A South Philly Christmas story

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A young Pasquarello meeting Santa Claus on the day described in her short story. | Photo courtesy of Josephine Pasquarello

One South Philly local embraced the holiday spirit by reminiscing on past Christmas memories through a short story of hers.

“Through the Eyes of a Six-Year-Old,” which was written by Josephine Pasquarello and featured in Philadelphia Row Home Magazine, features Pasquarello detailing one particular Christmas memory of hers that took place in 1956 when she was 6 years old. 

On the day in question, Pasquarello, along with her oldest sister Trudy, Trudy’s boyfriend, two of her brothers and two of her sisters, all packed into a convertible and made the trip to the legendary John Wanamaker department store. In telling the story, Pasquarello recalled her excitement to meet Santa Claus for the first time as well as being enthralled by all the new toys the store had to offer.

“To go into Wanamaker’s and see all those toys and everybody, to me it was like we were in another world,” Pasquarello said.

However, no toys were actually bought that day. Growing up with her 11 other siblings on Hoffman Street, Pasquarello experienced her fair share of poverty. She said there were many Christmases when she and her siblings woke up to a Christmas tree without presents underneath it.

Yet, the family was never ashamed about their reality, even when they were around their peers who were fortunate enough to receive gifts. To Pasquarello, just seeing how people in those situations lived was enough for her.

“We weren’t embarrassed or hurt to say, ‘Well, we didn’t get anything but the candy cane on the tree,’ ” Pasquarello said. “We were cool with it. But to see how the other world lived was really amazing to us.”

Writing hadn’t always been Pasquarello’s main passion. She had spent the better part of 25 years working in the restaurant business in addition to becoming the head of a house-cleaning service in the Philly area before retiring in 2000.

As she began spending time with her grandchildren and reciting stories from her upbringing, she soon became inspired to take up writing.

“We’d be driving down to the beach house and they would go, ‘Grandma, tell us a story,’ ” Pasquarello said. “When I would go home, I would start writing the stories down, and I just started to write more stories about my family.” 

Family has always been the main focus of her writing. While her upcoming book will focus on her family’s immigration from Italy, Pasquarello’s first book, Love and Loyalty, revolved around her father, who passed away when she was very young, and mother, whom she cites as having a major influence on her life.

“My mother was really cool,” Pasquarello said. “I only raised one kid on my own. And in my head, I used to say, ‘How did she raise 12 kids?’ ”

Pasquarello hopes that her Christmas story not only brings back fond memories for her readers, but encourages them to enjoy the holidays in a similar manner by going out and experiencing things like the mall.

“To me, that’s exciting to just see everyone in such a happy, good mood,” Pasquarello said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we stayed like that all the time?”