Lucie’s Tree

This is a true recollection by Aunt Lucie Dee, who will celebrate her 95th Christmas on Monday. This family tale was recently retold at our annual cousins Christmas party by Lucie’s daughter, accomplished published author and educator, Cindy Dee Holms. We are cousins by way of my grandfather, Arturo Colamosca, “Art”, and Lucie. Lucie & Art were first generation Italian immigrant cousins growing up in South Philadelphia during The Depression. The family had very little means, yet thrived. Art would play a larger part in Lucie’s life, later introducing her to a kind and dapper young man, Tony DiBenedetto. Tony and Lucie later married and shared 70 years together. Art and Lucie remained close until his passing at age 101 in 2014, and their definition of family is inspiring.  Lucie has been battling dementia for years, but still retells this childhood memory with clarity. We share this tale in the spirit of Christmas and family love.  Cheers La Famiglia!

As a child, my earliest memories of Christmas were the joy of being with my cousins. Being with my older cousins comprised my whole childhood. Since I was the youngest, they tried each Christmas to make mine happy. Money was scarce. When I was 7 years old, which was in 1928, I recall a very special Christmas. I was much younger than the rest of my cousins, which is why I was sent to bed. I remember not being able to fall asleep because I could hear the guffaws of my older cousins having fun downstairs and I wanted to be with them. I remember the words uttered by my hero, Art, who was 17 at the time. “Let’s get Lucie a tree!” he exclaimed in a hushed voice to his older brother, Will. I heard the door slam as he ran out into the streets. A short time later, he returned, thrilled that he picked up a tree in someone’s trash…it was small, ragged, and had very few branches. I could hear the bustle of all the cousins as they prepared the tree. It was decorated with varying shades of cream colored string and pieces of paper that cousins Ann, Blanche, Ada, Doretta, and Ful cut up into shapes.

The next morning, there was a beautiful orange (a true treat) sitting under it for me…a present from Santa, they told me! I never led on that I knew…

Money couldn’t buy the love and laughter of those memorial days when we were poor in finances but rich in love and just being together. Make Christmas memories for your own children whenever you can. They are the ones that stick in my memory after all these years. Don’t let family slip away no matter what it takes. You will never regret. It’s the stuff that life is made of! I realize the difficulty of traveling but whenever it is possible, you and your children should have the holiday memories. In today’s world, families are scattered all over and distance makes gatherings difficult, but take it from an old woman, it’s the nectar of life. I wish you all a long and healthy life. Make treasured memories; someday, that’s all you will have.

-Lucie Dee
December 14, 2011

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