Goolo's Christmas

By Terry Economy | Dec 25, 2014

When I was young, there lived in Rockland an old Albanian man called Goolo.

His real name was James Christo. Goolo was a handyman for dirty jobs to the Rockland Albanian families and other Rockland citizens. The way he dressed in baggy old clothes, always dirty, he appeared dumb to some people, but he was not for me. Goolo could do almost everything, I thought at the time.

He lived alone at the end of Winter Street in a small one-roo shanty overlooking the Rockland waterfront. My mother, being a young widow with six children, would call on Goolo for any hard or handy job she could not accomplish. And every Christmas she would send via one of the children a Christmas desserts package to show her appreciation.

One Christmas when I was 10, I was my turn to deliver Goolo's Christmas desserts package. As I knocked on his door, I yelled, "Merry Christmas, Goolo. It's Sotir (my Albanian first name)."

I heard him say, "Come in," not knowing what to expect to see. As I opened the door, my first glance was at the floor. It was dirt. There was a kerosene lamp hanging from one of the wooden beams, and at the end of the room was a tin wood stove. As he greeted and thanked me for the Christmas package, I noticed on top of the stove in a pot he was boiling a chicken.

He said it was about time to remove the chicken from the pot to let it cool.And then he was going to cut the chicken in pieces, coat them in flour, sprinkle them with paprika and fry them in butter. Goolo wanted to know if I would stay and have his Christmas dinner with him. After all, he said, having Christmas dinner alone would not be too much fun. I agreed to stay, and I could see a twinkle in his eyes in his dirty old face that he was happy to have company on this Christmas day.

I asked him if there was anyting I could do to help prepare dinner, and he tossed me a burlap apron he had made and said I could peel potatoes and put them in a pail of water on the stove to boil. I sensed he was very happy to have me as his guest, and I started to ask him questions about his life.

"My boy, you're the only young Albanian to inquire about my life."

As he chattered about his youth years in Albania, I noticed hanging on the wall was a brass bugle.

"Goolo," I said, as I reached up and grabbed the dusty bugle from the wall, "tell me about this bugle."

As he took the bugle from my hand, he said, "This is the bugle I had while in the Albanian Army fighting the Turks in the Balkan War."

I said, "Could you play something for me?"

Goolo stared at me, and said, "Sotir, I will play you the tune, I will play the charge to arms."

He stood at attention and blew the bugle, not missing a single note. It was so loud and so beautiful. The front door flew open so the north end of Rockland could hear it.

After having Christmas dinner with Goolo, and more yarns, I went home and my mother wanted to know why I was so late. I told her about my Christmas dinner with Goolo. She gave me a kiss on the cheeks and said, "I can't think of a better Christmas present than you have given Goolo."

As the years passed, every time Goolo would visit our family store, Economy's Fruit on Park Street, I would kid him and ask if he brought his bugle with him. And he would smile with that twinkle in his eyes and say, "You would have to come to my home if you want to listen to the charge to arms."

I never did.

Goolo died when I was in my late teens. During the graveside burial service, my mother handed me a brown bag, and said, "Goolo wanted you to have this." It was the brass bugle.

"No," I said. "It belongs to him." And I placed the bugle on his casket.

* * *

A Christmas Memory

It was one Christmas even when I still belileved in Santa. My sister Virginia and I left a snack for him and a wish list.

We went to bed and during the middle of the night, I woke up and I thought I heard hooves on the roof. I immediately got out of bed and woke up my sister in her bedroom all excited and said, "Santa's reindeer are on the roof."

She put her finger over my mouth and said, "Shhh. Don't scare him. He may not come down the chimney." I jumped in bed and put the covers over my head and fell asleep.

When early morning came, I ran downstairs and, sure enough, the snack was gone. And there was a note from Santa that one of the gifts I wanted he could not get me because of the war. It was a model World Ware II airplane. And Santa said he would try to get one for my birthday, which was Jan. 31.

Sixty or more years later, during my quiet time on Christmas eve in my comfortable chair, thinking of Christmas eve, I can still hear Santa's reindeer on the roof one Christmas eve at 9 Prescott St., Rockland.

By the way, I got my model airplane on my birthday.

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