By Kevin Canessa Jr.
I guess as one grows older, the meaning of Christmas changes. When I was a wee lad, growing up and living in Jersey City, I never really understood how lucky I was – and it took me until I was in my mid-20s to realize that I had a truly wonderful mom.
If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you a little bit about her.
She had me in 1974, when she was just 21. I think back to when I was 21, and could never have envisioned being a parent. Yet somehow, mom, who was just three years out of high school, had me. And from the get-go, she did it all by herself.
Dad, even back in 1974, was absent. He chose to spend more time at bars, Mets games, you name it. But when it came to raising me, he was never anywhere to be found. Eventually in the late ‘70s, mom and dad divorced – and I haven’t seen him since 1981. Back then, it was because that’s just the way it was. Now it’s by choice.
In all those years, from 1974 to 1979 – and beyond as I got older – mom did everything in her power to ensure I had the best Christmas.
I always got what I asked for – whether as a younger kid it was high steppers from “Romper Room,” or as I got older, from TVs, to VCRs, to microphones – if I named it, I got it.
Looking back, it’s hard to think about what she did and not feel a sense of sadness on one end, and gratefulness on the other. Because she sacrificed everything for me. And when I say everything, I mean it.
I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like in my 20s if I had no other choice but to make sacrifices for my child. Yet that’s what she did – so often – and not just at Christmas time.
The sacrifices went so far beyond the holidays it wasn’t even funny.
Some of the bigger ones involved school. In 1985, mom made the decision to move from the Jersey City Heights to Kearny. One reason was because the rest of the family was in Kearny. The other was because she didn’t want me to go to Dickinson High School which, at the time, was an absolute war zone. Instead, moving to Kearny would open great opportunities to go to Kearny High School.
And what did I do?
I remembered that back in 1984, I had this determination to go to St. Peter’s Prep, because I loved the Jesuits and in particular, the Rev. John Browning, S.J.
Going to Prep wasn’t cheap, either. Still isn’t. But for four years, as she worked like crazy, there I was in September 1988 at Prep in Downtown Jersey City.
Then, despite having nearly a full, free ride at Seton Hall University, I decided I wanted to go to Salve Regina University, Newport, R.I., that wasn’t going to be free – it was the complete opposite. Not a penny in aid or assistance or scholarship.
But there I was again, at the university I wanted to attend.
All because mom always made sure I got whatever I want.
She did it all by herself.
And while I know there are thousands – countless stories out there about great moms – I wanted to share with you a little bit about my own and all she’s done for me throughout my life.
Maybe there’s someone in your life who had a similar impact. What better time is there to recall such a person than during the holidays?
With ease, I am so grateful for all my mother has done for me my entire life. This Christmas, I say “thank you” in a most public way. Thank you, mom, for being the greatest mother a human could ever ask for. I love you – and am grateful beyond words.
Odds and ends
• It will be one year ago on Dec. 26 that I got one of, if not the greatest Christmas presents of all time. It was that day that Bob Pezzolla, general manager of The Observer, called to tell me I’d be coming back, full time, to the newspaper.
Since March, being back in New Jersey has been a tremendous gift, returning to the one place I could ever call home and mean it – at The Observer and Kearny. Not a week goes by I don’t think about this “gift,” and amazingly, not a week goes by that I don’t bump into someone I haven’t seen in ages. Saying thank you, Bob, is not enough. That I can see my mom and Mike, mom’s boyfriend, whenever I want, now, is something beyond just the words “thank you.”
It’s been life changing.
• Jan. 1 marks 17 years since Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos took office as the town’s mayor, just a year-plus after he beat me, pretty handily, in a race for Second Ward Councilman (in 1998). Over that time, Santos has only had a few challenges for his seat – from Harold Delaney, John Leadbeater and Jim Mangin – and no one came close to beating him. (In 1999, his first run for mayor, Santos had two primary opponents in former and then-sitting Mayor Pete McIntyre and former First Ward Councilman Ed Callaghan.)
But we’re hearing there may be a challenger for the seat from within the Democratic Party in the next mayoral election – 2017. Our source wasn’t ready to reveal who the challenger might be – or if there’d be a full slate of opposition candidates in each of the four wards – but it would, indeed, be something to see a contested election in Kearny.
That’s all for now. To all readers and advertisers, I wish you the best for a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any holiday you do or don’t observe. No matter what, I just hope it’s a time for peace and for happiness for each of you. After a trying 2016, I’d think we could all use a pick-me-up this holiday season, no? Cheers, one and all.
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer, Kevin Canessa Jr. Reach Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook @kevincanessa.