(Childs is pulling double duty: She wrote and directed The Carols, a holiday-themed musical comedy riff on A Christmas Carol that runs through Dec. 31 at Plays & Players.)
In this time of political division, Childs views Patsy as a healing figure. Despite Patsy's unwillingness to venture north of Snyder Avenue and overlooking her grammatical quirks — she prefers "yous" to "you" — the character is, Childs said, "always the smartest person in the room," full of "down-to-earth, neighborhood wisdom."
We asked "Pats," as she's affectionately known, to offer advice and perspective on maintaining traditions, avoiding dinner-table turbulence, and forging holiday peace among family and friends.
What are holidays like at your residence at 714 Shunk?
For the past 20 years, my husband, Gene, godblesshim, has had a rivalry with our neighbor Richie Marinucci, who lives down the block. This has made Christmas very difficult.
Richie buys a six-foot-tall tree; Gene has to buy a seven-foot-tall tree. On Christmas Eve, Richie's family does the Feast of the Seven Fishes, so we have to do the Feast of the 14 Fishes. Richie has three wise men in his manger scene; Gene has to have four.
I said, "Gene, the three wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What the hell is the fourth one going to bring?"
He said, "Cable." Unbelievable.
How’s your Christmas Eve feast shaping up this year?
My nephew Joey just married a lovely Lutheran girl, and she's insisting on doing the Feast of the Seven Fishes. … I knew we were in trouble when she said the third fish was gonna be Swedish.
Any other treasured holiday traditions?
Our Christmas dinner is very traditional: ham, turkey, and lasagna. My sister Marie brings something sweet; my cousin Marie brings something green; my niece Marie brings something snacky, and my Aunt Marie brings something nutty, my Uncle Vincent. And we always decorate: candles in the windows, a wreath on the door, and Christmas lights on the lawn chairs that hold our parking space in front of our house.
Are you worried this year’s dinner-table conversations will get too political?
Christmas dinner is always tense because my family doesn't agree on anything. So, I made this chart:
You can't talk about politics, but you can talk about food. You can't talk about religion, but you can talk about TV programs. You can't talk about sports teams, but you can talk about the 76ers.
What’s your political affiliation?
I'm very proudly nonbipartisan, which means that I don't like anybody.
How do you feel about our president-elect?
He's kinda like scrapple: Either you love it or you hate it — and even if you love it, deep down, you kinda know it's disgusting.
Anything he can do to improve?
Donald Trump needs to make some New Year's resolutions. First one is, he needs to stop saying he knows more about ISIS than the generals. My husband, Gene, said he knew more than the exterminators, and we still got mice in our basement.
What about us? What can we do to heal divisions?
We got a lot of work to do — you know? At one end of my block, they're very happy: They voted for Trump. At the other end of my block, they're very upset: They're Hillary supporters. I don't wanna make the block parties uncomfortable, so we gotta work together.
We gotta love each other. Otherwise, we're screwed.