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"A Ghost of Christmas Past"

By       Message Charles L. Riccillo     Permalink
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SCHROEDER WOULD LOVE IT--While many of the snow scuptures in the Pueblo area were no more than a tribute to the holiday season, this one at 529 Moffat Street saluted Beethoven.  Ten persons observed the composer's birthday Saturday Night.  Beethoven, ideal of Schroeder in the comic strip "peanuts," was left out in the cold, however with only two candles to keep him warm.  With the sculpture is the artis, Chuck Riccillo of 1417 E. Ninth Street.--Staff photo by Roscover of the Pueblo Star Journal and Chieftain.

 No,my friends, this is no tale of woe. I've no Dickensian, miserly,qualities or characters come to haunt me. It's just Charles musing yet again, and writing his way out of a holiday, depressive funk.Fortunately,throughout my life, I've worked with people of great talent,intellect, and kindness. So there's no Marley knocking at my door, dragging chains to disturb my sleep this yuletide, nor any Spirit of Christmas Future taking me to view my tombstone and neglected grave--or a crowd at my funeral rejoicing that I at last kicked the bucket!     

But it's just like Christmas, is it not, to bring up memories? So I always revisit the past about this time each year. But the preponderance of my remembrance is not of misery, but of lessons learned and serendipitous events. In my youth, particularly the Winter of 1972, I was still, although no longer a teenager, a rebellious youth. As an angry young man, I'd protested the non-renewal of beloved, multi-talented Assistant Professor of Theater, Don Seay, by Southern Colorado State College. It upset me enough that I dropped all classes but private voice with Doyle Muller. In the Riccillo household, this didn't bode well.   

Inevitably, my father and I argued. His temper proved formidable, equally as bad as mine.  One evening at dinner he told me that if I wasn't in school, he'd not support me under his roof. You know the routine: get a haircut, get a job!? I didn't care to do either. Of course that meant I had space elsewhere when I flung my knife and fork down on the dinner table, and took my leave, with only a paper bag of clothing and toiletries with which to make my way. I didn't tell my family where I was going. It was perhaps in more than one way, a case of "don't ask-don't tell." Luckily, as in several instances in my life, a friend took me in. Tom Knight welcomed me to his house with open arms. Unlike Joseph and Mary, throughout my lifetime, when I was nearly homeless, there's always seemed to be strangers with room at their inns. 

Tom was a bit of an enigmatic character, who loved his vodka,  Smirnoff, and his music--with his unfailing favorite, Beethoven.  He decided that, December the sixteenth being the great maestro's birthday, we should celebrate it with friends in grand style! Lobster, and steak, plenty of wine, and an unending supply of vodka, in addition to "BYO" supplies. Then, looking at the life-sized poster of Beethoven from the waist up he had framed in his living room, it came to me. Since it had snowed the morning of the sixteenth, I opened the curtains, and went outside to play in the snow. I couldn't foresee the odd consequences. While Tom was shopping, I packed and sculpted a realistic, life-sized bust of old Ludvig in the snow. Tom returned to see it, laughing with delight. Then, as friends arrived for the party, and darkness came, he placed and lit candles beside it. The usual Christmas decoration peepers came driving through the neighborhood, resulting in a strange sequence of events. I must confess that it got quite a bit drunk out that evening. But it did no harm, since anyone who drank heavily crashed on floor, chair,or sofa.     

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About 11:00 P.M., a Chieftain and Star Journal photographer arrived, asking to take a shot of the sculpture with the artist. And I, in a heartily happy, inebriated state, was more than glad to oblige!  Soon Monday morning, my artistry and self were prominently displayed in the newspaper! I didn't realize at the time that the photographer would list both the address of my slowly melting museum piece, and my home address as well. In the afternoon, my youngest brother, Ed, arrived as a family emissary. He told me Mom was frantic with worry, my father still angry, and I should return home immediately. I said I couldn't do that because Dad and I simply couldn't get along.  So I did the next best thing, and went to the home of my kindly aunt Bessie Bellitti. Yes,yet again, there was room at the inn. Winter turned to Spring and then fall. She helped me to finance a car loan, before I went off the Troupe of American College Players in Grand Lake, Colorado, in my first paying stint as a mummer stock actor - room and board and $25.00 a week! Then it was on to Laramie, and the University of Wyoming, following my friends, Guy and Carla Petty, and the Seay family.  

Now, in 2008, I'm yet again contemplating my future, hoping to publish, perform with my newly regained singing voice, and perhaps even act again professionally. Who knows? I might even be able to do some critiquing for Gourmet and Bon Appetíte magazines. Somehow, it'll turn out okay. So,I'll now bid my gentle spirits of the past farewell for another year,and wish all of you a merry Christmas, or happy Hanukkah. Yes, buon' Natale, feliz Navidad, "merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night" - and a prosperous new year for us too

Below: Charles as Schroeder in the Southern Colorado State College's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!"

The author these days, who has published nearly 100 articles for the Pueblo Chieftain.


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EARLY 50's BOOMER:Leo.Decidedly heterosexual & available EDUCATION;Roman Catholic grade & college-prep, Roncalli High '69, Honors grad, Triple Distinction,National Forensic League.BA: Theatre Univ.WY ''75 Outstanding Theatre Senior & "Who's Who (more...)

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