I always find it amusing that, when my brothers, sister and I get together and reminisce about the olden days, our memories about certain events don’t always match. Here are some fond Christmas memories that I KNOW are true.
Christmas Pageants A Plenty
I grew up in a small church, but most of the kids in our congregation were within a couple of years of each other and therefore we were often the stars of… everything. Our specialty: Christmas Pageants. I’ll admit, some of our performances were better than others. My favorites were the ones that did NOT feature musical instruments mainly because I played the piano, flute, and violin. My sister played the clarinet, by brother played the violin and he, along with a couple of other kids played the saxophone. None of us could play our instruments very well but my congregation couldn’t seem to get enough of our “heavenly sounds.”
The Christmas programs I lived for, were the ones featuring costumes, lines, and a children’s choir. If only talent scouts targeted church pageants…
A few years later, our Christmas Pageant didn’t have such a happy ending. My brothers and sister deny this event, but I remember it with great detail. It took place during the height of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. My sister had gotten, not just any Cabbage Patch Kid, she had gotten a preemie. His name was Jonathan and he had been volunteered to play the role of the Baby Jesus in our church Christmas pageant. Mary was to carry the Baby Jesus, up the middle aisle of the sanctuary, place him in the manger, and ogle at him while the angel choir sang songs about his blessed birth.
Unfortunately, before the service even started, my sister and our friend Sara were getting into a heated argument over Jonathan. Sara wanted to play with it, my sister didn’t feel like sharing and a tug-of-war ensued. My sister had Jonathan by his little round plastic bald head, and Sarah had a firm grip on his legs. After a few hearty tugs, there was a ripping sound and just like that, poor Jonathan had been decapitated.
My sister’s only saving grace that night was that the Baby Jesus was wrapped so tightly in his swaddling clothes that it was impossible to notice that his head had been completely severed. I distinctly remember being terrified that Mary would trip on her robes and Baby Jesus’s head would go rolling up the aisle stopping at the shepherds’ feet. Fortunately our Mary was quite talented at walking and kneeling so the congregation was none the wiser.
When it came to Christmas gifts, I was never disappointed. Terrified? Yes. Disappointed? No. As a kid I loved games, clothes, toys, and socks. (I don’t think my aunt ever believed me when I told her I wanted socks for Christmas, but due to my extreme repulsion of bare feet, it’s no wonder why I love socks so much.) There was one year though, when not only I, but all four of us kids, received the most terrifying gifts ever. Our uncle had given us each a large framed velvet painting of, what could only be described as, “scary-ass clowns”. I never liked clowns, and these things scared the crap out of all of us. In fact, I’m pretty sure we made Dad put the paintings in the garage that night; that way, when they came to life and climbed out of their frames, they would at least be locked in a safe place.
For awhile, the Clown paintings lived in a box in the basement. I’m not sure why they didn’t go straight to the curb, but one day we were out playing and there they were. Curbside, leaning up against the garbage can. Good riddance.
Shortly thereafter, my brothers had been playing in our neighbors’ house and when they came out they said, “You’ll never guess what we found in Brad’s bathroom.” Sure enough, one of our clown paintings had found a home hanging over the back of a toilet. I guess the saying is true. “One man’s junk is another man’s scary-ass bathroom art.”
Santa Pulls An All-Nighter
Every year, my family drove from Des Moines, up to Minneapolis to visit our grandparents for Christmas. It was a four hour drive full of caroling, bickering, giggling and family fun. At Grandma and Grandpa Lewis’s, we had traditions like sneaking Grandpa pieces of fudge, listening to Manheim Steamroller, and getting a running start so we could leap onto the beds in order to prevent being clawed to death by Tippy the lethal cat who liked to hide under furniture.
One Christmas Eve, we went through our tradition of opening one present before going to bed. The one present always happened to be pajamas. In fact, one year while packing, I asked Mom, “Which pajamas should I take?” and she looked at me like I was being ridiculous and said, “Don’t you think Santa will probably bring you pajamas?” Fair enough.
We put on our new pj’s and headed up to bed. We were very quiet that night because we didn’t want to miss the sound of reindeer on the roof. Instead, about an hour later, we heard the garage door opening. I popped my head up and leaned over the window. (I didn’t want to get out of bed just in case Tippy was hiding out.) “Dad’s leaving.” I reported to the others. “The van just pulled out of the driveway.” We chatted for the longest time about where he could be going and eventually fell asleep.
The next morning, the wait to open presents was excruciating. Mom sent us back up the stairs three times saying,”It’s too early. Your dad’s still sleeping. Go back to bed.” Each time we reluctantly climbed the stairs and leapt back onto our beds. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Mom told us we could go down stairs and open presents. I’m pretty sure that was the year I got Cabbage Patch twins. Who knows for sure. Childhood Christmases all blend together. What I remember most about that Christmas was Dad was really tired.
Years later, when we were all sitting around talking about “The Year Dad Wanted to Sleep Through Christmas,” Mom finally told us the real story. Our parents used to wrap our presents and sort them into four garbage bags to keep them separated. That Christmas Eve, when they thought we were sleeping, they went out to the van to unload our presents. Only, instead of four bags, there were only three. One of our bags of Christmas gifts never made it into the van and was sitting back at home… in Des Moines. Knowing that all the stores were closed and not wanting to disappoint, Dad had opened the garage, backed the van out and drove all the way back home. Four hours later, he pulled into our driveway, ran into the house, grabbed the lonely sad sack-O-gifts, got back into the van and drove 4 hours back up to Minnesota.
Even more years later when I was in college, I volunteered to help out at a local Foster Care Christmas party. One of my professors had asked each of us to share a story about a Christmas experience. She suggested to me, “These kids probably don’t have a lot of Christmas traditions, so I think it would be neat if everyone shared a variety of traditions. Maybe you could tell them about your Kwanzaa experience.” Hmmm… after I asked several friends, my mom, and Google what Kwanzaa was I decided to tell the story of forgotten Christmas presents instead. When I finished, one of the foster mom’s jumped up and clapped enthusiastically while shouting, “That’s my favorite! That’s my favorite!”
Yes, enthusiastic lady, that’s my favorite too.