Mark’s stories

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In the true spirit of telling ornament stories, Mark Casasanto from South Philly has been sharing a story a day for 25 days. Here are a sampling of these great stories. You can read all Mark’s stories on Facebook. Thanks Mark! Enjoy!


Ornament #28 on the 26th day of December…
For me not just the day after Christmas, more importantly, my father’s birthday.

He was taken from me when I was just 19 and the good years that should have been never were. Still, he remains the biggest influence in my life and there’s not a day some fiber of his personality doesn’t shine through in me. For that, I am a better person. e of humor, love of life, ability to sniff out bullshit and call you on it, walk with my feet on the ground and my head on a level plain, trusting, loyal and loving to a fault. If that sounds like me, then thank my dad.

So for today’s ornament I offer this… my father was country when country wasn’t cool. Hank Williams, Freddy Fender, Don Williams, Loretta Lynn… He walked the walk with taps on his shoes, white cotton tees, faded Wranglers, the cowboy hat, his loyal dog and the Kenny Rogers beard. The crazy bastard was cool and he would do anything for anyone. One of a kind.

I miss him everyday but cherish the 19 years that he shaped my life.

For him and my love of cowboy boots… giddy up y’all!



Ornament #27….

It’s Christmas Eve and to me, Christmas Eve was always a little bit more special than Christmas.

There was a certain kind of magic about Christmas Eve growing up. In our house you just never knew who would pop in, pop up or pop off. But it was always fun and entertaining. The Seven Fishes… the alley way escapes to your aunts and uncles on either end of the rowhome backroads… the poker games… the sing-a-longs and jam sessions… those who did midnight mass and those who did not… keeping the decorations on all night… chestnuts roasting maybe not on an open fire but definitely roasting on the stove top in a crude yet effective home made pan.

Magic I tell ya. So as for Aladdin…

By far the most naturally funny person for me to ever grace a stage or talk show was Robin Williams. I thought he was an underrated actor and an under appreciated comic. If there’s someone in the biz I genuinely miss, he’s in the top three.


When I look at this ornament I smile and sometimes laugh out loud. In many ways, it reminds me of the laughing, good humor and family fun shared by my large, crazy Italian family, especially during the holidays.

If I could rub that genie lamp and ask for one wish, I would ask for one shot at togetherness again, all of us as one, those who have gone before us and those who have come along since…

Because, we as a society need some help. We need a little magic, a little laughter, more good will towards all, we need a little Christmas now.

doc the dog

Today’s ornament, #21 represents the best gift I ever received.

In spring of 2000, a minor car accident left me hospitalized with MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury), vertigo and eventually post concussion syndrome. Somewhere during the early stages of about a 2 plus year recovery that included countless neurologists, ENT visits, testing, pokes, prods and Magee Rehab, my lead Neurologist at TJU, Dr Steven Mandel recommended to my then wife that if we didn’t have a dog, it might be best to get one. Apparently those with these types of injuries often feel alone, afraid and introverted during recovery. And dogs serve best as a therapy aide and companion for patients during recovery. I have no recall of any of these conversations and very little recall of that entire time period. I do know from being told, that I was capable of bizarre behaviors and crazy mood swings. It wouldn’t be uncommon to find the sugar in the refrigerator and the half n half in the cabinet, grabbing baking dishes from the oven without mitts and fun stuff like that.

What I do remember is….

The afternoon this big, black, ball of energy came bouncing out of a friend’s car. Already struggling with my balance, he damn near knocked me into the facade of my home as a permanent fixture. This was my first day with my new best friend Doc. It was perfect timing as he needed a home for this 10 month old, beautiful Lab / Shar pei mix.

He became my sidekick, companion and guardian of my home and family. Never, ever did he ever leave my side through the MTBI, and ruptured quadricep and Achilles’ tendons surgeries and recoveries. Not too mention every sports injury my children suffered and rehabbed through. He’s now 15 years old and has slowed down considerably.

I miss him terribly but made the best decision for him to let him stay in the home he knows and is comfortable in. I would be doing him a great disservice by moving him with me to a 2nd floor apartment. I treasure the few seconds I get with him when I pick up or drop off my daughter. Still with that big stupid face giving big sloppy kisses.

Here’s my boy….

shell-angel angel

In honor of today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception(December 8), today’s ornaments are my two angels…

Ornaments #5 and #6 in the quest for 25.

The first reflects my love for seashells and purchased in San Diego, CA and the second was an ornament that originally belonged to my very own blessed mother, Mary.



On the 12th day, God thankfully created Francis Albert Sinatra.

Ornament #10 came to me courtesy of my friend Jean N Fritz who not only went up to Hoboken for Sinatra’s Centennial last year, but always remembers her friends and fellow Sinatra admirers whenever she goes or does something fabulous.

Anyway, I remember vividly listening to The Summer Wind on this wonderful new invention called a CD player. Talk about music to my ears!

Seeing Frank many times at the legendary Spectrum and of course, The Sands are wonderful nights of music, fun and friends forever etched into my musical soul.

Truly the best ever. Happy Birthday To the Chairman of the Board. C’ent Anni!

santa-wine santa-hamock

Ornament #2 & Ornament #3 in honor of December’s 25 days ’till Christmas

From that wonderful Christmas Shop on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey:

Santa and I share a common interest… nothing like wine, the beach and a nap on the hammock. In vino veritas!

Nothin like wine, the beach and a nap on a hammock. In vino ver


From a quaint little Christmas Shop in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is one of my favorite and also happens to be one of my oldest ornaments. Not a big fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail. Something about it just shouts “Colonial” plus we all know the story of the Christmas Mouse.



And on this December Sunday morning we turn to ornament #9 on the road to 25….

My love of the piano came in high school when I was unexpectedly thrust into the choir freshman year at St John Neumann HS (an all boys school for those who know not). Initially, I removed myself out of fear but a family friend convinced me to reverse course. I did… not only was it some of the best advice I ever received but one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned that I had a voice, c.. could carry a tune, had an ear for music and picked up piano without ever really knowing how to read music, but more importantly, taught me how to go it alone or as an integral part of a team without fear or embarrassment and stand on my own two feet when I needed to hold my own for the good of a group.

With that said, on the strength of my first job, my dad took me to buy my very own piano. Three versions later, I still turn to the keys when I want to unleash, unload or unwind… #SingAlongsRule

Play It Again Santa…

Not a fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail in this ornament. Something about it just shouts “Colonial”. Plus, we all know the story of “The Christmas Mouse”!

Not a fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail in this ornament. Something about it just shouts “Colonial”. Plus, we all know the story of “The Christmas Mouse”!

Not a fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail in this ornament. Something about it just shouts “Colonial”. Plus, we all know the story of “The Christmas Mouse”!

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