Your Best True Christmas Story.

Joe Nation
Reply Sat 31 Dec, 2011 06:22 pm
My brother, the priest, was, at age 11, the best early present finder. He was fearless about going into Mom's closet (the earliest known defined Forbidden Zone) to see what was in the G.Fox, Sears and MonkeyWards bags.

One year he reported to me that my Fort Apache was under the parent's bed.

I waited until Mom was making dinner and then I pulled it out and opened it. OH BOY. There was a wagon pulled by horses, lots of pieces of wall made of fakie log things and, of course, Rip Masters and Rin Tin Tin !!

I carefully, so carefully, put everything back and slid it under the bed.
What a Christmas this would be.!
Christmas morning
We opened all the presents.
My brother got his Erector Set.
My sisters were so pleased with an Art kit and a camera!
I opened ......
a really nice .....shirt.
I looked at my mother. She was completely a blank slate.
I looked at my Dad.
a shrug. A little shrug.
We went to Mass.
We came home.
We all played with our new things. (I read one of my books.)
We had Christmas dinner. (Turkey and everything.)
From Mom and Dad...nothing.
My mother called me into the kitchen.
"Come with me." She said.
We went upstairs to her and dad's room.
On the bed was the big box, wrapped.
"Don't ever sneak around again."

I loved Fort Apache. I wore it out.
I did sneak around some more. (Nobody's perfect)

Joe(I still have Rip Masters)Nation
Reply Sat 31 Dec, 2011 06:40 pm
@Joe Nation,
Snort. All I remember was a very big frown from my mother in the kitchen. I bet my dad wrapped it, thus I could see into the package.

Probably that same year, a month or so later, we had our christmas tree, which sat plunk-down on the bay window shelf, which I'd guess was 30" deep and 5 ft. wide, ceiling not too high above, thus a small tree.

Plink. Plink. Plink! Plink!

Small dry tree.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 31 Dec, 2011 11:43 pm
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:

...I did sneak around some more. (Nobody's perfect)...

You did?! JOE! Go to your room right now!

I was the oldest of three, and the best hidden present finder. For one thing, I could reach top shelves in closets and farther under beds than the other two. And I was sneakier. Mom and Dad left me in charge of the other two when they had to leave the house. My younger siblings thought I was too bossy (ha!) and tried very hard to stay out of my sight. This meant I pretty much had free rein to explore every single inch of the house alone.

I knew about the standard hiding places in our parents' closet, the high cabinets in the kitchen, and the trunks of their cars. I usually knew what presents we were getting, although sometimes I wasn't sure if one would be for my sister or for me. But the year I was in 8th grade, there were hardly any presents in the usual spots. That could only mean one thing. They must have chosen a new spot.

The search was on!

It took me almost a week, but I finally found it. There were presents hidden in the front hall coat closet usually reserved for guests' coats, the film projector, the folding screen, and all the reels of family vacations and Christmases past. This closet always smelled a little funky, so I usually avoided opening the door. Aha! They knew that!

It took me less than five minutes to rifle through the sacks and identify all the gifts. Except one. There was this really awful big white and turquoise woven basket-type purse. Obviously, Mom must have bought it for one of her friends, or maybe her sister. Yeah, that must be it. She always said her sister didn't have much taste. This thing was truly ugly. It even had nailhead trim. Ugh! I shoved it back in its sack and chuckled, wondering if I'd be able to keep a straight face when my aunt opened it.

So Christmas Eve came, along with the traditional exchange of gifts with the relatives. That was funny...my aunt didn't get the ugly purse after all. I guessed my mother must have bought it for some friend of hers.

On Christmas morning, we all ran downstairs to see what Santa had left. Of course I knew the truth about Santa by this time, but I still had to play along for the sake of the two younger ones. Yes! There were all the presents I expected, but...what in the world? There sat the ugly white and turquoise purse under the tree.

I got this awful sinking feeling. So just to be safe, I said, "Hey, Sis! Look, Santa brought you a purse!" And I quickly handed it to her.

But Mom intervened. "Oh no! That's not for her! That's for YOU!..."

My stomach turned over. This couldn't be happening! What would my friends think if I showed up at school with such a Godawful thing? My reputation would be ruined! Nobody would ever speak to me again! Of course I would never be allowed to leave it at home...Mom would make sure I used it. Gah! My life, as I knew it, would soon be over!!! Oh God, let me die right here and now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mom continued, "...and it's not a purse, dear. It's a sewing basket."


Slowly, I picked up the hated thing as if it might bite me and unlatched the top. Sure enough, inside were trays for buttons, compartments for thread, cushions for needles, and pockets for other sewing necessities. Just like Mrs. Johnson, my Home Ec teacher, said we would all need next semester.

Slowly, I began to breathe again. I smiled weakly at my mother, and quickly put the basket back under the tree. For a brief moment, I considered asking Mom if I could exchange it for another in a different color (even though she knew I loved turquoise.) But I didn't. Because in addition to the shock, horror and revulsion I had been feeling, I was now feeling another emotion. Shame.

I never did replace that ugly sewing basket. I am 57 years old now, and I still have it. It's on a shelf in my closet, and I bring it out occasionally when I have to repair something or replace a button on one of Hubby's shirts. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of how I felt back then. My mother, now gone for 15 Christmases, bought me something she was sure I would like and would use. And I, by being sneaky, had ruined the whole thing.

That was the last time I ever looked for hidden presents.
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 12:10 am

You and I once had the same purse, don't know if you remember.
Rectangular woven thing.. I still have it. It's in my laundry room, holding socks.
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 12:31 am
Yes, I do remember the one! I think mine is at the bottom of the pile of purses in the cabinet next to the front door. Another place I should clean out for the new year. Speaking of which...

Happy New Year!!!
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 12:44 am
You too, and your family.
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Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 02:36 am
I was five. I don't remember any previous Yuletides. My mom and my baby brother were in Ireland. They'd been there for a couple of weeks. We weren't rich, airline tickets at Christmas were expensive. Mom would be home in the new year.
It had been a couple of tense weeks. Bombs had been ripping apart Ireland, Belfast, near to where she was. I didn't really understand bombs. I knew they were bad.
My dad and his sister were watching us, two younger brothers and I, while Mom and the baby were away. My Aunt, was kinda off in all directions. She had recently given up her vows. It was the seventies, she was no longer a nun. She disagreed with Vatican II...
She was in a foreign country, and foreign it was. December, in a cold, prairie town slash city. 400, 000 souls if we were lucky. Barren and desolate in the cold of winter. The tallest building in town was a mere 25 stories and it dwarfed everything else.
This city was the last hurrah on the road to the Alaskan Highway. And Alaska, bless her heart, graces us with her glacial presence every year. It's cold. At times it seems as if the gods are ripping the breath from your chest. So cold at times, bones seem to snap at their whim.
My Aunt had moved from balmy England to this god forsaken landscape, and couldn't cope with the sheer madness of the situation. Imagine a houseful of noisy heathens, coming from a convent of silence....
My dad was/is a devout, pragmatic man. He's also a workaholic . At about 6'o'clock Christmas Eve, after work, he dragged home the perfect Charlie Brown tree. We decorated it with a few of my mom's precious glass ornaments, some things I'd made in school, a couple strands of bare tinsel and one of the huge outdoor, multi-coloured lights bulbs sets. We set up the manger scene, sans the baby jesus. Then dad asked me if I could wrap a few presents. He gave me the boys gifts (I assume mom bought them pre-trip) one for my aunt, and a roll of yellow masking tape. He didn't have wrapping paper, so I scavenged the Sunday comic section and chased my brothers away from my parent's bedroom and proceeded to labour over perfect corners and interesting ideas for bows and whatnot.
I knew who Santa was but I wasn't overly familiar with all the rituals. My aunt insisted we put out stockings. We didn't have stockings. In a panic, we decided dad's holey old woolies would do, as they were probably big enough.
It was nearing time to go to church, midnight mass. Dad insisted he and I walk. The boys were too young, and my Aunt had been to the eight 'o' clock service. It had been so cold, I didn't want to walk. I wanted to stay home and wait for Santa. I wanted to see if my mom would call. I didn't want to trudge through the snow and freeze on the 8 block walk.
Dad insisted. So I put on my big winter coat and heavy winter boots. I pulled my tuque over my hair, dreading the inevitable static Mohawk. We started to walk, and then one of those rare, beautiful winter nights happened. It's kind of like a rain shower under a blue sky. Huge big snow flakes floated down from the star covered sky. The trees in the neighbourhood were starting to get really tall and their naked limbs were perfectly frosted. It was warm out, a Chinook was blowing through.
When we got to the church it was warmer, packed to the rafters and smelled of incense. The choir was powerful, I had learned some harmonies and I sang them with abandon. I don't think I'd ever been up that late. The people, the smells, the sound, the sights.. It was intoxicating. People were so happy, animated. I don't remember the walk home, it was probably more of the same.
That night, in the twilight of sleep, just before you're lost to the unknown, I saw my dad, and then a sweep of white, like diamonds or trailing stars or a fresh snow fall. In the morning I awoke to a new quilt. It was pure white with a few hand painted roses. It was elegant, beautiful, tasteful. It was a cheap, $10 blanket. I loved it. I cherished it.
I made my way downstairs. There, under the tree. were all the presents I had so carefully wrapped, and two others wrapped, rather badly, in plain newspaper. I knew those were mine. I began to doubt Santa.
Then I noticed the stockings. They were lumpy, distorted. The holes, weak spots in the heels and toes were magnified. It didn't expect that. I thought they'd be prettier, smother. Maybe he'd add a bow. Then I though I'd been given coal. What? Why? I'd been so damned good...!
I opened them, underwear, socks, an orange, a candy cane, a colouring book.. ok.
My present were clothes and a puzzle.
Then dad said, have you looked in the other corner. Over there by the window? And there it was. Wrapped in a big red bow. A Piano. It wasn't just for me, but it was mine... know what I mean?
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:03 am
I was eleven. There were six kids in my family and both of my parents had been raised poor, so although we weren't poor anymore, neither of them believed spoiling or excess was necessary, expecially at Christmas - which wasn't about presents anyway in our house, so each of us knew to expect two presents - and that was it.
But my mother and father, being the loving and thoughtful people they were would make sure they knew WHAT two presents would make us the happiest and that's what we got.
So that year, me being a music freak from the time I could hear and hum, I'd asked for a cassette tape recorder and a radio, so I could tape the songs I liked off the radio, as I was too young to babysit or work to earn money to buy albums yet and my older brother wouldn't allow me in his room or near his record collection to use his (he and I DID have similar musical taste - but he wouldn't take a chance me, his little sister being careless and scratching his albums).

So, anyway, I got what I'd asked for - the tape recorder and the radio -and I was testing the tape recorder out as my mother opened her presents and I captured her reaction upon opening one of her gifts from a little boy she babysat for and his parents:

'Scented, satin hangers - oh what a lovely gift!!' she says on the tape, really and truly pleased and excited to have received these clothes hangers for Christmas.

And then you could hear my father laugh and say in the background, 'Remind me next year to buy your mother some clothes hangers for Christmas - she's the only person I know who gets excited about clothes hangers...aren't I lucky to be married to someone who is happy with clothes hangers for Christmas?' and then you could hear the paper crumbling as they hugged each other.

But anyway - that's my mother for you. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas this year and she said, 'Rebecca, I'd be so grateful for some new pantyhose - all the elastic in my old ones is wearing out.'

I love my mother so much.
And I still have that cassette tape.
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:06 am
Another beautiful story....thank you and Happy New Year
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:08 am
and another story - what a wonderful way to start the first morning of the new year.
Happy New Year
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Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:15 am
I also remember the Christmas I was five. I got a bicycle, and there was so much snow outside I couldn't ride it, but I couldn't wait to try it out, so I remember trying to ride it back and forth on the tile floor of our foyer and my dad trying to help me understand that wasn't such a good idea as the either the brakes might not work at all or they'd work too well and send me sailing over the handlebars and into the wall as I skidded to a stop.

It's fun to think about how excited you used to get about Christmas.
Happy New Year to you as well Saab - and everyone.
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Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:21 am
Thanks Saab. A very happy 2012 to you as well..

Aidan this is going to sound weird, but on my 11th birthday, at the end of may, it got a bike and my mom made me a long dress for gifts...
It snowed and I had a hard time with the dress and the very wet snow. Ironically, it has only snowed twice in recorded history on my birthday, in these fair parts. The second time I was fool enough to go to an outside concert. Last year. Froze my tookus off...
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:33 am
Yeah - outdoor concerts up north can be tricky. We went to an outdoor concert to see Mary Chapin Carpenter up at Sugarloaf Mountain ski resort when we lived in Maine one year. This was in July, mind you. But as the sun started going down, the wind picked up and it got so freaking cold, my son was about four and luckily we'd brought a blanket to sit on because by the end of the thing, he and I were wrapped up in the blanket and he was saying to me, 'Mom, why did we have to come here? I think this is the worst idea you ever had!' and then we took the shuttle back to the car which was parked in the middle of a field only to discover that we'd locked our keys inside the car!
I think my son began to despair of having been placed with these two crazy people who couldn't seem to get things together.
Luckily, at the time his dad had contacts there as he had worked at the medical center there and the people knew him, so they let us stay overnight in one of the condos. Otherwise it'd have been the three of us stranded next to our car with one blanket til morning when someone might have arrived to help us out.
(This was before cell phones).
0 Replies
Joe Nation
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:19 pm
Such wonderful stories... I loved your walk to mass,C, I've been on that walk, but it wasn't 8 blocks more like twenty and all up hill. And yes, there were many gifts in my family that weren't for me but were mine.

Oh and don't I remember trying to record really good music off of WDRC in Hartford. Some really good tune would be on, maybe Blueberry Hill (I was a big Chubby Checker fan and not for all that twisting crap.) and one of my brothers would come bursting in the door to our bedroom. There was no way to 'jack' the tape recorder into the radio. (wha???!!)

Joe(That's when I decided I needed a guitar)Nation
Joe Nation
Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 03:39 pm

I read your story early this morning and loved it. I just tried reading it out loud to Cheryl but it got to me too much, I was tearing up at the end.

Good for your Mom to know what you wanted and needed and making it so.

Reply Sun 1 Jan, 2012 04:33 pm
@Joe Nation,
Thank you, Joe. That story was a thank-you gift from me to you for all the times your stories have struck me the same way. The best ones always come from the heart, don't they?

Wishing you much love in the new year.
Joe Nation
Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2012 12:20 pm
Truth is stranger than fiction and, ninety percent of the time, a better story.

Here's one that didn't work out too well.

Tom and Betty bought a house for them and their two kids.
They barely made the down-payment so some things didn't get put in the house right away.

Like a washer and dryer.

Twice a week, after getting the kids from daycare and after making dinner, Betty would load up the car with the laundry, take one of the kids and head over to the Laundromat. Tom watched tv and the little one.
Christmas was coming and Tom knew that the one thing Betty wanted was a washer and a dryer.
He decided to be funny.
About a week before Christmas, he got two boxes from work about the right size, a bunch of brown wrapping paper and big red bows and put the boxes in the garage where Betty and the kids could see them
If you had known Betty during that week you would have sworn she was drunk on happiness. Yes. She was.
Christmas morning came and they opened the kids' presents (there weren't many, they were still just barely getting by) then everybody went out to the garage to the big boxes.

Betty tore the wrappings off and inside.....

(Tom said later he was sure that she would laugh)

......was a washboard and 2oo feet of clothesline.

Get it? A washer and a dryer.
Tommy stayed that night at his mom's house because he couldn't get anyone in Tulsa to sell him a washer and a dryer on Christmas Day.
he spent the next night there too because he couldn't get Sears to deliver on a Sunday.
Only after both were installed and running did Betty speak a word to Tommy and

Joe(she didn't wash any of his work clothes for a year after that.)Nation

Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2012 12:30 pm
@Joe Nation,
Thank-you. I'm really enjoying the entire collection so far.
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Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2012 12:50 pm
@Joe Nation,
Sometimes you get a gift which shouldn´t have been given.
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Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2012 01:44 pm
@Joe Nation,
Now there's a story.
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