Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Two Graces Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life in Taos, updated for 2017

Photograph of the Deer sculpture that once stood at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, it was stolen!

On Christmas Eve the family tradition was to go to my Grandmother’s house for dinner. A house full of family, cousins, aunts, uncles and everyone else that we would bring with us. Occasionally we went to a Chinese Restaurant with my dad's Boss, Alfred Marshall and the rest of the bigwigs of the original Marshall's Department Store. When I was around 11 or 12 years of age, we arrived home after Christmas eve, out at wherever it was, to find the door of our two-story Salt Box house wide open. Thieves had broken in and stolen Christmas, they stole the presents, they stole the kitchen appliances and the TV, (this was pre-VCR & DVD players). An empty home at Christmas, I don't remember anything other than absolute shock. Yes Cindy-Loo-Hoo, the Grinch who stole Christmas was very real and living in Beverly, MA. On this particular year, ‘The Grinch’ chose my family to loot and scoot it all out the front door. Somehow my Mom & Dad rallied and pulled off Christmas with presents, food and festivities. How they did it and what they did, isn’t what I remember, it’s that they provided us with Christmas no matter what the circumstances. This may have been the year we started going to the movies on Christmas day. Going off to the movie theater was not a great expense those days but a treat nonetheless. 
The horror of arriving home and finding everything stolen stays with you, even now, many years later.

The forest in snow with Aspen Trees

A lack of snow (and a lack of shoppers) in Taos makes it seem less like Christmas time. This year of 2017 thus far has been a slow season for businesses here. I ask people whether or not they have a Christmas Tree, and sadly many just don’t. In Taos with an inexpensive permit from the forest service you are allowed to go up to the forest all around us and cut your own tree down. As fresh as a cut tree can be and a memorable adventure every year. 
As I drove down the main boulevard of Taos the other day, shopowners were engaged in their outdoor Holiday decorating in front of their stores wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Out on a Winter trek north of Taos, NM

I don’t really need gifts at Christmas time, I have a tendency to buy what I want for myself. I don’t really think about Christmas gifts all that much, if and when I buy something with someone else in mind, I tend to give it to them when I see them, rather than hang on to it, hide it, and wrap it up for them as a “Christmas Gift”. Yet some of my favorite Christmas presents have been Christmas tree ornaments, they remind me of who gave them to us, or where and when we bought them for ourselves.

Another aspect of this year’s Christmas is that my wife and I have planned to visit our Moms at the same time a week before Christmas. She'll go to see her Mum just outside St. Louis and I'll visit my Mum north of Boston. We'll leave Taos at the same time for our destinations and arrive back at the same time. I've created a full schedule of visiting friends and family, along with days at museums, a bit of shopping and fabulous restaurants. I can't wait to see my nephew & niece, cousins and uncles to meet them and sit down for lunch or dinner. There'll be a chance to take my mom to the Peabody-Essex Museum to see the new exhibition there of Georgia O'Keeffe 'style, her wardrobe, paintings and photos of her will be on display. O'Keeffe was the first artist my mom taught us about and the PEM museum was where I played hide and seek on rainy days.
We've got a lot of catching up to do.

For the Holidays, my wife & I will be together and have a chance to share with each other our adventures visiting our families. We'd love to attend the local production of a Taos Nutcracker Ballet production (I did just purchase tickets for this earlier today) and have Christmas dinner at the new hotel in the Ski Valley, hopefully we will.

Sometime around early 1990, Holly & I began dating at Christmas-time. One mid-December day I was telling her that I planned to go and get a tree the following day at a tree farm. She told me that she and her roommates were having a tree trimming party at her place and that she’d love it if I could make it. It was to be a dinner party and they would be making home-made ornaments. That evening she went home to tell her friends that they were now having a tree trimming party and that she had invited me over to the apartment on this ruse. For my own deceit in this, I designed and practiced making an ornament so that when I arrived it would be a matter of effortless ornament making on my part. Until very recently I had no idea about this whole plot. Yet, that was the Best Christmas and nothing else can match that.

I’m asked what was the best Christmas dinner that I remember? 
My response is an array of fresh fish on Christmas eve at my Mom’s Aunt Phyllis’ house with her husband Uncle Vincent and lots of family I hadn't seen in years. This included baked stuffed lobster, fried smelts, fried calamari and of course all the cookies I could eat. This type of meal is a Sicilian/American tradition known as 'The Feast of the Seven Fishes' lots of fresh fish for Christmas eve. 
In reality the best Christmas dinner is not what there was to eat, it’s who was there and the memories of family and friends. 
To this day, floating around my head are some great memories.

Christmas tree lights in Taos

Lately, friends have come by with a present for Holly & I, or mailed us a card, which has really meant a lot to me, so thank you one and all. Maybe Christmas cards and gift giving is a way of saying thank you, I’ve been thinking of you, you mean a lot to me, let’s stay connected and stay in touch. So, Merry Christmas one and all…

This is an updated 2017 version of a 2010 post.
Thank you for reading.
Photo Credits: All Photographs are by Robert Cafazzo


  1. no cards, no presents but I do have a tiny tree!... buon natale! xx's

  2. Caterina, Merry Christmas!!! e buon natale...! Love you!


  3. wrote a long empathetic reply yesterday, with sprinklings of sicilian christmas ravioli, but didn't post. who knows why. too much to rewrite....but we're always very low profile, unadorned, and credit card wise during these holiday dazes...

  4. Robert, I feel like hearing those memories of christmas past, and the sweet story of you and holly, are what warms our heart. Having that warmth at a time of year when everything around us is cold and dormant(sp)----that for me makes christmas.
    Charlie and I look forward to seeing both of you in 2011!!

  5. Oh Robert!! Thank you so much for every word!! I really only know you as a Facebook friend as and an semi-occasional customer ~ these words warmed my heart!! <3