Bonnie Shell's Life Stories

What did you look forward to the most as a child?

The first thing I remember looking forward to was going to school. We lived a block from the public school, and I would see the kids walk past our house daily. So one day, without telling my mom, I decided to join the kids and go to school. Fortunately, my mother saw me just as I was going to cross the street. She ran and got me just as I was entering the building. I had yet to plan for what I would do once in the school.

The other thing I looked forward to was Christmas. It wasn't about the gifts because I never wanted anything special. One year when I went to see Santa, I asked him to bring my mom a bathrobe. He made a big deal about it.

The best thing about Christmas was getting together with my mom's family and having fun with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. After a traditional Polish dinner, all the kids would sit in the living room and sing Christmas carols. Soon we would hear a bell ringing, and Santa would come.

The most fun of that was when Santa would call Grandma to give her a gift, and he would ask the kids if Grandma was good, and we would all shout "YES," and Santa would give Grandma a big hug and a gift. Then he would call Grandpa and ask if Grandpa was good, and all the kids yelled "NO." At that, Santa would put Grandpa over his knee and give him a spanking. The kids would roar with laughter, and Grandpa would promise to be good.

Christmas with my dad's family was much more reserved. My sister, brother, and I were the only children on that side of the family. We always got a lot of toys from mom's family, but we always got clothes from dad's family.

My parents always hosted a New Year's Day dinner. Both sides of the family came to our house. We had a nice fixed-up basement, so we had music playing (mostly polkas}, and everyone danced and had loads of fun. I don't remember having a birthday party, but we had First Communion and Graduation parties.

My parents had many friends and family, so weekends were always exciting. We either went somewhere or had company. We looked forward to Sunday drives when my dad finally got a car. Afterward, we stopped at the Jewish deli for hot corned beef or went to Prince Castle for a banana split.

Life was simple then. We played board games, hide and seek, and sometimes just sat and talked with our friends and relatives. We had no computers or cell phones. Instead, friends who lived out of town got handwritten letters, and we got letters in return.

Life was slower, and I miss that life.