A Christmas Story
Author: Courtney Hampson
When I was a kid, I stole $40 from my dad’s wallet and bought myself a watch. I wrapped it and put it under the tree with a tag that read, “To Courtney, From Santa.” I got away with it, too. For about six hours… at which time my grandfather sat me down and said, “Look, you and I both know there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, so where’d you get the watch?” I thought I was pretty clever, but Grandpa (and Santa) knew better.
I must confess. The petty thief is actually not me. This is my friend Brandon’s story. I can’t make this stuff up, which is why I had to ask my friends about their notable Christmas memories. The responses came quickly.
Ever been driving down the Bluffton Parkway only to watch someone’s Christmas tree take a tumble from its perch atop the roof of a car? Yup, that was my neighbor Heidi. The family picked out a tree and strapped that fresh fir to the roof of the minivan. Heidi loaded her twin boys in the van and started the few-mile-trek back home, where they would decorate the tree, bake cookies, and sing carols. Okay, I made the last part up, but if you know Heidi, you know she is mom and neighbor of the year (she brings over veggies from her garden and baked goods!), so it may not be a stretch. Anyway, the tree takes a spill in “rush hour” traffic and gets run over. Best part of this story? It was the third time it happened. Third time being a charm and all, they have since gone the artificial tree route. Good thinking, Heidi. (Please keep the tomatoes coming.)
Speaking of presents, trees, and twins, my friends Missy and Melanie would always open their presents while sitting back to back, because Santa always brought them either the same exact gift or the same gift in a different color. By sitting back to back, if one of them was more dexterous with the wrapping paper, it wouldn’t give away the surprise. Good thinking Mom and Dad.
While we’re on the topic of moms and dads, how awkward does Christmas become during the first post-divorce holiday shenanigans? My friend Corey can tell you. Being the fabulous mom and woman she is, she invited her ex over at 7 a.m. so he could see their two-year-old son’s face light up with joy when he came down the stairs on Christmas morning and saw the bounty that Santa brought. Seemed like a great and mighty benevolent idea at the time… until, for the first time in his 700 days of life, her son slept ’til 8:15, leaving Corey and ex-numb-nut to stare awkwardly at each other at a smoldering level of festering holiday cheer for an hour and 15 minutes. Yep, he should be down any second now. More coffee? Needle for your eye?
Ah yes, the joy of the holidays, that ol’ Christmas spirit. It warms our hearts, gives us a renewed sense of hope, mends old fences… and gives your crazy neighbor poetic license on exterior home décor. A couple of notes for DIY-over-zealous-Christmas-decorator-guy: one color man, one color. If you are thinking white twinkle lights, stick with white twinkle lights. Colored, retro, three-inch bulbs from the year you bought those sweat pants, just don’t go with the mini string lights. Further, the nets of lights are meant to actually “net” or fall over your bushes. You don’t hang these from your home with a rusty nail. Now, that big blow up of Bart Simpson, dressed as Saint Nick, next to your palm tree? Um yeah, Bart has nothing to do with Christmas, nor does The Family Guy, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Goofy or any of Walt Disney’s gang.
Now I know the holidays can be stressful—what with that fiasco your hubby has created on the front lawn, your yard lit up like an airport runway, you padding SCE&G’s Christmas bonus fund. I know you’d like something to go right, right? Well, that’s a tough one when Cousin Eddie and his RV move in for the month. Come on now, we all have a Cousin Eddie. He may be Aunt Sue, or mother-in-law Phyllis, or crazy Uncle Bo, but every family has one. He/she is the one in the same Christmas sweater photographed since the Polaroid made its appearance under Christmas trees in 1948. He/she is also likely sporting a reindeer pin. You pull the string and his nose lights up. Yeah, you know the one.
Cousin Eddie is also probably not all that adept at picking out and placing under the tree exactly what you’ve been dreaming of, which creates a whole new set of issues. It’s about this time of year that I start dropping subtle gift hints and begin daily practice sessions for my fake gift-approval face and positive encouragement nod. If this tactic isn’t perfected well in advance, you may find yourself in the “Oh wow, I love it. I do. Really I do. Yes, I said, I do!” situation, which is just uncomfortable for everyone.
So while you’re standing in line at the store, having grabbed the last cashmere scarf, the hot breath of the woman behind you raising the hairs on the back of your neck, anticipating the bumper-to-bumper exit from the parking lot, mentally checking items off your “Christmas list,” remember what the season is really about: Presents!
Christmas is a state of mind. Embrace the spirit of the season, listen for the children’s laughter, take notice of the small things, and maybe, just maybe (cue Christmas music) Christmas Eve will find you where the love light gleams. You’ll be home for Christmas, if only in your dreams.