First off: Merry Christmas!
Someone asked recently for our “Best & Worst Christmas” stories, and i was reminded of one in particular that was actually a bit of both…
On or about December Twentieth of 1965 my parents sat my younger brother and I down at the kitchen table to break some bad news.
Truth be told, it was probably the worst news I had ever heard up to that point in all my eight years; They had done their best, and explored every option, but it was becoming painfully clear that there would be no gifts under the tree this year.
Now, I had every confidence in my father’s ability to provide us with a respectable Christmas day. It was no secret to me that he took a second job every year at the end of Summer, just to make sure of that fact. I was entrusted with the duty of running his dinner to him at his second job. I got to hang around the garage with my dad for a brief time, and try to stay out of trouble, while he ate and then sent me home with his dishes.
The part of the story that I couldn’t comprehend at the time was that they had actually bought all of our gifts two weeks prior. Once the car was filled with every last one of our Christmas goodies, they sat in a local diner for a nice celebratory lunch, while a few local thieves broke into their car and stole our Christmas morning. I’ve only seen my mother cry three times in my life, and that was the first one. I was 8 years old, and to me it was the end of the world.
With only 3 days left to Christmas, and with the eternal optimism that only a child can muster, I decided that it was the right time for me to be a hero and save Christmas for my mother. For my kid brother…and maybe even a bit for me, too.
Adults are completely blind to this fact, but every child knows: Kids have one tiny bit of magic for Emergency Use Only. A personal mojo. That magic bean in the pocket that only he or she can use, because it would never work for a grownup. Santa Claus only listens to children. Everyone knows that, it’s just common sense.
I wrote the most honest and heart-felt letter to my Secret pal Santa Claus that I could manage, because it was time to play the only ace I had up my sleeve.
I pleaded with him, grown-up to grown-up of course, to please bring some last minute gifts for my little brother and for my mom. Guy was only 4, and that’s just too little to bear this kind of pain and he desperately wanted ( probably because we’re Irish), one of those cool new toy spuds, aptly named “Mister Potato Head”. Of course, if it’s not too much trouble, the one toy I wanted more than anything in the whole world was a big red firetruck that shoots water, but I understand if that’s asking too much. Mom and dad had tried their best, and I knew that only Santa could be the backup they needed at this point. I promised that I would never ask for another thing if he came through for us…and I remembered to let him off the hook in the closing, by promising to still believe even if he couldn’t deliver. Mom taught us that it was unfair to make people feel cornered, and that you catch more flies with honey. This way, if he couldn’t help out this time around, I could put my magic back in my pocket and save it for later.
Once my mom had mailed my letter for me, I had full confidence in my power to save everyone’s Christmas even though I was apparently the only one aware of it. Mom and dad looked gut-punched every morning, and they barely looked me in the eye twice that week. Guy was happy just to be eating and pooping every day, and remained blissfully unaware of the pending doomsday that his parents were dreading more than drill-work from a blind dentist.
After a hundred warnings from Mom & Dad to not “get your hopes up”, Christmas morning finally arrived without much fanfare. Coming down the steps, the first thing I noticed was that the usual pile of gifts under the tree and spread across the sofa every year, simply wasn’t there. My dad had worked himself to the bone every year to make Christmas the greatest day of the year for each of us, but this year it just didn’t pan out…and I was strangely OK with that.
Mom had a big breakfast waiting for us, so we shared “Merry Christmas” hugs all around, and sat down to eat. As mom was putting the scrambled eggs on my plate, she said, “Oh, there is one thing I need to show you”, and pointed to a rather large wrapped box next to the table with “JIM” whitten on it in black marker. I looked over at Guy, who was sitting on the sofa with dad and being handed a slightly smaller box of his own. I KNEW IT!
Tearing into the gift wrapping, my first peek at the contents was a bit confusing; white lines, lots of them, thin and kinda long..? I steadied myself. No matter what was hiding in here, I will not fail to show happy surprise and gratitude.
As I got the top from the box I realized that these were the rungs of a ladder, the white ladder on top of my new bright, Candy-Apple Red Firetruck. A Hook & Ladder firetruck to be precise, with a little handle that cranked the ladder up in the air, and a small rubber hose that squirts water to put out the thousands of imaginary fires I had yet to stage. I KNEW IT! And I had done it, hadn’t I? One peek at Guy was all the confirmation I needed. He was already testing the parts of his new Mister Potato Head to see which ones will fit down his throat, to be eventually recovered in his diaper…One of his favorite games, by the way.
Thank you, Santa.
Thank you for listening, for reading every letter, but most of all for giving me that magic bean in the first place…for my Mojo.
>copyright 2011, JBStran.com