I was having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit until I made a BLT while listening to Christmas music the other day. It reminded me of a long gone restaurant in the Porter Square section of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I used to have the sandwich there as a kid. The combination of the sandwich, the memory and the music took me back to another time and that place at Christmas. C’mon back (way, way back) with me.
That smell! The smell of the Christmas tree as Mommy dragged it off of our Volkswagen Beetle and into our small apartment, needles dropping everywhere. Big colored lights. Some of the bulbs didn’t work and she had to replace them to make the whole string light up. Round red, green, silver and gold ornaments that my little sister, Sheri, and I had to hold with two hands. We liked the way our faces looked funny when we held the balls up close and looked into them. Our favorite ornaments were the little copper colored bells. They didn’t ring but they were delicate and sweet. My sister and I threw tinsel at the tree branches. Some of it clumped together but it was still beautiful to us.
The white bedsheet that covered the tree’s stand was empty of presents. Sheri and I had a plan. When our mother left the room, the search was on for us to find money for gifts. If we could find enough change, we could buy Mommy the bubble bath from Fox Drug Store. Sheri and I first hit up our piggy banks. Not bad, one dollar each plus some change. Then we went through all the coat pockets in the hall closet. That grossed us another couple of dollars. Next was the best place to find money, the couch! There were always some dimes and pennies under the cushions. But the big coins dropped into the back, in the crack that ran along the whole length. It was a gold mine. Seven quarters had managed to shake loose from grownups pockets and had fallen into the crack during the year. We added them to the other bills and change we’d collected. Over seven dollars! It was more than enough for the bubble bath. We could get something at the Five and Ten for Big Sis too. We went into the kitchen and told Mommy we wanted to go Christmas shopping at Porter Square and asked if we could go. It was only three stops on the trolley down Mass Ave. I was nine and my sister was seven. We took the trolley much farther to school every day anyway. Mommy smiled and said it was ok. Sheri and I grabbed our coats, hats and mittens. We were so excited that we had to go to the bathroom first.
In those days, kids could ride public transportation alone and no one called child protective services. First, Sheri and I got off the trolley a block before the shopping center and stopped at Fox Drugs. We bought the bubble bath, happy the Lavender scented one we wanted was still there. Then we walked down to Porter Square (or Pohta Sq-way-ah” as the locals called it). The shopping center was a long row of local stores anchored at the front by Dunkin’Donuts and at the back by Star Market. Halfway down was the Five and Ten. We stopped there next and bought a pair of one-dollar Christmas earrings for Big Sis. We wondered if we should give them to her early so she could wear them to her bank job.
We still had a couple of dollars left so we decided to have lunch at the deli next door. I ordered sandwiches for both of us; Tuna for Sheri, BLT for me. At the time, kids could order sandwiches alone in a deli and no one called child protective services. The place was retro even for those days. It had red vinyl booths and table side jukeboxes continually playing customer selected tunes. That day it was Christmas music with a couple of rock tunes thrown in. I loved those BLTs. I remember the white bread was always toasted lightly, the way I like it. The mayonnaise was slathered on so as to cause the crispy bacon to slip a little. The lettuce and tomato were always fresh, never limp. Before I’d take the first bite, the smell of it would waft up into my nose.
I enjoyed my BLT, the shopping and the company of my sister. We walked all the way back home because, since we were kids, we had forgotten about bus fare when we ordered lunch. We didn’t mind. It wasn’t such a long walk. it wasn’t that cold and not too much snow was on the ground (for Massachusetts). Little kids could walk four or five blocks back then without worrying about child protective services. Along the way we laughed, sang Christmas songs and talked about what we wished would appear under the Christmas tree for us. ~
I hope you enjoy the season however you choose to celebrate/observe it. Thanks for sharing my Christmas memory and thanks as always, for reading.