Remembering Gramps on a Warm Christmas past

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

What a beautiful day outside.

Seeing small kids playing with someone who looked like their grandfather in Delaware Park just now takes me back 35 years to a similar scene in Cazenovia Park, on a similar beautiful just-before-Christmas day. The only difference— unlike these carefree kids, all was not right in my world.

Gramps  & me...
The first pic of Gramps & me…

It was a quick run across Seneca Street from Grandma and Grandpa Cichon’s into Caz Park, and Gramps loved taking us for a walk whenever he was not on his way to work at the track (Buffalo Raceway) when we’d stop over on a Saturday morning.

The walk part of the walks were longer in the winter, because our visits to Caz weren’t punctuated by a visit to “the swings, and the slides, and the horseys,” as Gramps always called the playground in a sing-song kind of way.

We’d come back to Grandma’s house from taking these walks nearly frozen by the harsh South Buffalo winter, and really having earned our hot chocolate with real marshmallows.

But this day wasn’t one of those days. Much like today, the grass was green and lush, the sun was shining, and instead of shivering we were probably sweating—unnecessarily overdressed in layers on a 50 degree day, for fear that the Blizzard of ’77 would quickly revisit Seneca Street while we were on our 90 minute hike.

And despite the beautiful weather, this day, there were no swings to play on—the city parks department was much more rigid about taking swings down in those days. It was by date, not by weather forecast.

Anyway, this day I’m thinking about, we were on one of our epic walks taking in most of Cazenovia Park from the ball diamonds to the ends of the golf course. I should have been enjoying the warmth—and not a flake of snow in sight, but I wasn’t.

There was growing concern in my Kindergartener heart, and I had to share it with someone I could trust. Gramps was the man, for sure.

“Grandpa,” I asked, probably with doe-like eyes fluttering, “if Santa’s sleigh doesn’t work because there’s no snow, how will he be able to deliver our presents?”

“Santa has a helicopter, son,” he said reassuringly without skipping a beat. I’m still warmed by his reassurance.

I don’t remember what I was hoping Santa would deliver that year, but I know I was excited to deliver to Gramps—no chopper necessary—a gift bearing the brand name Skin Bracer, Old Spice, or Hickory Farms. He always loved our presents no matter what they were.

Gramps was special because he had the mind of a man and the heart of a child. We should all be so blessed.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. The operator of Buffalo Stories Tours writes about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo special at blog.buffalostories.com and daily at buffalonews.com/history. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and spent 20 years working in Buffalo radio and TV, climbing his way to news director at WBEN Radio. Since then, he's been an adjunct professor and produced PBS documentaries. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.