The Singers’ Worst Christmas Ever
One year when Marcia was perhaps 10 years old or so, she spent Christmas in Pennsylvania and Atlantic City with some of her cousins. She had a great time with them, but they didn’t celebrate Christmas because they followed Jewish customs and while they did give the kids some gifts, it just wasn’t the same as being home with her family and Marcia got homesick. She vowed that she would always be home for Christmas after that.
This however, is not the Worst Christmas Ever. It pales in comparison.
In the fall of 1971, Marcia was in her second year of art school at Pels School of Art in Manhattan. She loved it, but there wasn’t “homework” and she had a lot of time on her hands and decided to get a part-time job to help fill the hours. She applied at the Sears in Jackson Heights where her sister, Lynn, worked. She figured that might help get her in.
She was offered the perfect job: night hours in the telephone catalog area. It was a cinch. People would call up with their orders, you wrote down all those little numbers and voila! They would get their merchandise in the mail. It could get busy though with many calls coming in, but it was manageable. There was a regular day person and a few other girls who also worked the evening shift. Marcia became friends with one of them. Let’s call her Jenny, although memory fails and this is not her real name.
One day in mid-December, Jenny remarked, “You do know that we’re getting fired right before Christmas, don’t you?”
What? Fired? Marcia was astonished. “No, they never told me that. Why?”
“This is a seasonal job. Once the Christmas rush is over, they won’t need us,” Jenny told her as she had been through this before.
Marcia was so disappointed, but took it in stride. “Well then, when that happens, let’s go out and get drunk,” she suggested. Jenny agreed that was the thing to do!
On the day before Christmas Eve, both Marcia and Jenny got the ax and so made their plans for a decadent evening.
Jenny had a car and place in mind so they went there and ordered the first round of drinks. Marcia wasn’t much of a drinker, but she could scarf down a Screwdriver. However, she wasn’t prepared for the size of this one! It came in a huge, frosty beer stein, but it was good. So good, in fact, that she had three of them. Yes, three huge drinks on an empty stomach since food wasn’t in the picture.
She vaguely remembers them meeting and flirting with two boys and a ride home in the wee hours, but not much else. Apparently liquor makes you stupid, but they were lucky and nothing happened to them, a minor miracle in itself.
So the next morning, sometime around 11:00 a.m., Marcia finally staggers out of bed in a daze, feeling quite crappy and hung over. She goes into the kitchen where her mother, Martha, was sitting drinking coffee wearing her thin nightgown and a light robe. Marcia sat down, still in her pajamas and a stupor.
Out of the blue, Martha says she isn’t feeling very good at all and is bleeding from “down there”. She stands up, and Marcia watches in horror as blood drips down her mother’s leg onto the floor! She was sobering up fast!
Martha went to her bedroom to lie down. Meanwhile, Marcia was clueless as to what to do and so instinctively called her sister, Lynn, who was married and lived in Flushing, and told her that their mother was hemorrhaging and to get there pronto. She made it in record time and quickly called the family doctor, Dr. Koevesdi.
These were different times than today and because Dr. Koevesdi was close with the family and his office was only one block away, he hustled over to the apartment immediately and checked on Martha. She was 50 years old at this time.
“She needs to go to the hospital. Call an ambulance,” he told them grimly with no details.
They called one and were told that $50 in cash would have to be paid in advance. Marcia went to her little “stash” and coughed up the money. By this time, panic had set in and both girls were frantic with worry. They waited in agony for the ambulance to arrive.
When it finally did, they bundled Martha onto a gurney and loaded her up. Marcia got in with her to ride along while Lynn said she would follow in her small car.
It was Christmas Eve. Traffic in Queens, New York was horrendous all the time but today it was worse with so many people out doing last minute shopping and errands. The ambulance didn’t put on the siren for some unknown reason and so just inched its way along to the hospital to which she wanted to go. The trip seemed interminable to Marcia and Lynn.
Right across the street from their apartment was Elmhurst Hospital, a large pink-bricked structure, but it was not where she went. They were taking her to some other huge place that had a better reputation.
Martha asked where Lynn was and Marcia looked out and told her, “She’s right behind us. There’s no way she’ll lose us, even in this traffic.”
Martha quipped back, “If this driver stops short, she’ll be right up our ass!”
The guy in the ambulance and the driver too, laughed out loud at that, but that was Martha: joking in the midst of adversity. She would do this again much later when she was battling cancer: make funny remarks to diffuse the tension.
Martha was admitted and Marcia and Lynn eventually went home. Martha had a bleeding fibroid that had to be removed. However, while in the hospital, she also had a gall bladder attack and was quite deathly ill over the Christmas and New Year holiday. It put all of them in a very somber mood.
Needless to say, Christmas at home was non-existent. No one could muster up any enthusiasm. Everyone was worried about Martha. After about three weeks, she came home and life eventually resumed its everyday normalcy.
Christmas that year was the worst ever for the family, but what they remember most is Martha, in that ambulance, in pain and no doubt scared out of her wits, being her outspoken self and worrying more about everyone else. That’s what they loved about her.