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Paul Sassone: In the old neighborhood, ghosts of Christmas past

<p>Paul Sassone</p>

Paul Sassone

It’s something I do every year about this time.

I visit the neighborhood in which I grew up. I drive around, see how things have changed.

Nobody I know lives there any more. My buddies, Eddie and Tom and Jim moved away a long time ago.

Surprising to me, the houses are pretty much the same. Some have new siding, new paint. And the vacant lots where we would play baseball in the summer and build snow forts in the winter now have houses on them.

But it’s still the old neighborhood. I recognize it, even though it no longer recognizes me.

After a while I park in front of the house I grew up in. I just sit and remember Christmas.

You can’t tell by looking at it, but this is a house to which Santa brought some neat presents.

Memorably, was a Gilbert chemistry set. Three fold-out metal drawers holding a couple dozen glass bottles of chemicals that could — if properly misused — be mixed, poured into turtle food cans and ignited, making the nastiest of stink bombs.

And there was so much more over the years to delight a child: a medieval castle manned by knights, a garage with an elevator that actually went up and down, a chess set (replacing pieces I had cut out from cardboard), an electric train that puffed smoke, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs… and I remember a rifle that shot ping-pong balls. I think Santa was a little sorry about that one.

At one time or another, these gifts and more were left under our Christmas trees. Even the tree dad had to put up twice because Mike and I knocked it over goofing around. Even the tree that was white and crusty because mom tried to flock it herself.

I remember all this and a lot more as I sit in my car.

Sometimes I consider knocking on the door of my old home and asking the people who now live there if I can come in and look around.

But I am too shy.

And, I ask myself, what if some large stranger came to my door and asked to be let in — for sentimental reasons?

Call the cops, probably.

And actually, it’s not a good idea, anyway.

I want to see my old home as it was, not as it is. The house now holds somebody else’s Christmas, not mine.

So, I sit in my car a little longer.

Just a bit longer…

Then I drive away.

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