This Christmas I got carried away with my hand-made gifting. Mom called and asked me: How are you going to knit three sweaters before Christmas? And she’s a super knitter/crocheter/sewer giver! Nine pair of PJs, seven hats, and three sweaters later, Loved-One exclaimed, “You really are working your fingers to the bone!”
It must be all the cancelation that made me do it. COVID-19 sure has wreaked havoc on what I have come to expect at this time of the year. Until last night, we didn’t even have snow.
All this made me think of one of my favorite childhood memories. One where everything seemed to go wrong. Maybe 2020 will leave behind memories that we look back on with appreciation, if not fondness.
For my loyal readers, yes, this is a repeat story. But wait, isn’t that true of all the best Christmas stories?
Just like any little girl, I could hardly wait for Christmas. I studied the Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Wards catalogs daily and made up my list for Santa. The things I wanted could fill Santa’s sleigh up all by itself, so I knew only some of the gifts I asked for would arrive. I marked a star by the most important ones: A cowboy hat and a derringer just like Bat Masterson’s on Have Gun Will Travel.
I prayed for snow, ’cause how was Santa going to get to my house without snow? The grey clouds only spilled down raindrops and the heavy frost in the morning would never do. I knew, ’cause when I took my sled out on the frost, Mom yelled at me, “That’s going to dull the blades. Take your sled back in the garage.” I dragged my sled back over the grass and down the little sidewalk to the garage.
“Good Lord, that sets my teeth on edge,” Mom said covering up her ears. How could a sound hurt her teeth? I thought, Guess that’s what happens when you get old.
I was probably selfish praying for snow, ’cause I just wanted Santa to come. Anyways, it didn’t snow; it just got warmer, until not even frost was on the ground. Mud was everywhere.
“When I was a little girl, Grandpa told me Santa came to houses alphabetically, and our house was last because our last name was Zyber,” Mom told me. “That’s why some years there were just a couple of toys left in Santa’s bag.”
Holy Makerel! At least my last name started with C. There I was being selfish again. All that selfishness might land me on the naughty list.
In bed at night, I heard Mom’s sewing machine whirring away like mad. In the morning, everything was closed up tight, the sewing machine tucked down into the cabinet and not a thread in sight. Hmm… that was super-strange.
Christmas Eve, Deanna, Bonita, and I got the biggest knee-high stocking we could find out of the odd-sock bag and hung them over a chair. Santa came in the keyhole at our house, ’cause we didn’t have a fireplace and the chimney landed Santa in the furnace with no way out. Mom wanted a fireplace like nobody’s business, ’cause she said our house was the draftiest thing she ever lived in and when she died she was gonna be cremated ’cause then, at last, she would be warm.
Just like always, I got down on my knees and said my prayers out loud so Mom could check me. I was memorizing the Our Father ’cause I had to know that for First Confession along with all my sins; Our Fathers got assigned for penance after Confession scrubbed my soul clean. Catholics only said memorized prayers; we never made up prayers on our own, like they did over at my friend Betty’s house.
Up the stairs to bed, we went, ‘Slap the Bear’, just like always on the way up. That’s where somebody yells “slap the bear, everybody included,” and starts slapping the hind-end of the person in front of her. Only the first person in line had a slim chance of getting away, and of course, the last person who had nobody to slap at. Mom probably invented that game to get us up the stairs faster than blue-blazes.
We brushed our teeth, and climbed into bed. It was Bonita’s turn to sleep on the cot, so I cuddled up tight to Deanna to keep warm. “Get your hair out of my face,” she said. She hated my hair, so she drew a line down the middle of the bed with her hand, and told me to stay on my side.
“We forgot the cookies and milk,” Bonita sprung up like a jack-in-the-box, looked out the window, just in case Santa was out there on the lawn, like in that poem.Continue reading