Notes from a Jersey Girl

by Lisa G Westheimer

A Fond Christmas Memory

1 Comment


Christmas gift cards with their holiday themed candy ready for distribution.

There are many many people who keep the West Orange Westheimers operating efficiently and they are all very much appreciated.  Every year we receive lists of names of employees of the NYC apartment building and our gated community.  Add to them there are the unsung heroes who do the heavy lifting to keep the house and grounds running- the garbage men, the handyman, the crew from the cleaning service, the apartment cleaning lady, the mail carrier, UPS man, paper delivery person, Fed Ex, the list seems endless!

But these people have a very special place in my heart.  They are on the job, every day, doing all the things no one in their right mind, given the choice, would want to do.  Their invisibility also is a sign of their efficiency, as really, the only way you would notice most of them if the garbage piled up, the mailbox was empty, no paper at the end of the driveway, the apartment and house robbed blind, the weeds out of control.

I have a tradition that started way before I had the means to implement it: candy with the card containing the tip.  It goes back to a very fond Christmas memory.  In honor of the occasion, as my little Christmas gift to you, please find the following:

When I was 19, I was in college, going to New York University’s Washington Square University College (called something else now, this was in 1981.)  I was living at home with my parents in New Jersey, trying to save up enough money to move to Greenwich Village.  It seemed at the time a remote possibility, but that was the goal (I did wind up moving there when I was 20.)  I had a part time job as a receptionist in an architectural firm in the Flatiron District.  The pay was decent and it was interesting, I liked my co-workers and in my down time at my desk I could study.  My job was mostly answering phones, processing mail and packages going in and out, scheduling meetings, filing, a little typing and greeting and ushering clients into the conference room.  There were 3 partners in the firm with fairly steady clients and I got to know each from their frequent visits.

My first Christmas working for the firm, one of the clients came in the week before Christmas and gave me, the secretary and the book keeper each a card and a 1/4 pound box of Godiva chocolate.  Godiva!  A 1/4 pound gold box tied with a red bow!  I had never had Godiva chocolate before.  This was major, the equivalent today for me would be getting an Hermes scarf, or a couple hundred pounds of clay.  I was so thrilled, so touched that this man would take the trouble to give me, the person who answered the phone, took his coat and fetched coffee something so nice.  I figured he must have been very rich to be handing out little gold boxes willy nilly like that!

I carried my treasure home to New Jersey.  My mother, father, grandmother and I sat around the dining room table with the box in the middle.  Their little girl, all grown up, working in the Big City, coming home with such luxury.  I ceremoniously opened it.  Inside was a sheet with pictures and descriptions of each piece!  This was so special, what a tremendous treat.  None of us had ever had any candy this nice before.  My father read the sheet, pointing to each piece.  How to choose?  We ended up each taking one at a time, taking a tiny bite and passing it along, so at the end we each got a taste of every single piece, discussing how utterly marvelous the flavors were as we went.  It was a moment in our Christmas that we shared that was something special, unexpected, magical.  A rare treat all of us could enjoy together with the same sense of wonder.  Having my family around the table with me enjoying my largess remains one of my fondest Christmas memories.  I’m sure that man never gave a second’s thought as to the impact of his small gesture.

From that moment on I vowed that if I ever had the means I would repeat the gesture.  When the list was short and the economy good there were the same 1/4 boxes of Godiva.  But when the list grew exponentially and the economy crashed and I wanted to support my local businesses I found Bromilow’s and their festive Santas, snowmen and little stocking purses filled with chocolate balls.  Now that Godiva is in every mall, their catalog in every mailbox, available on line with the click of a button,  and rival high quality chocolates abound, I doubt that any of the people I gift these items to feels the same way I did those many years ago.  But I hope to at least give them a glimmer of a smile when they get their card with the candy taped to it.  I would have loved to see the expression on Eric’s face when he got his.  He comes twice a month with the huge truck at the crack of dawn to empty the manure dumpster.  I put his in a zip lock bag and duct taped it to the lid.  😉



Author: Lisa G Westheimer

I am a ceramic and glass artist living and working in West Orange, NJ, USA. I have a masters degree in ceramics from Montclair State University and teach at the Montclair Art Museum, both in Montclair, NJ. Prior to this I was co-owner of "The Manhattan Expedition Inc" and was a NYC Building Code and Zoning Specialist in Manhattan, my main claim to fame as a Loft Conversion Specialist in Soho and Tribeca in the 1980's and 1990's, and a specialist in Landmarks Preservation and Special Places of Assembly, particularly the Fashion Shows in Bryant Park and any weird sort of thing happening in Manhattan worthy of getting thrown out of the Commissioner's office. But mostly I'm a Jersey Girl, born in Rutherford, schooled in a private school in Montclair, did a stint living in Greenwich Village then Soho before fleeing to Llewellyn Park in West Orange, NJ where I learned how to clean and restore stuffed bald eagles!!!! I can mostly be found in my studio or on the campus of The Montclair Art Museum (where I teach) or on the back of my horse Buddy, either in my backyard or at a farm in Sussex County.

One thought on “A Fond Christmas Memory

  1. What a wonderful memory! This a great time of year to try to bring smiles to the faces of those who work hard all year, especially when they don’t expect it.


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