The Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Hot Chocolate Miracle

Thanksgiving Prayer                               public domain

By Larry Peterson

During the early morning hours of November 24, 1906, a ship quietly slid against the ebb-tide waters of the Narrows and entered New York harbor. Onboard were almost 2000 people, mostly immigrating Europeans. Through the emerging light of the new dawn, the Statue of Liberty came into view. The appearance of the great icon had them mesmerized. They had arrived at their new home, America.

Among the people on board was a little girl from Hungaria. Her name was Julia, and she was four years old. She held a small rag doll tightly in her arms. At that moment in time, it was the only link she had to security and happiness.

Eight days earlier, Julia had hugged her poppa goodbye. She remembered his stubbly beard tickling her face and how he had reached into the pocket of his big wool overcoat and pulled out a surprise. It was a doll. He smiled and said, “For you, Shkutabella (my little pretty).  Her name is Rachel, and I made her for you. As long as you have her, I will always be with you even if I am not there. Do you understand?”

Julia nodded her head up and down, and her mom said, “Please, Bollassar, please come with us. I do not like going without you.”

“Viola, it is all right. I will be over in a year. My brother George will take care of you. It is all right. Our love will keep us close to each other.”

A week had passed, and as Viola and Julia stood on the deck, a lifeboat broke free from its support cable. It fell and hit Viola, killing her instantly. Julia’s mom had been standing next to her, and then suddenly, she was lying lifeless on the deck. The child’s young mind could not understand why her mom did not move. She screamed at her to wake up.  That would never happen. As the ship docked at the pier, all Julia could feel was fear and loneliness.

At Ellis Island, a bizarre series of events saw Julia shuffled from one official to another. When a lady smiled at her, the official nearby assumed they were together and made Julia go with the lady. The woman took Julia as far as Broome and Varick Streets in lower Manhattan. She told the child to stay there and walked away.  The little girl did as told, and just like that, Julia had become another abandoned child on the crowded and dangerous streets of lower Manhattan.

Little Julia, holding Rachel, had been standing in the same spot for more than an hour. She was cold, hungry, and frightened. Wiping her tears had left gray smudges across her puffy cheeks. Then her guardian angel stepped in. Turning the corner was the beat cop, Paddy Dolan. He was instantly smitten with the dark-haired, blue-eyed child and asked her her name. Hesitatingly she said, “Julia.”

The policeman knelt in front of Julia and placed his hands on her tiny shoulders. He smiled at her, and for the first time since she saw her mom’s lifeless body lying next to her on the ship’s deck, she felt a sense of peace grab at her. Officer Dolan brought her with him to the station-house

After reporting in and signing out and checking as much as anyone could in 1906, Julia was declared an orphan. But this orphan was not going to an orphanage. Paddy Dolan brought her home.

Paddy’s wife, Aileen, a wee wisp of a gal from County Galway in Ireland, could not have children. Paddy and Aileen adopted Julia, and she became Julie Dolan. She grew up to be a teacher, married a man named Tommy O’Rourke, (also a policeman), and they had three children, two boys and a girl. The girl was named Viola.

On Thanksgiving day, 1951, Julia, her daughter Viola, and Viola’s four-year-old daughter, Karen, went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They stood in the crowd at 63rd Street and Central Park West, and, as Santa passed by, Viola suggested that they go to the Squire’s Restaurant a few blocks away and get some hot chocolate.

Karen was holding Rachel, Julia’s doll. Karen loved the doll and, in a moment of weakness, grandma Julia had allowed her to take the doll with her to the parade. Rachel had not been out of the house in over forty years.

They sat in a booth, sipping their hot chocolate, and Karen placed Rachel on the table. Julia reached over and fingered the doll lovingly.  Suddenly a man stood by their table. He was old and weathered and quite nervous. Julia turned her head and looked up at him. Instantly, a chill ran down her spine. The man pointed to the doll and nervously said, “Excuse me…is..is that doll’s name, Rachel?”

Not seeing her mother turning pale, Viola looked at him and answered, “Why yes, how could you know such a thing?”

As tears fell from the old man’s eyes, he looked at Julia and softly said, “Is it really you, Shkutabella?”

Julia jumped from her seat and threw her arms around the old man. “Oh Poppa,  Poppa, Poppa.  I can’t believe it. Yes, it is. It is. It is ME.”

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Copyright©Larry Peterson2021


Family and Death—The common denominator that helps many move forward is FAITH.

Life after Death                                                                 slideshare.net

By Larry Peterson

I am the oldest of five, and my mom died when I was sixteen. My brothers were eleven, six, and two. My sister was thirteen. Grandma lived with us and decided that dad had killed her daughter. Mom, who had just turned forty, had died of leukemia; so grandma was wrong. But dad believed that we kids were better off with Grandma looking after us than him doing it. He was wrong too

Since there was no reasoning with her, dad became a constant patron of the local saloons. (We lived in the south Bronx, and there were plenty of “watering holes” for him to choose from). The truth of it was—he could not live with her as she berated him mercilessly every chance she had, including calling him a no-good murderer. Yup, in keeping away from her got to know a lot of people, and everyone loved him.

Two years after mom passed on, Grandma had a massive stroke. Some events are emblazoned into your memory forever as if they just happened and this was one of them. Dad was home, and he yelled to me, “Something’s wrong with your grandmother. She needs your help. I’m calling the priest.”

I heard the word “priest” and hurried into the kitchen. Grandma was standing with her head arched into her shoulder and her hands were clamped like vise-grips onto the cupboard door. I had to pry her fingers up one at a time, so I could drag her to her bed. My little brothers and sister were staring at this spectacle taking place. It was surely a surreal moment.

I managed to drag her convulsing and contorted body to her bed. Dad was home and called the rectory. She was squeezing my hands so tight I thought they might break. She was conscious and looking me in the eyes as I looked into hers. “Grandma, pray with me. Okay grandma, C’mon, pray with me.”

Together we prayed the “Our Father.”  Barely able to speak, she made an Act of Contrition. She sort of relaxed a bit and her eyes closed. Father Quirk hurried in and gave her the Last Rites. She died soon after as I held her in my arms. The ambulance was too late.

Dad was like a lost pup. Monsignor Martin gave him some work at the church, and he drove a cab a few days a week. He was not living as much as he was existing. He drank too much and two years later he died of an acute attack of Pancreatitis. That was the moment we officially became orphans. I was old enough to work so things worked (pun intended) out—as best they could.

My brother Bobby passed away unexpectedly ten years ago, from a heart attack. He was 53.  The baby of the family, Johnny, sad to say, took his own life when he was 55. He had alcohol and other drug issues during his life and any deep-seated issues he may have had were never resolved. He had just turned two when Mom died and (according to several medical health professionals) his suicide was the final result of the losses he suffered during his formative years.

My high-school sweetheart, Loretta, stuck by my side (I had three brothers I was taking care of), and her family was not too happy about her and I being together. In hindsight, I understand why. But her loyalty and love for me was unshakable and we tied the knot several years later. We were married thirty-five wonderful years.

In 1978, she was expecting our fourth child and was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the baby was still-born. We named her Theresa Mary, and she is buried with my parents. Loretta became ill in 1991, was sick for a long time, and passed away from melanoma in 2003.

Four years later I married again. Her name was Marty (Martha), and we were both members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In March of 2017, Marty passed away after fighting lymphoma and Alzheimer’s disease for six years. We had made it to our tenth anniversary.

So there you have it; our lives will all end in death. Many have reached out to God and embraced the faith He has gifted us. Many have rejected it. That is called a “choice.” For those who have embraced the God given gift of Faith they know that death is a NEW beginning. Having that gift to live with can help make living gratifying, no matter what the circumstances.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019