A Watch Bird watching a Lazy who slept all through Christmas. (Contributed)

Imagine being 5 years old and learning (from the other kids) it was possible, just possible…there was NO Santa Claus. This 5-year-old was devastated.

In my little and quite poor hometown, the one hope we kids had was to get our one wish for Christmas fulfilled by Mr. Claus himself.

I, personally, never actually saw Santa Claus. Our one and only JCPenney department store did not employ Santa at Christmastime, as did in so many other larger cities. Santa only appeared in the evening newspaper’s comic section.

It would have been in the month prior to December that I was cautioned that “Watch Bird” had its eye on little girls and boys, and those that were bad acting, would get a lump of coal instead of a present. My scrapbook, made by a family friend, had many pictures of that Watch Bird keeping its eyes on misbehaving kids, and I made sure I wasn’t one of them (most of the time).

Yesterday I was in a local restaurant having a bowl of clam chowder here in Ben Lomond, where I was able to quiz a little boy 8 years of age about his wish for Christmas. “I have lots,” he replied. “Lots?” I asked. “Yup, I want an Apple Watch,” he said without batting his eyes. “Do you know how much that will cost?” I asked. “Kinda, over $500,” he replied, and went on listing four or five other things he wanted. I had to ask…“What if you don’t get the watch?” Without hesitation he replied, “Oh, I’ll get it!”

How sad, I thought, as I drove away from the restaurant that afternoon; how sad that the wonder and magic of Christmas receiving seemed to have left that child.

After leaving Aberdeen, I spent the remainder of my school years being raised by the nuns in a Catholic boarding school for girls, where the birth of the baby Jesus was predominant; I do not remember the name of Santa Claus being spoken amongst the younger children. Christmas was all about the Babe in the Manager and how and when He would appear in His little makeshift crib in our chapel.

In December, the stable, its animals and figures of Joseph and Mary were arranged next to the altar in our chapel, and the manger was there, empty, waiting for Christmas Eve and Midnight Mass when finally, on the stroke of midnight, the nuns would place the baby Jesus on the crib.  This was the one-and-only time we girls were allowed up past eight o’clock at night.

One of the Christmas stories the nuns would read to us was from Dickens, “The Christmas Carol,” and I have always remembered Tiny Tim saying, “God bless us, everyone.” And, as I grew older, I loved reading the book “The Gift of the Magi,” the story of a very poor man’s wife cutting her long hair to be braided into a chain for her husband’s watch; meanwhile, the husband sold his watch to buy a brush for her long tresses. Romantic for me to read at the age of 16, nevertheless, the love and unselfishness between husband and wife has remained with me to this day.

Merry Christmas, dear Readers!

Boston Clam Chowder

Serves 4

6 slices of bacon diced and fried.

Remove bacon and set aside.

In bacon fat add:

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced celery

2 garlic cloves finely minced.

2 Bay leaves

1 Tbsp. ground thyme

Sauté together and then add all ingredients into a large soup pot.

Peel and dice 3 large Russet potatoes and add to soup pot.

Add 1 bottle of clam juice.

Add 3 Tbsp. Better than Bullion Chicken Stock

Simmer l hour.


2 cups diced clams (I use Sea Watch brand from Stagnaro’s Market on the SC wharf.)

3 cups Half and Half Cream

Bring chowder to a high simmer…do NOT boil as it will curdle.

To thicken, I use instant mashed potatoes or you can stir in 3 Tbsp. flour mixed with a little half and half cream.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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