Yours truly, proudly displaying the Christmas Tree Village that Dad and I created back in 1966.
A Fond Remembrance Of The Christmas of 1966
By Richard Mabey Jr.
The Christmas of 1966, was a dearly special Christmas to me. For me, it was at Christmas time that I truly healed from my year-long battle with rheumatic fever, the year before. For it was during Christmas of 1965 that I had my longest stay at the Barnett Hospital in Paterson. That particular hospital stay lasted for over one full month. The Christmas of 1965 was a sad Christmas for me. It was during this time period that I would get these shooting pains in my heart. I thought for sure I would die.
Dr. Rosenthal relieved me of strict bed rest in June of 1966. I was 12 years old at the time. Although I was allowed to walk around a little bit, I would still get extremely exhausted at times. And, the shooting pains would still be felt in my heart, from time to time. However they were no longer as frequent, nor as painful.
My Dad wanted the Christmas of 1966 to be very special for me. I was now 13 years old and in the eighth grade. When I look back at the Christmas of 1966, I have to say that it was probably one of the best Christmas times that I can ever remember.
In early December, Dad and I began painting up a big piece of plywood. We painted streets, green grass, sidewalks, little ponds and rivers on this huge piece of plywood. In short, we had a blast. Sometimes I would mistakenly make a line crooked for the road. I would get so upset with myself. Dad would reassure me that it was okay, that we could cover it up with an extra coat or two of the green paint.
By the middle of December, on a Saturday morning, Dad and I had finished painting the layout of our Christmas Tree Village. I was so proud. That Saturday afternoon, after lunch, Mom, Dad, my sister Patti and I all went to Two Guys Department Store to buy the little houses, businesses and miniature people for our village. It was just a joyous time. Sometimes, when you look back on your life, you realize that it was the simple things that remain so dear and precious to your heart.
Dad and I bought quite a few little Plasticville houses, businesses and miniature people. I contributed some of the money for the Plasticville sets with money that I had saved from my allowance and from my birthday money. I was so very proud to be able to pay for some of our Plasticville sets.
The supermarket was one of the more popular Plasticville buildings.
You had to assemble the Plasticville small buildings. So, when we got home; Mom, Dad, Patti and I had so much fun putting together all of the Plasticville buildings. Don’t ask me why I remember this, but I do. I remember so clearly that we all sat around our kitchen table and built the Plasticville village buildings, while listening to Christmas Carols on the radio. It was just a warm and cozy moment in time.
The Plasticville gas station was a favorite of mine. The little garage doors actually opened and closed. Even from when I was in the eighth grade, I loved the Andy Griffith Show. The Plasticville gas station always reminded me of Gomer and Goober’s Filling Station.
There are not words adequate to describe how proud I was of my little Christmas Tree Village. It was something that we completed as a family. And, in my opinion, it looked really great. For having battled rheumatic fever, seriously affected my self esteem. After I was allowed to be taken off of strict bed rest, Dr. Rosenthal forbid me from trying out for the town Little League team. Whenever I ran any length of distance, I would get seriously winded. Also, whenever I ran or rode my bicycle for a given distance, I would get these sharp pains in my chest.
But, alas, I had accomplished a great and wonderful thing in playing a role in the creation of our family’s Christmas Tree Village. At the age of 13, I was painfully thin and slight of frame, almost fragile. I think my Dad knew what he was doing all the time. Dad was showing me that there were other things in life, besides playing sports. Dad worked closely with me in helping me build our family’s Christmas Tree Village.
My beloved father dropped out of school to join the Army Air Corps during World War II. He later studied on his own and went on to study theology at Drew University to become a fully recognized Lay Leader in the United Methodist Church. In so many ways, my Dad was one of the wisest men that I ever knew. My Dad knew that my self esteem needed a big boost after having been so seriously ill. Dad taught me the sense of accomplishment and the sense of pride in sticking with a long-range project and seeing it through.
My Dad was truly a great man. He went Home to be with the Lord over 10 years ago. I loved him with all of my heart. I still miss him dearly.