Don't forget, it's a birthday party! Humbug!

Don’t forget, it’s a birthday party!

By Anthony Buccino

The “season to be jolly” always manages to age me 60 years. For me, it’s a solid look into a vast void. Where is the joy that once was?

(Dec. 23, 1976) – I am one of those people you hear about at Christmas time who never smiles, never fully allows himself to get into the spirit of love that nearly overrides personal tensions and feuds allowing many people to call strangers “brother.”

 The Christmas season always brings me down. It’s not all the hype about Christmas being “so commercial” and a big “rip-off.” That delusion does not bother me, I think I have the mental facilities to recognize a superfluous con job.

 I was telling my fork lift buddy Russell Provost one year how Christmas generally brings me down. He explained in a way that bridged our thirty years in age that I should not be brought down. He could understand people of his age feeling blue, having lost loved ones over the years and felt much more pain than I have experienced so far in my life. He could understand their mixed emotions, but a “young kid” like me should not be the least upset.

 Got a warehouse full of answers - Anthony Buccino

All his explanations could not change my mind. The “season to be jolly” always manages to age me 60 years. For me, it’s a solid look into a vast void. Where is the joy that once was?

 My religion does not save me, I was brainwashed at an early age. When I was old enough to think for myself, I did not know what to think.

 But for the hustle-bustle of Christmas shopping I always wait until the last minute to shop, who knows, Christmas may be canceled for some reason. I am glad to say that I do not shop like a woman; a woman will go to twelve different stores before returning to the one with the best buy. I go to the closest store, buy whatever catches my eye and that’s it.

 I used to like Christmas for the gifts it would bring. But since I have been working for the past five years, I have not been in want of anything. Money is a spoiler of dreams. Without money, whatever I’d receive would be cherished for all the time as would the thought spent by someone in selecting it for me.

 I am an unsatisfied man. No gift I could give, wrapped in my patented style of wrinkled ribbons and crooked paper, could match the value of the gift I could only give once.

 My life, my friend, started quite early one Saturday morning, and all through the early years I knew that when I reached sixty, I would speak Italian because when a person reached a certain age, he speaks Italian. I also knew that I would live to be ninety-nine and then I’d die spread-eagle as if I were on a cross. My cousin Bobby and I had that figured out before he moved away.

 It’s not true, I know now. So very much I believed in at an early age has crumbled beneath its own weight.

 I have beliefs now, and I’m not so very sure where they originated. I believe in friendship. Friendship goes beyond an exchange of gifts. It is more than skin deep.

 As an example for my four faithful readers who have their own personal copies of Days You Knew Me, Peter of that book is perhaps my best friend of this lifetime. Subtracting the miles between us, our friendship is wider than the seven oceans. It is a reality every day of my life. He does not feel the same, or understand me, but that’s okay.

 Neither of us knows why I feel so close to him, surely the miles and the roads not taken must have taken their toll. But I expect Pete will always be there for me and me for him.

 His explanation of our friendship came from his readings of Edgar Cayce, Pete believes we must have been close relatives (brothers?) in a previous life.

 My explanation is nothing like that, rather that we are close in our very minds and there is no need to explain.

 I always think closely of Pete at Christmas time. During the worst holiday season in my life he changed my outlook on my life with a simple castaway line. I’ll never forget as long as I dread the long lines at the stores, as long as I rush through my life to have a few minutes to write my poetry, his line, stolen or original, always makes this torturous season slightly more bearable.

 I was deeply emotional, sensitive to a fault, aloof as an oak in the Redwood forest, a very old, tired, morbid man much before my time, if there is a time at all for that. Pete’s words written from somewhere in Ohio after our months of several summers being friends and buddies; and eating McDonald’s hamburgers at the Saybrook Plaza; and bowling on Wednesday nights in August at St. Angelo’s Lanes; and eating pizza at every pizza place from Ashtabula to Geneva On The Lake to Conneaut; after countless rides in his dad’s two-door tan Biscayne in aimless directions only real friends could endure; he handed me a line in his letter that has allowed me to greet the false friendship and ephemeral spirit in fading smiles at Christmas time.

 Six years have come and gone. I’ve given him a book and my lifelong friendship. He has been there when needed and his most crucial words in my life that get me through an incredibly cruel season were, “Don’t forget, it’s a birthday party.” And my beliefs, brainwashed or whatever helped me to believe it.

 All the bickering and strife in this hurry-up and wait life I am allowed to lead stands second to the line of a friend who somehow gave the strength to tolerate a season which has plagued me for years. I believe there is still hope for this world.

Don’t forget, it’s a birthday party, first published in The Independent Press of Bloomfield on Dec. 23, 1976.

Adapted from Sister Dressed Me Funny.

Age at time of writing: 22


Anthony Buccino


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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.

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Sister Dressed Me Funny by Anthony Buccino

Sister Dressed Me Funny