Not-So-Warm Christmas Memories

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This post is by Joe Stephens

 

If you read my personal blog, you probably get it that I’m a bit of a fan of Christmas. That’s because I have so many warm memories of the season. But nothing’s perfect, right? We all have our not-so-warm holiday memories, I’m sure. Here are a few of my clammy Christmas recollections.

One of my earliest recollections of Christmas was when we were on our way home from my Uncle Ellis’ house on Christmas Eve. Everything was going great until my brother Don yelled that he saw Santa! I looked excitedly from my seat in the middle (I was the youngest, so I got the middle back seat with the hump), and sure enough, there was Santa walking in the front door of a house. At first, I was ecstatic that I’d actually seen Santa in the flesh. But then my brother asked a question I hadn’t thought of.

“What if Santa gets to our house before we get home?”

My dad, thinking he was being funny, said, “He won’t be able to get in, so I guess you guys won’t get your presents.”

As you can imagine, that didn’t sit too well. I was in a dead panic the whole rest of the trip, badgering Dad to speed up because Santa was in our area and he has those magic reindeer, so he could easily beat us to our house. No amount of reassuring that he was joking was enough. Mom told me that, even if Santa missed us the first time, he would come back after we got home, but I was dubious of that. I had an even worse time sleeping that night than usual, worried nearly sick that Santa wouldn’t leave us anything. It was a long night.

I’m happy to report that Santa did indeed leave us presents, so it was a happy ending. The next not-so-hot memory, also involving Santa, had a somewhat less jolly conclusion. We were at church for the Christmas dinner. I was young enough that I didn’t remember the previous year, but was assured that Ol’ Saint Nick was scheduled to appear and bring gifts to all the good children who came and sat on his lap. I could barely eat I was so excited to see him. Finally, after what felt like about a year or so, I heard, faint but definite, jingle bells in the distance. My eyes grew wide as they got louder and louder. All eyes turned to the door as it opened. The jolly old elf came ho-ho-ho-ing through the door, holding a big pack of gifts in one hand and waving with the other.

Except something wasn’t quite right. Santa’s waving hand was waving a little more than it should have been. Two of the five fingers of his white glove flopped and flapped loosely with every wave. Santa only had three fingers. Don’t ask me why, but this completely wigged me out. I climbed on my mom’s lap, wailing and pointing at the three-fingered abomination. I refused to leave Mom’s lap the rest of the evening. My brother had to retrieve my gift for me. It was a flashlight.

 

As I got a little older and started interacting with some of the folks at the church more, I met an older man who was missing the same two fingers. His nonconformity didn’t bother me like it did on Santa, but it did seem like an amazing coincidence that he was missing the exact same digits. I was a lot older than I like to admit before I added up that equation.FIIIIIIRE!

I could go on for a while. I have an entire post’s worth of tree disasters, but I’ll save those for next year. So what have been your less-than-stellar holiday memories?

 

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.

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33 Responses to Not-So-Warm Christmas Memories

  1. Neva Bodin says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your Christmas “memories” and chuckled over the three-fingered Santa. I left home-canned Juneberry sauce with cream for Santa every year. It was one of his favorite snacks I was told. The dish was always empty on Christmas morning. And the present was under the tree. A wondrous time. The tree was real and stood in an old crock filled with rocks to hold the tree upright.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joe Stephens says:

    I’m not familiar with Juneberries. What are they like?

    Like

  3. I like how you end the blog with a picture of a tree on fire. Great concept to keep them coming back for more.
    Good job!

    Like

  4. Doris says:

    Oh the memories. I was in the hospital with double pneumonia and measles one year, I think I was about five, when Santa came to see me. I knew he was out neighbor, in my mind, and argued with him the whole time. (Well as much as a very sick child could) Guess I was opinionated even them. **Smile** Doris

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Mike Staton says:

    Don’t recall any horrible or bad memories. Now that I’m 64, what I am realizing is that my memories of my earliest ‘Santa’ days are getting fuzzy. It seems that a lot of my memories revolve around the photos I’ve saved on the computer — photos of me and my sister in front of the tree through the years. I think I will write on the need to keep those memories fresh for my Dec. 20 post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      I feel the same way. I will go through old family photos and even high school yearbooks and look at people and autographs and think that I was there and I had an impact on that person and I just don’t remember it. It makes me sad.

      Like

  6. Wranglers says:

    I can’t remember any bad Christmas experiences either. We always waited for Santa’s sleigh bells, and then we could get back up and unwrap our gifts. The one year we ran out and there was nothing under the tree. Mom said, “Is that the only tree you have?” We all hightailed it downstairs, and there were the gifts under the old tree that dad had thrown out and we’d drug back in and put homemade decorations on it. No lights! Still I didn’t see my gift, and it was inside the tree on one of the lower branches. I guess that could be traumatic, except it was for only about 1/2 hour. Nice photos and blog. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Thanks! I have a similar, albeit much more recent, story. It happened just a couple years ago. I’ll share it sometime on here.

      Like

  7. Travis says:

    I like the not so great memories filled with anxiety and horror, Joe. Both had high expectations and I guess when things go a little askew for things we really care about it feels much more intense. Like Cherley, I’m not remembering bad Christmas moments although I’m sure there were moments where something was off and it caused stress.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the laughs, Joe! Both fantastic Christmas memories that made me smile. My memories of Christmas as a child are somewhat sad and lonely. Being an only child, I opened gifts by myself every morning, then went right back to bed. My parents were late sleepers. My parents never pretended that Santa was real or not real…I think I just figured it out myself. My one cherished memory of Christmas is my mom and I watching The Sound of Music on TV every year. I’d also play all the songs on the piano and she’d sing along. To this day, I watch that movie every Christmas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Oh, that’s so different from my childhood. Christmas was loud and chaotic at our house with four kids. Looking back, I don’t think I’d have wanted it any other way. I do remember watching THE SOUND OF MUSIC, though. I love that movie!

      Like

  9. Lovely memories Joel. I am one of 6 children and my parents had a tough time making ends meet. However I do remember one Christmas all the gifts were wrapped under the tree. When we opened them up they were things that we already owned. The only new items were pajamas and mittens and hats that my mom knitted. My brother was the only one to get a new schoolbag and when he lifted it up the handle fell off. We all laughed hysterically. I think it was the year I realized it was not the gifts that counted it was the love that we all gave to each other. :o)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joe Stephens says:

      I didn’t realize until we were older that we didn’t have tons of money. There were four kids and only Dad worked. We never lacked for anything and we always got new gifts, but I did notice that some of the other kids at my school got way more from Santa than we did. It bothered me when I was younger, but only in an intellectual sense. Why did Santa give more to some than to others? I was starting to have questions. But I never felt short-changed. My family being together, laughing and loving, was the real joy of Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I also have some not-so-pleasant memories of being sick at Christmas. The last two times I went to Florida for Christmas, I got a nasty stomach flu. This year, I’m trying an experiment. I’m staying home, and if I get sick again, I’ll know it’s Christmas that’s making me sick and not Florida.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joe Stephens says:

      I went through that for a few years. It seemed like I caught the flu just in time to miss Christmas Eve service at my church every year for about four years running.

      Like

  11. wyoauthor1 says:

    Great post, Joe! I chuckled about the 3-fingered Santa — that would be very traumatic for a child! I have mostly lovely memories of Santa, including reindeer showing up at a local grocery store — I could have stayed there for HOURS petting and talking to Santa’s magical animals — I could care less about the old big elf, but man! those reindeer!! Other good, older person memories are of taking my blind dog to have her photo taken with Santa — that photo is precious to me to this very day, nearly 8 years later, especially since my sweet dog is no longer living. Memories — a wealth to be treasured. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I have so many childhood memories of Santa, Joe, that your post brought back lots of memories for me. The three most traumatic: 1. Our school Christmas party when I was six. I had gone to great lengths to be sure my gift was very special. I got a box of pencils. I didn’t let on, but I was disappointed. When I got home Mom explained that some children didn’t have money to give fancy presents, and it was a mark of being grown-up that took a child to be thankful. I thanked and thanked that boy for those pencils and they became something I treasured. 2. One year Mom put our presents in the playpen my baby brother had just outgrown. Somehow a bottle of perfume got opened. My mother was not happy and asked us all who had done it. I took responsibility because I was the oldest and the beautiful blue violin bottle it came in made me happy for years. 3. When I was 14 I worked part time babysitting and part-time working on a chicken farm for some local Mennonites. After gathering eggs and getting my usual peck on the arm from an ornery chicken, I finally got to go home. I was tired and crabby so when I got a pair of boots I was NOT happy. But I pretended to be. But when dad moved the tree and a 6-ft toboggan stood against the wall, my sibs and I became ecstatic. What wonderful times we had on that toboggan. It turned out to be one of my favorite Christmases of all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Those sound like wonderful memories–even the ones that started out negative because you made them positive. Your mention of the toboggan made me think of all the glorious nights we spend sledding on the hill behind our house. Another entry. 🙂

      Like

  13. Kathy Waller says:

    You poor thing, thinking you weren’t going to get any presents. And your poor father, making an innocent little joke and then trying to calm a frantic child who is sure the joke is the Truth about Santa. I never believed it when my parents said there was nothing to worry about either.

    When I was very young, we had an angel. She was made from lightweight aluminum, I guess, and was supposed to fit down over the very top of the tree. Because the operation required climbing up the kitchen stool, my father, who was more of a tree watcher, had to deal with her. She never stood (or hovered) straight, so my father ran a wire coat hanger under her robes to reinforce her spine. It was supposed to run down the spine of the tree, where it would be twisted around a branch to keep her from tilting. But every year she refused to cooperate, so my parents’ conversation went like this: “Bill, tilt her to the left…No, that’s too far, back a little… Well, now she’s tipping forward, stand her up… Too far to the left…” I hung around bored stiff and wishing we could leave the angel to her own devices because always refused to cooperate, and because all I wanted to do was throw handfuls of tinsel at the tree. “Now, take just one icicle and hang it on a branch…” Splat!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Nancy Jardine says:

    We had a similar time with a three fingered Santa who happened to be my sister-in-law’s sister’s husband who was drafted in to be Santa when the extended families got together one year. My girls ( aged 6 and 4 and 1/2) had no clue that Santa was ‘Uncle Davie’. My nephew, who was only approaching 4, twigged him out when his cotton wool eyebrows sagged and fell off – the heat in the house with so many people being like a sauna!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. S J Brown says:

    It is funny the things that stick in a child’s head. One year my granddaughter got it in her head that Christmas wouldn’t happen if my hubby (grandpa) didn’t read the night before Christmas to her. She tried to convince her parents to leave a Christmas party so he could read to her. It took a phone call to Grandpa to convince her that he would indeed read to her even if she got home late from the party, and Christmas would happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Don’t you wonder what little snippets of conversations she heard or combinations of ideas went together in her head to get her to come to that?

      Like

  16. katewyland says:

    I can’t think of any particularly bad memories connected to Christmas. I was disappointed in my gifts on occasion, but that’s normal. The worst thing I can think of was having the stomach flu two times. Once was when we were staying at my older brother’s house. No fun being sick in a strange place. The other was when I was about 10 and for some odd reason my dad thought some eggnog with whiskey in it would settle my stomach. It was at least twenty years before I ever touched eggnog again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      Oh no! I don’t know about the whiskey, but eggnogg is such a bad choice for an ailing stomach. I can’t imagine how bad that was.

      Like

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