What are your spe­cial mem­o­ries?

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

South­west Florid­i­ans re­call fam­ily tra­di­tions, cel­e­bra­tions and mem­o­rable mo­ments from past Thanks­giv­ing Days, Christ­mas morn­ings and Hanukkah can­dle light­ings.

Novem­ber and De­cem­ber are about hol­i­days and tra­di­tions. Yet, most of us cel­e­brate dif­fer­ently. TOTI Me­dia is shar­ing a se­lec­tion of hol­i­day mem­o­ries from among our friends in South­west Florida:

Tif­fany Es­pos­ito,

pres­i­dent of Bonita Cham­ber of Com­merce “What says the hol­i­days most is my mom’s pound cake. It is a fam­ily recipe and she only makes it at Christ­mas­time. When I was grow­ing up [in Lee County], she would give it to fam­ily and friends as a hol­i­day gift, and the scent of freshly baked cake would fill the house with hol­i­day cheer.”

Alan Isaacs,

of Fort My­ers, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Lee and Char­lotte Coun­ties “My wife [Naomi] in­sists that we cel­e­brate each of the eight days of Hanukkah as if it was the only day of Hanukkah. The kids had to be home for din­ner ev­ery night and there would be presents af­ter the can­dles were lit and we’d sung the bless­ings. We’d make real sure that we all re­mem­bered the real mean­ing of Hanukkah—and it wasn’t the presents! It is the free­dom to be a Jew.

Bon­nie Gross­man,

of Fort My­ers, ac­tress, cre­ative di­rec­tor of Harry’s Se­nior Mo­ment Im­prov Troupe “When I was a teenager in Bos­ton, I was hired to be a ‘Miss Holly’—Santa Claus’s helper in Fi­lene’s Depart­ment Store— one Christ­mas. My fam­ily kind of adopted two young shoeshine boys when I was Miss Holly. They came home with me and we gave them gifts, as did the store.”

Clau­dia Goode,

of Fort My­ers, di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions/ cu­ra­tor at Abuse Coun­sel­ing and Treat­ment, Inc. Arts for ACT Gallery “A lit­tle boy was in shel­ter with his mom and sev­eral sib­lings. His No. 1 wish was a home for his mom, and No. 2 and 3 were toys for his sib­lings. Puts ev­ery­thing into per­spec­tive … and still brings tears to my eyes af­ter 18plus years.”

Joshua K. Jones,

of Cape Coral, di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions at In­vest in Amer­ica’s Vet­er­ans Foun­da­tion/South­west Florida Mil­i­tary Mu­seum & Li­brary “Thanks­giv­ing lunch at my un­cle’s home in Or­lando is my most cher­ished hol­i­day rit­ual. But last year also in­cluded sev­eral dishes from South Amer­ica, Ger­many and Italy. It is dif­fer­ent ev­ery year, and I al­ways look for­ward to it.”

Julie Fer­gu­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cape Coral Car­ing Cen­ter

“A cher­ished mem­ory is buy­ing the DirecTV base­ball pack­age for my fa­ther for Christ­mas. My fa­ther loved the Cincin­nati Reds. Get­ting to see all of the Reds games would be ex­tra spe­cial, so to see the ex­cite­ment on his face with the gift was truly a cher­ished mem­ory, as that was the last Christ­mas we got to spend with him be­fore he passed away.”

Tracey Gore, vice mayor of Fort My­ers Beach

“We cousins [Fort My­ers Beach hol­i­day din­ners] would play as our par­ents, grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles and close friends all talked and laughed. Now that I am an adult with kids of my own, I still love the smell of the turkey roast­ing and hav­ing all my fam­ily and close friends around me where I feel so com­fort­able, safe and loved.”

Pete Can­gialosi, Es­tero Coun­cil of Com­mu­nity Lead­ers

“I en­joyed go­ing to Man­hat­tan for fun and es­pe­cially just be­fore Christ­mas to see the var­i­ous hol­i­day shows and tak­ing in the spec­tac­u­lar Christ­mas win­dows and out­door dec­o­ra­tions along Fifth Av­enue and Rock­e­feller Av­enue. It was kind of corny, but with a chill in the air, friends, din­ner and drinks be­fore­hand … and dress­ing up, it was mem­o­rable.”

An­gela Melvin, founder of Fort My­ers-based Va­lerie’s House

“The door­bell rang, and when my lit­tle sis­ter and I ran to the door to an­swer it, there wasn’t any­body there, just a let­ter on the doorstep from ‘Santa.’ My sis­ter and I were about 6 and 8 years old, and we started jump­ing up and down. It was pretty cre­ative for my mom to do that.”

Glo­ria Raso Tate, Cape Coral-based Raso Realty

“We read the Christ­mas story, and had the grand­chil­dren play the parts of the three wise men, baby Je­sus in the manger with Mary and Joseph, and for the sheep we had my sis­ter’s bas­set hound, named Pharaoh, that came all the way from Texas with cot­ton balls all over him. Singing ‘Silent Night’ with our fam­ily all gath­ered to­gether, the dog [sheep] kept walk­ing around. A clas­sic mo­ment in our night.”

Chelsea Gar­lock, Bonita Cham­ber of Com­merce staff li­ai­son to Bonita Young Pro­fes­sion­als

“At­tend­ing the Thanks­giv­ing Day high school foot­ball game in my home­town of Meri­den, Con­necti­cut, is my fa­vorite Thanks­giv­ing Day tra­di­tion. Even if you don’t know any­one play­ing, it has al­ways been the place to catch up with old friends and teach­ers.”

Jim Boesch, mayor of Es­tero

“When our old­est son got his driver’s li­cense, he took our younger son with him and our brand-new car—brag­ging they would go and find the best [Christ­mas] tree EVER! When they walked in the door with ‘best tree ever,’ the tree was so scrawny and short, the dis­ap­point­ment on Diane’s face and mine said it all. Our son the driver went up to his room to­tally in­dig­nant. Af­ter a while our younger son, Doug, asked us: ‘Did Jeff tell you about the car?’ ‘What about the car?’ we asked. ‘When Jeff went to get this tree,’ he told us, ‘he sort of went over a bank and we heard a scrap­ing noise un­der the car!’ You guessed it— the en­tire muf­fler sys­tem on our brand-new car was ru­ined. Right af­ter that Christ­mas, Diane and I bought our first ar­ti­fi­cial Christ­mas tree.”

Kay Jasso, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of MS Cen­ter of South­west Florida, Bonita Springs

“We de­cided to open our home to friends and neigh­bors [Thanks­giv­ing 2009]. We called it Thanks­giv­ing Day Open House. We picked up a few mem­bers of our church from a lo­cal nurs­ing home. We in­vited the neigh­bors, and our friends brought their friends. We wound up with 30 peo­ple in­stead of our usual hand­ful for din­ner. This is now a tra­di­tion, but a few of us take turns host­ing the event.”

Anita Cere­ceda, mayor of Fort My­ers Beach

“The love and sense of be­long­ing felt as you sit around the ta­ble at Thanks­giv­ing or any of the hol­i­days com­pletes me!”

Ali­son Giesen, di­rec­tor of cul­tural re­sources at Mound House on Fort My­ers Beach

“I was su­per ex­cited to find a jew­elry box wrapped up and stuffed all the way down in­side my Christ­mas stock­ing. As my ex­cite­ment grew, I was over­come with dis­ap­point­ment when I shook the box as it made a jin­gle noise like a pair of ear­rings, not the en­gage­ment ring I was hop­ing for. Ha! Lit­tle did I know when I opened it up on Christ­mas Day that it was a wed­ding ring set, with en­gage­ment ring and a wed­ding band to match.”

Chris Pendle­ton, pres­i­dent/CEO of Edi­son & Ford Win­ter Es­tates

“I know it sounds silly, but my most cher­ished r ecent mem­ory is the open­ing night of Hol­i­day Nights at Edi­son Ford [Es­tates]. The gath­er­ing of friends, col­leagues, Edi­son Ford mem­bers and the com­mu­nity to light the tree with ‘Thomas Edi­son,’ sing and tour the lighted homes and gar­dens al­ways re­minds me of an old-fash­ioned hol­i­day event, Florida style.”

Cathy Chest­nut is a free­lance writer and fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia. Dayna Harp­ster is a writer liv­ing in South­west Florida.

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