Redemption in a Santa Suit: New Huffington Post Publication about my Mafia Father


Our dad taught us early on that the Godfather and Daddy Warbucks have a lot in common.

White-haired and handsome, my father was a bookie with organized crime connections.  Though several grand juries had indicted him, and the FBI had raided our home a number of times, according to us kids, federal agents were the real evil.  It’s true, Daddy had a door whose top had been hollowed out and lined with tin—the same size needed to hold the folded papers on which he recorded in carefully drawn columns the bets his clients had called in, who had placed how much on which games.  But this didn’t concern us much.  Our lives revolved more around Lego and Lincoln Logs than search warrants and wiretaps.

(Left to right) My sister Susan, Daddy, and I (Christmas 1968)

(Left to right) My sister Susan, Daddy, and I (Christmas 1968)

Still, come December, Dad made up for these legal liabilities, for what my siblings and I imagined were minor offences.

Sure, he gave gifts throughout the year—World Series tickets to my sister when she turned ten, for example.

But Christmas morning was Daddy’s center stage.  There, with one wardrobe adjustment, he morphed, red-suited, into wise guy among wise men.  A Savior who Jesus-ed us with gifts and trips, he would have outfitted himself in elf couture, if that’s what the occasion called for.  I’m convinced of it.  He was Superman in a Santa suit—at least in our minds.

You see, my father didn’t stuff our stockings with apples and oranges, underwear and socks, but with destination gifts and vacation elation—one year Mexico—another, a Caribbean cruise.  He made sure our stockings bulged bigger and sagged deeper than any others in the neighborhood, in all of Pittsburgh, for that matter.

My siblings and I (Christmas 1973).  I'm holding my baby brother on the left.

My siblings and I (Christmas 1973). I’m holding my baby brother on the left.

One Christmas morning I remember, he’d already showered us with Barbie dolls and Tonka trucks, GI Joes and Easy Bake Ovens.  But pj-ed and pony-tailed in a roomful of presents, we knew the best was yet to come.   It was time for Daddy’s annual encore, his curtain call, if you will.  He’d lined the four of us up, oldest to youngest, on an orange couch in the living room, our stocking feet twisting, little fingers twitching—so hard to sit still—so much anticipation . . . .

To read more of my essay in the Huffington Post, click here.

In the comments below, please tell me about your favorite holiday memory.  And if you’re able, I’d love you to leave me a comment at the Huffington Post, as well.  I’m not greedy or anything!

Happy Holidays, everyone.  Thanks so much for reading my blog this year and sharing in our new adventures in Ecuador.  You are dear to me. 

With love and hugs,

Kathy

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122 thoughts on “Redemption in a Santa Suit: New Huffington Post Publication about my Mafia Father

  1. I cut and paste my comment on Huffington: Kathryn has a wonderful way of pulling you into this story so that you see and hear and feel what is happening. And then she ties it up with a bow reminding us that memories of days gone by always make us wonder where the players are now!

    • Thanks so much, Joss. I appreciate your leaving a comment. We’ll see if it gets posted. Lots of folks have difficulty leaving comments there–even me. Will go check. You’re a dear. Hope we can chat via Skype after the holidays.

  2. Kathy – CONGRATULATIONS on being published in the Huffington Post — AGAIN!

    As to my favorite Christmas memory…the year I got a magic set because I was bound and determined to become a world-famous magician!

    Heading over to the Huffington Post now…

  3. Kathy – I was there, and tried to leave a message, but it wouldn’t let me. It said I have to have a “verified” Facebook account — which I do — but it still wouldn’t let me. But it Tweeted from there!

  4. Great way to drive people to your Huff Post article! Lol. I love this story, and remember it from before. But yes, I too clicked on the link just to read the ending again. Your dad definitely had a flair for the dramatic! My favorite holiday memory? Visiting Tara for 9 days back in 2011 when we first started dating. I arrived on Christmas night, stayed through New Year’s, and it was all magical.

    • Glad you enjoyed it the second time around, as well. Thanks for taking the bait.

      That had to have been an amazing holiday for you. I remember when you went. Can’t believe it’s been 2 years. God, we’re getting old fast, my friend.

      Merry Christmas to you and Tara!

  5. tried to leave a comment on HP, but it doesn’t look like it took.

    fascinating story, and told in such a way that you can’t HELP but keep reading … can’t wait for the book to be available … well done, Kathy!

      • going back over there right now to see if it might work this time around … congrats on being picked up in the Huffington Post … you’re a world-traveled author!

      • Thanks for trying. It’s notoriously hard to leave a comment there. Took me a while to figure it out, and now that I write for them the process for me is different–or I’d tell you now. Frankly, I forget how.

  6. Yes, as ntexas99 says, I had to keep reading. Beautifully and compellingly told, Kathy. And your dad was a handsome man. My uncle was a handsome man who loved playing his phonograph records, just being silly and teasing my brother and me. He worked at a bank. He said he couldn’t wait to retire and get even with the bank (years of collecting a pension). Soon after he retired early, he succumbed to colon cancer Dec. 5, 1973, just before Christmas, too young, too soon, as you say. I still miss him. Your dad sounds like a smart, fun-loving man, a special star who didn’t follow the common herd. I know you miss him.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and I look forward to reading your memoir.

  7. “Superman in a Santa Suit” – written as seen through a kid’s eyes. Nicely written.
    Nothings make Christmas like a dad that loves it.
    My dad did actually wear a Santa suit at a store on weekends and pass out candy canes – he had twinkling eyes.
    Not as much bling or trippy as your dad but the same spirit. Knowing who was in that suit and being in on the secret was pretty special to a little kid.
    Loved your entire story!

    • Oh, thank you for reading. I’m tickled to death you enjoyed the story. How fun that your dad actually did wear a Santa suit. You must have loved that as a kid. I’m so happy you enjoyed the story. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment. Hope you’ll leave another sometime soon. It’s wonderful to hear from you.

  8. What a terrific essay, Kathy. I can only imagine how excited you kids must have been to go on this trip. Did your dad take you on any other Christmas vacations?

    Congrats on having this piece published in the Huff Post. (I tried to comment there, but it didn’t post. They don’t make it easy)

    • Thank you, Jackie! Glad you enjoyed it. It was, indeed, a wonderful trip–as my dad’s always were. This was actually the only trip that took place over the holidays. Most others were given to us at the end Christmas morning but didn’t take place until spring break.

      Sorry about the Huffington Post. I know it’s a pain. Thanks for trying!

  9. Oh, Kathy! I love this story so very much! I felt so emotionally involved and so happy for you all, that you got to go to NY to see Annie! Beautiful memory, so well written. I bet the spirit of your dad is within you and watching over you, keeping you safe, orchestrating (behind the scenes) many beautiful christmas surprises year after year. :)

    Thank you so much for sharing,
    Lindsey

    Ps- I’ve been trying and trying to post on the post, but cannot yet… I’m trying though…

    • Thanks for trying over at the Huffington Post. I don’t know why the process can’t be simpler.

      So glad you enjoyed the essay about my dad. It was a wonderful trip. And I LOVE the idea that the spirit of my dad continues to make Christmas magical. So cool!!!

      Great to hear from you, Lindsey. Happy holidays to you!

  10. Hi Kathy! I always enjoy your posts about your father so much. My favorite Christmas memory was when my husband proposed to me. It was very romantic and impromptu. We had just finished dinner and were clearing off the table when he knelt down in front of the dishwasher and asked me! With an exotic proposal like that, I couldn’t say no!
    Congrats on having your post featured on Huffington Post. I hope you and Sarah have a great holiday! :)

    • Oh, thank you, Sprinkles. Glad you enjoy the writing I do about my dad. He was a character!

      Now, your proposal present sounds to me like the best gift ever! Okay, maybe not the most exotic location, but that’s part of what makes it so fun!

      Thanks for stopping by. It’s always wonderful to hear from you. Happy holidays to you and your family, as well!

  11. Loved the writing in this piece too, especially Christ the Redeemer resurrected as a verb! Such a beautiful nugget of your early days. My dad was also a fraudster (although not on your dad’s level I think!) and our relationship is fractured, so thank you for reminding me of the happy times.
    Annie was our childhood soundtrack for years too, and I used to have Little Orphan Annie shouted at me everywhere I went. due to my ginger afro! Favourite Christmas memory? SO many to choose from, but the crack of dawn stocking openings when it was just me and my sisters is the constant. x

    • Thanks so much, Kirsten. Glad you enjoyed the writing. Have to admit, I’m thrilled you noticed my having verbed Jesus. No one else seems to have notice the sacrilege. Imagine!

      And I bet you were called Annie a lot. Hadn’t thought of that. But for us, the early morning opening of gifts and stockings was always magical, also. Sorry about your dad, though. My dad was such a mixed bag.

      Happy holidays to you and your family!

  12. What a fun post. Your dad sounds like Santa himself! Most of my Christmas memories growing up were wonderful—and one of the best Cole and I had together after Joe died was when our Christmas tree fell over and all our ornaments broke. Yes, I know it sounds awful..and in the moment it surely was, but somehow glueing our favorite ornaments back together, securing the terrible broken, bent tree back in place, and buying new ornaments as well as accepting with glee the ornaments friends gifted us made for a whole new kind of Christmas. Christmas was different, and somehow we needed away to honor that…the tree toppling over helped us do that. The universe works in mysteries ways :-D. Love the picture at the top of your post!

    Hugs from Chicago

    • Yes, my dad was like Santa–and he will always be that in my heart–regardless of the wrong he did.

      But your Christmas story does sound wonderful. I love it when a seeming wrong is made right and made even better in the end. You should write the story about that fallen tree, unless you already have. I LOVE it!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time comment. Hugs to you too, my friend!

  13. So many stories have been told about the wise-guys but always from their perspectives. Finally, we have the delightful tale of The Life from the child’s view and it is thoroughly informative as well as entertaining. I anxiously await your Memoirs, Kathy; give us as much as you possibly can.

    • Thank you, my dear JK. So glad you enjoyed these stories about my crazy childhood. I hope the very thing you point out will make my book more marketable. There aren’t many of these kinds of books written from the child’s point of view. Excellent insight–as usual. Hugs to you from Sara and me!

  14. For some reason Huffington won’t let me comment. Not sure why. This is what I tried to say: Wow! That’s an amazing Christmas memory on so many different levels. Your father sounds like a character and I for one can’t wait to read your memoirs. Not sure I’ve read about the mob from a child’s perspective.

    happy holidays to you and your loved ones.

    • Sorry about the trouble over at the HP. It’s notoriously challenging to comment there.

      My dad was definitely a character–in SO many ways. I love writing about him for that reason. I’m hoping that my writing this kind of story from a child’s point of view will make my book more marketable. We’ll see.

      Happy holidays to you and your partner in London from Sara and me. And to Miles, as well!

  15. Went to HuffPo for its entirety. Wonderful. Interesting to feel the tug-of-war between the excitement then and what you now know … but it is also evident that you still miss your father.

    Happy Holidays to you, Sara, and your new friends. Make sure you bring them along to my holiday party on Saturday .. especially Juan.

  16. Ugh. The HP won’t let me leave a message. I’m blaming them, but I’m probably to blame. I’ll try again later after I stop cussing.

    I adore your dad. I love men and women who give their children magical times in their childhood. I would love to see this developed even more to an entire Christmas book. :)

    HUGS!

    • Oh, Colleen, thank you! Sorry about the HP. It can be a pain in the ass to comment there. I should never have suggested it. Please abandon all effort and keep your sanity in tact.

      Interesting to think about a Christmas book. I will give that some thought.

      In the meantime, I’m drowning here with too much too get done before our guests arrive from the US early, early Saturday morning. Hugs to you, too!

  17. I love Dad stories especially during the holidays. My Dad passed about three years ago and holidays are always tough. But this is such a great memory and I imagine every Christmas you think of luggage and passports. So cool to have those experiences. And congrats on getting published on The Huffington Post. Very cool especially since it was a story about Dad :)

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story–especially dad stories. My father was a character who always made the holidays magical. Sorry to hear you lost your dad. Yes, it’s hard not to think of him this time of year and where we might be going were he still alive. Happy holidays to you and your family. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  18. Hi Kathy
    How I would love to find NYC tickets under the Christmas tree! There were never much money for luxuries when I was a kid, but we used to have big family get togethers and the kids always got loads of small presents, like play dough, dolls, colouring books, etc. And the whole ceremony that went with it! Holidays as kids normally involved going to visit family somewhere in the country. Long road trips and lots of food!
    Have a wonderful Christmas in your new home!

    • Oh, Gertie, those sound like magical Christmas memories. I always loved gifts that involved creativity–crayons were my favorite. I still love them. Hope your country is recovering from your huge national loss. I think about you when I see the news.

      Happy holidays to you and your family!

  19. I’m very new to your blog and so this kind of blew me away! I loved reading it and hearing about your childhood–your dad! I think I need to go back and read some of your older posts and find out what I’ve been missing. :-)

    • I’m so happy to hear from you. It’s a crazy story, isn’t it? I should be writing more about my dad after the first of the year. Take a look around. Glad this sort of thing interests you. Happy holidays. Hope to visit your blog once the Freshly Pressed craziness dies down.

    • I’m so happy to hear from you, Val! I know how hard it is to find time to read blogs at this time of year. I am SO far behind it’s sad. We have guests here from the US, so I’m trying to sneak a minute to catch up on these Freshly Pressed comments. Hope you have a lovely holiday, my friend.

  20. This was a lovely read! I got a real sense of nostalgia from it, and I imagine that Christmas must be a time where you really miss your dad, even after all these years.

    Thank YOU for sharing it with us, and sharing all your other posts with us. I’m so glad I found your blog, and I look forward to reading more of your adventures and memories.

    • I’m so happy to hear from you this evening. And I’m delighted you enjoyed the post. Yes, this is a time of year when I miss my dad. I’m glad to have found your blog, as well. Hope you and your family have a lovely holiday.

  21. Merry Christmas, Kathy! I told my mom and dad all about you when we were in Florida in November. They were both fascinated. How much are you publishing on Huffington Post these days?

    • Hey, Kathy, thanks so much for the comment. I’m sorry to be just now getting to these comments. I’ve been traveling. Can’t keep up.

      I haven’t been publishing much at the Huffington Post recently, but plan to do more in the next few months. I was busy trying to get published elsewhere, but not with much luck. So I’m sticking with the tried and true HP for now.

      I’ll be writing more about my father in the coming weeks and months. I’ve been working on the memoir, as well. But haven’t blogged much about it.

      Hope your parents will stop by and read. Thanks for sharing.

      Hope you and Barry had a lovely holiday. Stay warm!

  22. My favourite holiday memories include leaving beer out for Santa (dad) so that he could take a break from delivering presents, I also asked my parents to keep the front door for Santa because we didn’t have a chimney.

    • How hilarious that you left beer for Santa! We left milk and cookies. Suppose we weren’t very sophisticated. LOL

      Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your comment. We’ve been traveling, and I’m just now trying to catch up. Hope you had a great holiday!

      • Well this Christmas has been a bit weird. There was a storm just before which knocked out our power. Luckily we got ours back on just before but some people didn’t until the 26th! I heard some cooked their turkeys on the BBQ! It’s been one to remember.

        How’s yours been?

      • Wow, how terrible it would be to not have electricity for Christmas. But then again, I guess that’s how it used to be for everyone.

        Our holiday was SO, SO busy. We had guests from the US, hosted a huge party on Christmas Day, and then drove through the Andes to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Just got back on the 1st. Busy, busy!

  23. Regardless of what your father did, he genuinely wanted to see his children happy — a great Christmas memory!

    My childhood and teen memory is of annual Christmas Eve, when we, all his 6 children waited until he came home from his restaurant job as a cook so that we could all sit down to open gifts from underneath tree, while playing Christmas music, eat Christmas cookies/candy and watch Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” or Alistair Sims in “Christmas Carol” on tv.

    We all hoped mercifully the restaurant customers would leave early, so he could come home earlier.

    My father is slowly dying of prostate cancer @85 but my family in Toronto managed to get together for Christmas Eve, present exchanges, just shortly after a major icestorm that plunged 80,000 city residents without power this Christmas. I live in a different province.

    Not certain if it will be his last Christmas or what.

    • Oh, Jean, I had to laugh when I saw your comment over at “this time, this space,” on the post about card-making. I am SO behind. I was just getting to read that post, and I’m only now getting to your comment. I’m so sorry. We’ve been traveling.

      And, I’m so sorry to hear about your father. It must be painful to watch your parent be so ill. When my father died I was only 19 and didn’t realize how ill he actually was. Glad you got to spend the holidays with him and your family.

      Hugs from Ecuador,
      Kathy

  24. I kept getting an error when trying to post a comment to HuffPost. SO, here it is: I’m sure your friends were very jealous of you each Christmas. Seems you had the kind of holidays most kids can only dream about. I’ve so enjoyed the stories you’ve shared so far on your blog. Can’t wait to read your memoir in its entirety!

    My favorite Christmas memory is when Santa came to our front door, rang the bell and was gone by the time we answered. But he left a big sack of gifts for us! We were thrilled!

  25. Thanks for trying to leave a comment at the Huffington Post, Terri. It can be a pain in the ass to try leaving one there. A bag of gifts left at the door sounds fun I will post more about my father in the coming months. I’ve been writing–just not posting the stuff.

    Stay warm. I’ll be thinking about your early in the week–hoodie and all!

  26. All of my favorite Christmasses have been since I met Scott. Seriously. This one was amazingly peaceful. (Still a high stress nightmare in my soul – it’s my least favorite holiday – but the event itself was completely perfect.)

    • I think that’s wonderful, to have Christmas improve as you get older. Sara and I always have a lovely holiday, but the ones when I was a kid were over-the-top. Great to hear from you, Jessie. Hope your new year is getting off to a good start.

  27. Great story, Kathy, and wonderfully told. Your father must have enjoyed those Christmas morning presentations even more than his kids did.

    By the way, I tried to leave a comment on the Huffington Post article, but couldn’t seem to do it.

    • So glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, I’m sure my dad DID enjoy those mornings. He was like a big kid himself.

      Thanks for trying to leave a comment over at the Huffington Post. It’s notoriously difficult to do so.

      Hope you are having a great week–and staying warm.

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