In October of 1980 we moved across and up the Hudson River to our home in New York. That was now our third Christmas as a married couple, and possibly our last year with a live Christmas tree. There was a small garden center not far from our house in Yorktown Heights, which is where I dragged Dad off to get our tree. I believe that by now he was into the holiday spirit and better skilled at maneuvering the tree into the stand. This was probably because he knew by then to not only look at the shape of the tree but also to consider the size of the trunk as well.
The afternoon when we went to purchase the tree was cold—typical of Decembers in New York at that time. As we were strolling through the rows of trees and listening to Christmas carols blaring from a speaker, I remember thinking how perfect it all felt. But it was not perfect until, like in the movies, it began to snow. Christmas trees, music and snow. It was great.
Since we had been in our house just over two months, we had not met many of our neighbors, so when the couple in the house next to ours invited us over for drinks, we enthusiastically accepted. We were going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house the next day and had not begun the Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres tradition yet. We were flexible. We planned to have a nice roast pork dinner after our cocktails at the neighbors’ house, which we thought would be fine in the oven for the short time we would be visiting them.
Little did we know that our new friends were very heavy-handed when pouring the drinks. We were both drinking screw drivers, and apparently when they would freshen up our glasses, they only added the vodka, not the juice.
That was the most drunk I ever got, complete with the bed spins. Our arrival home was greeted by the aroma of pork cooking in the oven, which is not a welcoming smell when you are three sheets to the wind. I am not certain if we even ate much that night since we both felt so awful.
We learned later that those neighbors were nicknamed “the stabbers” by the other neighbors after an incident when they got into an argument, she stabbed him, and the police somehow arrested her! But that is secondary to my story.
The next morning was a very cold, snowy, and windy Christmas Day. Naturally, it was a very scary drive over the Tappan Zee Bridge when you are hungover, and Dad had to hold onto the wheel quite tightly in order to maintain his lane on the snow-covered roadway.
Of course you know we made it safely to Boonton and enjoyed the holiday there and dessert with the cousins. Aunt Ar and Uncle Paul had gotten married that year, so we spent the night at their apartment. That cold night was when Dad ran out of gas (my opinion) or was it that the gas tank froze (Dad’s opinion). I have done some research and read that it is possible for gas to freeze if the temperature is low enough (it was -8 degrees) and the tank is at ¼ tank or less. So if Dad is correct, then can we now pinpoint 1980 as the year he instituted the policy of never letting the tank in the car get too low?