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In case you did not know from my name, Deanna Polito-Laughinghouse, I am of Italian descent. “Polito” is my maiden name. I married into the Laughinghouse part.
We always had a big family Christmas. Our time to celebrate was on Christmas Eve. We usually went to my Aunt Jeannie’s house to eat. Sometimes we had the gathering at our home.
One of my favorite memories is the year we went to Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Ray’s for Christmas Eve. It was really cold outside. In New Jersey, we often had a white Christmas. This particular year, it was bitterly cold. Mom and I got in the car to go to Aunt Jeannie’s early in the day to cook. On the way, we stopped at a store on the corner and we each got a hot cup of apple cider to drink on our way. I remember it felt so warm going down. That cider warmed us up inside that day.
We always went over early in the day, because we had to prepare the meal. As Italians, we ate the seven fishes. The food took hours to prepare and what seemed like just minutes to eat.
My job was always to peel the shrimp. I don’t know how I got stuck with that every year, but I did! Cooking was such a great way to spend time with my family, so I do not remember complaining about having to peel the shrimp.
I can also remember getting together the antipasti. I would always put the black olives on my fingertips and pretend like they were my long fingernails. I always got in trouble for doing that, but it as so much fun! The best part was I had to eat them off my fingertips because I touched them!
Aunt Jeannie had two levels to her house. There was the main level with the kitchen, living room, dining room and bedrooms. Then, there was the downstairs. That was my favorite place in the house. There was a big wood-burning fireplace at one end. It kept the entire basement warm. We had an extremely long table set up for eating down the center of the main room. Along one side of the table, to the right was a row of built in seating and a bar with bar stools at the end near the staircase. To the left of the long table, was a round table with about eight chairs set up around it. To the left of that table, was a small room with a couch, TV and some chairs. And attached to that room was the bathroom with a HUGE step up into it. If you forgot that step was there, you could really get hurt!
The long table was filled with food! All you could see was food from one end to the other.
Then, came the fun part. We ate. And we ate. And we ate. After we ate the meal, the ladies cleared off the table, made coffee and then we had dessert! Oh, the desserts! Even as a young child, I learned to save room for the desserts. I am still gifted at doing that to this day.
After we ate dessert, everyone would go upstairs and exchange gifts.
It was a long day, but it was always full of love and joy.
I remember this Christmas Eve like it was yesterday. I work to create special memories like this for my family today!