By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Music, in all of its forms, always seems to evoke memories of times past.  That is never more true than at Christmas when emotions run a bit higher and hearing a carol on the radio can make even the most hard-hearted a bit sentimental.  I have been listening to the “Holly” station on my satellite radio and find myself drawn back to some wonderful Christmas memories.  Here are just a few – and to make sure you read until the end – I am also including Pop’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe.

“Silver bells, Silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city.”

The City of Paris tree

The City of Paris tree

“Silver Bells” was our mother’s favorite Christmas song.  I remember back in the 1950’s we had a record player that was roughly the size of a modern day refrigerator.  I thought it was a miracle of engineering that we could stack records on top of each other and they would drop in succession.  At Christmastime our mother couldn’t get enough of “Silver Bells” so each time it concluded she rushed to the record player to keep the next record from dropping so she could hear it again.  The song was our anthem; every year during the Christmas season we got dressed up, including gloves and hat, to make the 22 mile trip into San Francisco.  We had three destinations:  the Christmas tree in the City of Paris rotunda, the windows at Gump’s, and getting a sundae at Blum’s on Union Square.  Only Gump’s has managed to survive.  Blum’s closed in the 70’s and Neiman Marcus is now in the City of Paris building.  The magic of the City of Paris Christmas tree was not only its 40 foot size, but the decorations – tricycles, dolls, trains and all manner of toys, bright lights, glass bulbs and a huge star on top.  Each year it was a bit different and each year I stared at it in wide-eyed wonderment.  When Neiman Marcus bought the store they tried to carry on the tradition but judging by this year’s effort – a metal, blue spiral cone hung upside down – they have done an abysmal job of it.  Where is the magic in that?  Makes me glad I grew up when I did.


“Silent Night, Holy Night”

Our grandmother was in her 50’s when our grandfather died in 1948.  She never re-married.  She referred to him constantly and loved to keep his memory alive through stories.  She had a full life but was always a little sad around the holidays when she missed him most of all.  His favorite Christmas carol was “Silent Night”.   When all of our relatives would come on Christmas morning our mom would always have Christmas albums playing (by now we had graduated to a “console”).  The problem was that “Silent Night” would bring our grandmother to tears.  Unfortunately, of the approximately 87 Christmas albums our mother had, “Silent Night” seemingly appeared on all of them.  So my job was to remember the various “cuts” on the albums where “Silent Night” was placed and then race to the console to skip over the track before grandma dissolved into tears.  I can’t hear that song today without thinking about her and about the countless times I practically tripped over the Christmas tree lurching for the record player.

Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow…”

A jolly man indeed!

A jolly man indeed!

This will be the 15th Christmas without our dad.  I miss him just as much this year as I did that very first one.  He was a happy, joyful guy, always kind and helpful to others.  He was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.  All year long he embodied the Christmas spirit and when I was very young I thought he even looked like Santa,  with his twinkling blue eyes, rosy cheeks and a stomach that shook like a bowl full of jelly.  He loved the holidays, welcoming friends and family alike into our home.  Our whole family misses his loving spirit but we also recognize we were very lucky to have him as long as we did and are grateful that he left us with so many cherished Christmas memories.

“…So have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now.”

One of Pop’s hallmarks was the Ice Cream fizz he served every Christmas morning.  Oh sure, most families had hot chocolate and cider while we were drinking gin.  But don’t judge – it has given a roseate hue to many a Christmas morning.  So this year we are once again sharing his recipe so that you and your family might also enjoy this wonderful tradition.




Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes

Add 6 jiggers of gin

Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream

Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)

My brother Bob adds an egg so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg.  Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.

Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and every thing!

Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg.  As we got older we would conspire with Pop and ditch the wine glass for  a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.


We wish everyone a Happy Holiday season – we’ll be back in 2017!


The Mutation of Thanksgiving

by Bob Sparrow

1st Thanksgiving      The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, a feast shared between the Pilgrims and the Indians. They ate duck and venison and played games together.  The cause of the celebration was the Pilgrims first harvest in their new land (the Indian’s old land), but unlike those who followed, rather than kill, capture or constrain the Indians, they invited them to dinner.  The invitation was probably a bit vague regarding dress, as the Pilgrims wore their formal black garments, white collars and funny hats while the Indians dressed a bit more casually; fortunately the ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ admonition hadn’t been created yet.  Thanksgiving remained pretty much the same for several hundred years except for the fact that Indians came to be regarded as second-class citizen and relegated to reservations . . . not for dinner.

     Thanksgivings for our generation meant getting together with family and having turkey, which had thankfully replaced theNR duck and venison.   In the early 1950s another American tradition was added to this day of feasting and thanking – football.  Actually, football was added back in 1934 when the first game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears was played on Thanksgiving Day, but that traditional game didn’t come into our living rooms until the early 1950s when television sets became a fixture in most homes.  From then on until recently, most Thanksgivings were about Family, Food and Football.

     Then another ‘F’ word started pushing itself into our Thanksgiving holiday psyche . . . Finance. Today, news at Thanksgiving hardly ever includes stories about how people celebrated or what we are thankful for, but rather how this year’s ‘Black Friday’ revenue will stack up against previous year’s – consumer spending-wise.  Before I give you the actual numbers for this year, you have to understand that ‘Black Friday’ statistics actually include retail sales from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the following Sunday.  No, wait a minute, recently that’s been amended to include Thanksgiving Day as well, as many retailers are telling their employees not to be so thankful and spend time with family, but rather to get into work – we’re open!

 black friday    This year shoppers spent an estimated $57.4 billion during the four-day ‘knock-your-neighbor-down-to-get-to-that-last-iPad’ event.  Sounds like a lot of money, but it was actually down 2.9% from last year.  Worse yet, God forbid, there was a 4% drop in that all important ‘spending-per-shopper’ category.

     In more ‘F’ news, Cyber Monday (another commercially aggrandized day to hype sales via the Internet) sales amounted to $2.29 billion – just for the day; that’s up 108% from last year.  And between 18-20% of that were purchases over a mobile device – Christmas shopping from your phone!  So while we still eat turkey and watch football, the media bombards us with Black Friday and Cyber Monday predictions and encourages us to spend, spend, spend.

     OK, this is turning into a rant; sorry, but these numbers tell me that we are getting further and further away from person-to-person contact.  I get it that this is probably just ‘old people talk’, but sometimes with age, come wisdom.  OK, I’m still waiting, but that’s another story.  I just listened to the lyrics of that classic Christmas carol, ‘Silver Bells:

           Children laughing, People passing, Meeting smile after smile


          As the shoppers rush home with their treasures

     As numbers for Cyber Monday continue to grow, as I’m certain they will, it puts us on a slippery slope that ultimately leadscyber to no longer hearing ‘children laughing’ – how could you with your phone in your ear constantly. No longer will there be ‘people passing’ – unless it’s gas as they sit on their computers shopping all day. And you’ll no longer be ‘meeting smile after smile’ – there will be no one to smile for, unless you are taking a ‘Selfie’ picture to pass along to your friends on Facebook who couldn’t care less.  And as far as ‘shoppers rushing home with their treasures’ go, Amazon will take care of that, it’s got plans in the works to drop-ship your gift via drone, so they can eliminate the deliveryman altogether.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phone; wouldn’t leave home without it, but I love family, food and football more; so before this new cyber world completely takes over, maybe we need to declare this year’s next family gathering a ‘Cell Free Zone’ – we won’t have many opportunities left, as I’m sure the next generation of mobile devices will be imbedded in our bodies somewhere.  I think I have a suggestion as to exactly where they should put it.

     But I could be wrong.

happy face