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    Christmas Eve At Cusa's

    There was a period of my life where I recall a consistent series of very special Christmas Eves. It started in the mid eighties and continued all the way to about 2001. These nights are like a series of living snapshots, frozen in time, etched forever in my heart and mind.


    Between the ages of about twenty and fifty-three, a group of us celebrated Christmas Eve At Cusa's. Cusa is my oldest and dearest friend. We met in high school, and have had a platonic bromance ever since. We get each other. Even when we don't. We've had our ups and downs, our periods of distance, our spells of not even talking. But we find our way back to each other. Because he is simply too important not to be in my life.


    On Christmas Eve, a gaggle of us would gather at Cusa's house and celebrate the night before Christmas with not-so-reckless abandon. We would be up until three or four in the morning. We would exchange gifts, celebrate our relationships, drink and eat until we were full, and share our love for each other. The night was all at once too quick and seemed to last forever. 


    I would usually get there early, living a scant fifteen minutes from my friend, and help with the prep. Cusa's mom, affectionately known as "The Fairy Food Mother", would make enough grub to feed a small army. Cusa's pad was the bottom floor of a two-family house in Boston. Upstairs would be a gathering of Cusa's family. Downstairs, his friends. The two crowds would eventually mix. Our crowd would roll in anywhere between 8PM and 2AM. It was a festival of love, every bit, if not more, as joyous and special as Christmas Eve as a kid. 


    Come to think of it, it was way more enjoyable than my Christmas Eve's as a kid. As a youth, we spent Christmas Eve at My aunty Philly's house in East Boston. As great as it was to see all my cousins, aunts, and uncles, there were serious drawbacks. First of all was a severe lack of space. The apartment was filled far beyond capacity, and smelled like fish (the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner). It was butts to nuts all night, and, until I was old enough to leave the place on my own with my other cousins and go for walks around the neighborhood, (at about fourteen), the place was positively claustrophobic. 


    Space was at such a premium that the only bedroom in the house (with the only room with a bed you could lye on when you got tired, which happened at about 10:06 when you were eleven and younger) was used for all the coats. So if your were tired, there was literally no place to stretch out, with coats piled high and deep. There was no room at all to play, or move for that matter, which is crucial to those in the single digit age bracket. I can say, and I speak for most of my cousins of approximately the same age, that Christmas Eve was, at best, a mixed blessing.


    Once Cusa invited me and my twin over his place and we could actually leave my aunt's on own volition, however, Christmas Eve became a very special and wonderful event. One of those rare nights you look forward to all year.


    Between the mid-eighties and early 2000's, it was my favorite night of the year. Most of my close friends and eventually my siblings and nephews were there, and the atmosphere was light, loving, and joyous. Exchanging gifts under Cusa's tree at about midnight was the highlight of the evening. Watching those you love open gifts you picked out, just for them, was magic. I run with a very creative, imaginative, artsy tribe. One year, our friend Ron surprised us all with full color, poster size drawings (from his own talented hand) as all of us dressed as the superheroes we created - based on own personalities - that Halloween. Another year, Cusa gave all the guys fully functioning Blow Guns, complete with graphite projectiles. 


    At about that same time, our Christmas Mall Mayhem Day was at it's peak. Ten or more of us would spend the first Friday of December at a mall of our choosing, spending the whole day there, sipping Sambucca out of a  water bottle ("I Thirst!" Was the cry if you wanted a blast) and buying gifts (mostly, for ourselves). I built my vast library of Christmas CD's at that time as well. And Christmas Classics like "A Year Without A Santa Claus" (Heat Miser, Snow Miser), "It's A Wonderful Life", and "A Christmas Story" played on a loop in the background on Christmas Eve At Cusa's.


    There was something Magic about that time of year. There is still something Magic about that time of year. There always will be. Give me loved ones. Give me a space to Celebrate ourselves; give me a space to celebrate our love for each other; give me you open heart, your open mind, your truest self. And I'm one happy camper. 




    ©2017 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.


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