How the Mafia Saved Christmas

Over a casual conversation about our respective tree decorating the other day, my mom casually mentioned that the mafia was responsible for our Christmas one year. The…mafia?

Ariel Christmas ornament

Ariel ornament on my Christmas tree this year.

The owner of the local lunch counter in Brooklyn, which was apparently frequented by a few mob-connected gentlemen, had mentioned our situation to them. We were poor, since my mom has been on disability since I was little. Christmas was often hard, and while my grandparents always invited us to dinner and often had at least a few gifts, we still had to make do on our own. My mom struggled to keep us fed, clothed, and with the necessities on an everyday basis. Sometimes that didn’t happen.

I had no memories of any of this when she mentioned it, but when Mom spoke about the tree in our then-shared bedroom, which I got all to myself around age nine, it triggered a hazy puff of remembrance. How we slept every night in December with the smell of fresh pine in the air, and how we hated having to get rid of it. That tree sat between our beds in the center of the room, lit and festive. The mob guys were also responsible for a few small gifts under our tree.

While I don’t condone the actions of the mob, they did arrange that Christmas for my mother and I. A very unusual year. It’s things like this that make me think about the other side of people that do terrible things.