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Holidays in Hi-Fi

By John DiGilio in Miscellaneous on Dec 25, 2010 5:15PM

2010_12_25_XMAS_hifi.jpg Barely making it through the 10th grade, my father was not an educated man. Books and classes neither suited nor served him. His degree came by way of the school of hard knocks. He was a laborer, a family man, and a stern disciplinarian. Yet, at least once a year, my sisters and I would see that gruff exterior melt and his inner child shine through. My dad loved music and he loved Christmas. Though he has been gone for many years now, I can still see him standing in our living room, wearing his winter cap, singing along to his favorites.

Our house was small and modest. We did not have much, but we certainly knew a few of the "modern" comforts. One of them was a console-style stereo system. Several feet high with the biggest speakers I had ever seen, it was almost out of place in our tiny living room. Judging by the path he had worn in front of it, it was my dad's favorite spot in the house. Our Hi-Fi system featured a record player, AM-FM radio, and an 8-track player. I still smile when I remember the single button that played, ejected, and fast-forwarded those large tapes. Oh, and the awful noise it made when it was pressed! But it was high tech for the time and, to my dad, it was the ultimate karaoke machine.

My dad was the consummate home entertainer. He would sit a small tape recorder on the console and croon along to 50s rockers, 60s Motown stars, and country-western kings from any age. He would introduce the acts like they were old friends and address his imaginary audience like a real MC. It was usually just my two sisters and me, sitting on the sofa like three little monkeys. But it was quite a show and we were appreciative spectators. Christmas was extra special, as he had a stack of holiday records and 8-tracks. Charlie Pride, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, he sang them all. Sometimes, we got to sing with him. Other times, we just fought in the background. He would set the recorder and quiet us down. Then he would press the record button and introduce us. The show was on!

My dad loved to share the tapes he made with family and friends. The Christmas tapes were his favorites. As crudely made as they were, they were magical to him. He sang with great pride. To be honest, he had quite a voice. From the faces he made while holding a note to the way he would dance as he sang, you could see that for just a little while my dad was no longer a disabled vet, with weathered skin and the rough hands of a laborer. He was a star on stage. Christmas was never Christmas until dad broke out those records and tapes and welcomed the holiday with song. American Idol, eat your heart out. You can't hold a candle to our old DiGilio family Christmas.