It caused great sadness when we learned long time DMAL/APWU GMF Tour 3 Steward Martin Murphy passed away last week. Martin was a 34 year Postal employee who had been planning his retirement. Those of us who knew Martin knew him to be knowledgeable about all aspects of union administration and contract administration. Martin served the DMAL/APWU as Vice-President from 1982 until 1992 and was the local’s first Legislative Director. The DMAL/APWU is much better today because of the efforts of Martin Murphy. He will be sorely missed.
Services for Martin Murphy are going to be for family only as that was his wish. No flowers at his request and if you wish to donate, make donations to the Fisher House in Martin’s name. Sharon, Martin’s sister, will accept cards and they can be sent to:
2512 S. Xavier St.
Denver, CO 80219
Ghost of Christmas Past
by Martin Murphy, Executive Vice-President (1985)
As I sit thinking about what to write for my Christmas article, a flood of memories begin to crowd my mind. Like a ghost from Christmas past guides my hand, I am compelled to reminisce on paper of my childhood days in a magic wonderland called Christmas.
The Christmas season began in earnest for my family, usually on my sister’s birthday which is the 12th of December. That day the Christmas tree went up. Of course it was a real tree and had been standing outside for at least a day before then. To let the branches fall, my father had said. I could never figure that out since I knew it had been standing in the Christmas tree lot for several days before we adopted it.
It was terribly hard waiting a whole day to dress that naked tree, but when the time came, it was a family affair. First went the lights. Big, multi-colored bulbs we had checked out before hand. One string looked like candles with colored water that bubbled after they got warm. My parents let my 2 brothers, sister and I do all the decorating.
After the lights went the ornaments. Large, shiny, gaudy looking things. No 2 alike, collected over the years and each with a memory. Next came the tinsel. Icicles we called them. Strips of aluminum foil that were impossible for us to place on one at a time on the burdened branches no matter how hard or how many times my mother reminded us of the necessity of patience. When we were done I’m sure, thinking about it now, it would have placed high in an ugly tree contest had others judged it, but it was a thing of great beauty to me.
My parents always tried their best for as long as possible to give us the belief of Santa Claus. It was always a struggle to keep my older brothers from breaking the sad news to me and my younger sister, but I’m thankful to my parents for that special effort. They realized, I think, the magic that ruled a child’s mind, spiced by anticipation and the wonder of all things good which that season can mean. Plus there was the added fact that ya had to be good ‘cause Santa would know if ya wasn’t and your Christmas plunder would depend on it.
Even school was fun then. We practiced our songs and skits for the Christmas program. We made such beautiful and excellent gifts for relatives in art class with just a little colored paper, scissors, paste and maybe a pie plate or milk carton. We conspired and dreamed of the fabulous wealth that would be ours on Christmas day. After all, we had sent out our much thought out and lengthy list to Santa back in October and were sure our parents mailed them ‘cause they put the stamp on ‘em right in front of us.
Our parents belonged to the Grange. It was like an Elks Club for farmers. Every year there was a big-to-do there for Christmas, too. A big pot luck dinner, square dancing and such. We made popcorn balls and went caroling and, of course, Santa was there with candy. As I got older, I was entrusted with the fact that my father was Santa at the Grange every year. They always told us that Santa looked like your Dad to every kid. Ingenious, these parents.
At home special treats were the rule this time of the year. I remember a big bowl of nuts always being there. I mostly just liked using the nut cracker. My Mom always made her special fudge along with cookies, cakes and candy. It was very special when my Grandfather would come and visit and he made a special effort to do so at Christmas. Those seemingly endless 2 weeks were filled with fun and special things. Finally at last it was Christmas Eve. One more day, but it was the best.
While one of us still had the possibility of the belief in Santa, the presents weren’t put under the tree till we were all in bed that night, but there were gifts from relatives and each other there to tantalize us and it was so close to the time that beautiful paper could be ripped to shreds and the treasure revealed. The day would be spent in frenzied play. If there was snow, we’d be in it. Sledding, snowball fights, building a snowman, you name it. Coming into the house, faces glowing and laughing, to the welcome warmth and smells was a piece of heaven. My mother would be playing Christmas songs on the small organ my grandfather had made for her. And he would be quietly smiling as he asked us “What’s cooking?” He always said that. My father would be in a particularly playful mood and it was always special when he’d wrestle with all of us at once or patiently let us tickle him. He’d really jump when ya poked him in the ribs.
That evening we’d go out for dinner. Something rare again. Then come home and talk, laugh, play games. My sister and I, ‘cause we were youngest and closer in age, would lie under the tree and play guessing games with large eyes on the loot.
We’d be shooed off to bed as early as my parents could get away with it without starting a riot. I never could figure out why they didn’t let us stay up ‘cause we were never able to sleep. Of course, I knew that we weren’t supposed to see Santa Claus, but he didn’t get around till after midnight or so my logic at the time told me. My parents just told us Santa wouldn’t come till we were asleep and sent us off to bed with dire threats that if we sneeked up to see Santa, that he’d leave and what’s worse, take our presents with him. ‘Course now the wisdom of many years lets me guess the true reason. They had a lot of work to do. They had to retrieve the presents from wherever parents hid such things, put them under the tree all wrapped pretty, even for such a short time. They had to eat the cookies and milk we’d left out for Santa and fill the stockings hung with care by our fake fireplace. (We were always concerned with our parents leaving the door unlocked ‘cause we didn’t have a chimney for Santa to come down.)
One Christmas morning, I tempted fate by quietly sneeking upstairs to catch a glimpse of the jolly fat man. I got as far as the kitchen at the top of the stairs. My father was there getting the Christmas turkey ready. Then I had to back track just as quietly. I guess I figured it was all right for parents to see him. I was sure my father never heard me, but thinking about it now, I wish he had. He would’ve gotten a kick out of it. After the ecstatic torture of an endless sleepless Christmas Eve night, we would band together long before the sun was up to wake our parents for the long awaited moment. Sometimes, but not very often, it was a little bit too early and we’d be sent back to bed. But, when they got up and put on their robes, we knew it was time. The Christmas tree lights were turned on to reveal what seemed an immense mountain of presents.
To this day, the Murphy’s don’t waste time getting a present open. We rip those suckers open, paper and ribbon flying. All except my Mom. She always took her time. We could never figure it out how she just couldn’t wait to see what we’d got her. Could have something to do with the fact that every year we kids got her a robe and slippers. We spent most of the morning playing with our toys and such. I always figured my brothers spent too much time helping me play with mine. They were older and I think missed the toys although seemed happy enough with their “grown up” presents. I mean, how much time can ya spend playing with a sweater?
Then there was church, Christmas dinner with the relatives and friends, and playing with the toys of the cousins. Every year my parents sacrificed to provide me with those memories that serve me today. For me to enjoy Christmas to the fullest depends on the degree I can enter the time machine of the mind and view it through the eyes of a child. As this Christmas nears, I thank you for the opportunity to relive for a short time those memories and my wish for you during those long hours of the Christmas rush to remember those of your own and to build on them for tomorrow. My father was a union man, as I am. In my heart I feel that what he was and I am can be put as simply as wanting to keep and provide future such pleasant visits from the ghost of Christmas past.