give to see their expressions as we tore through wrapping paper and squealed with excitement.

Then I’d point that time machine at any Christmas dinner at the home of my Grandma Josie Lombardi in East New York, Brooklyn. Even when my family eventually moved to Massapequa, we always spent Christmas Day at Grandma's. 

Her kitchen was crowded with aunts in beehive hairdos and aprons stained with tomato sauce. We have plenty of square black-and-white photos of those moments, but no camera could capture the sweet aromas of their Italian cooking.

Observing all my cousins again from a corner in the basement, I’d watch us play with each other’s new toys. We all fought over that one inedible cupcake from the Easy-Bake Oven.

As a young parent in the 1990s, I witnessed most Christmas mornings with our two sons, James and Kevin, through the eyepiece of a camcorder. But no video could duplicate the joy in your heart at that moment. Even though I knew what was in every wrapped gift, seeing the delight in their eyes again as they peeled off just enough paper to make a positive identification would be priceless.

Although our generation may have had better cameras and video equipment to record those moments, you can never go back and relive those days.

Unless, of course, you have a time machine.

Reader Paul DiSclafani lives in Massapequa.

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