Christmas at Camptown

Dear Dan,

Since it’s the season I’ve been thinking about Christmases past.

One year we spent Christmas in Camptown with Grandmother and Granddad. Scott was in the Army in Germany and wasn’t able to come home. All the presents were sent up to Camptown. Santa was going to deliver them there.

Uncle Don, Aunt Betty, Judy, David and Barb came to Christmas Eve dinner. There was a “children’s table” where we sat and discussed the wrapped presents. You and Judy decided we should have a petition and all us kids should sign it. “We the undersigned are asking to be allowed to open one wrapped present this evening” or some such. I remember you signed nice and large like John Hancock – and then put your thumbprint like Cosa Nostra.”

The adults laughed and made comments but since we had all been pretty well behaved we were allowed to open a gift.

That night you slept in what had been Dad’s room. It was next to Grandmother Snyder’s room where I had always slept with mom. This year I got to sleep in Grandmother and Granddad’s bed because they were downstairs.

Christmas morning we went downstairs. Scott had sent you a cuckoo clock for Germany. We thought that was so cool and couldn’t wait to get back home to set it up.

Santa brought you a space helmet and a tape recorder. I think the space capsule mom built was at home because it was just too big to take with us in the car. You interviewed mom on the tape recorder. She was the first woman astronaut into outer space. There were some great “outtakes” that were never spliced out. I wish I still had that recording. You two were so funny!

Dan, you had a great voice for radio. I think you would have been brilliant as a DJ or newscaster.

The Black Hand

Dear Dan,

I was talking to a co-worker today about how her daughter gets wet in the grass while playing outside in the morning. None of the other kids have the same problem.

I remembered something I haven’t thought of in ages. When we were kids mom always knew when you had been somewhere. There was always a black hand print. No matter how clean your hands looked or how often you washed your hands, there was always a black hand print. Our own little bit of the Cosa Nostra was what mom said.

We would send birthday or Christmas cards to the cousins or Grandmother and Granddad. We always signed our names. You always put a black thumbprint and there was never any question that you had given your stamp of approval.

Speaking of Christmas and birthday cards, you always had me rolling on the floor with the cards you sent. I looked forward to the cards or a postcard when you travelled. You always found something hilarious.

You have no idea how much I miss that.