Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Christmas with Dozens of Cousins Fit Her Just Right

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Christmas with Dozens of Cousins Fit Her Just Right

Article excerpt

I always looked forward to the end of Christmas dinner at my house, because it meant heading over to my paternal grandparents' North Side home to enjoy Christmas night with dozens of cousins and other relatives.

Their home was on a very narrow street called Perryview off Perrysville Avenue. Perryview contained about 20 homes on a flat stretch before making a bend down a fairly steep hill to where my grandparents lived, in the last house on the left. There was no cul- de-sac; the road just ended 20 yards past their driveway.

At the very bottom of the hill was a salt box filled by the city of Pittsburgh in the fall - hopefully before any significant snowfall, but not always. This street must have been the last street the city plowed - probably because the plow couldn't fit - and seemed to stay snow-covered from December through March during the 1960s and '70s.

Our family gathering was extremely crowded in my grandparents' modest three-bedroom home as my father had 11 siblings, most of whom lived in Pittsburgh, and the others always visited at Christmastime. The group of them had 56 children, all born between 1946 and about 1982.

To help control the chaos on Christmas night, boys were assigned to the home's larger bedroom and girls to another one. The third bedroom, used as a den, held overflow adults looking after little ones. Although there were efforts at order, if ever there was a loud family, ours was it, and the various fathers took turns reprimanding us about the noise.

In the kitchen, there was hustle and bustle. Dishes from dinner were still being washed and dried while "kla-baaaasi" (other families called it kielbasa) would be boiling in pots and homemade bread was being sliced for the kla-baaaasi sandwiches. The smell of garlic and spices filled the house and chocolate candy was out for the kids. …

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