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!



  1. love the recipe. Here is one which everyone loved in my entertaining past.

    Champagne Punch (from my dad, Ed Kelly)

    One bottle champagne
    One bottle ginger ale
    One half cup vodka
    One quarter cup apricot brandy

    Slice and float citrus slices and add ice ring with holly or plain …enjoy. Everyone gets happy and no one feels sad,, mad or crazy! Happy New Year Buddy. Love your words!

    • Fran…that sounds wonderful! I’d like to think that our dads are up in Heaven hoisting a few together! Thanks, as always, for your comments. Do miss you – would love to see you if you’re out this way. Happy 2017!

  2. We’ve had so many experiences in common; going to “the city”, wearing gloves, warm family moments, very special parents. Thanks for putting the talents you & Bob have inherited into such a lovely and humorous trip down memory lane. Merry Christmas to you, Al & Dash! Hope to see you in the New Yesr!
    Love, Marge & Bob

    • Thanks, Marge! Sure hope to see you this year. Wishing you and Bob a very Merry Christmas and a new year filled with happiness and a Cavalier 🐶

  3. Great Christmas stories Suze! Cheers to Poppins and Moppins!!!! Merry Christmas!!

    The Thayer’s. Brad, Betsy, Riley, Allie and Zac

  4. I am tempted to make a blender of French Vanilla and Gin Fizz. But it sounds like a slippery slope. What next? Once you start drinking your breakfast, the gates are open. Soon, my pudding will actually have a proof.

    Have a great holiday. Try to remember some of it.

    • As I say…it can put a roseate hue on most situations. ; ) Hope you and Robrt have a great holiday weekend – behave!

  5. What wonderful memories, Suzanne – and your Dad must have been so special. You have inherited some of his sense of humor!
    We wish you and your entire family beautiful holidays and the brightest new year ever.
    Sending love!

    • Thanks, Janet! I only hope I inherited half of my dad’s humor!!! Merry Christmas and a very HAPPY 2017 to you and Mr. Wonderful! xoxo

  6. Love this & the memories…..
    Silent Night….Gommy? Didn’t know that. Guess it’s good you were on that detail! 🙂
    Wishing you, Bob, Jack & families the merriest and a happy, healthy new year!

    • Yes, we did have some good times over the years. The “Silent Night” duty only started when I was in high school so who knows why it came up then. Wonder if something happened??? These are the things we wish we could ask our parents!

      Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas – enjoy spoiling little Rose. What a great age for Christmas!

      Love, Cuz

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