We’ve all read the sugary stories of what Christmas means, seen movies where Santa is guided by angels to know which child needs what, and reminisced about candle lit manger scenes. The photo on the left is one of my favorite Christmas moments when my son Justin used cotton snow bunting to make a Santa beard and his big sister Amy tried to butter up the Jolly Ol’ Man for bigger and better presents. That’s the sweet side of Christmas.
However…our human condition evokes our basic emotional and physical needs that we may try to meet in uncommon or desperate ways. “We are only human” are words people use when they’ve done something not quite worthy for a spot on NBCs edition of ‘Making a Difference.’ Yes, those baser actions happen during Christmas, too, as evidenced by the song lyrics “I tied a knot in sister’s hair, somebody snitched on me and…I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas, ’cause I ain’t been nuttin’ but bad.”
Every Christmas, the memories of my own transgressions come tapping on my shoulder to remind me that I, too, took advantage of the season’s opportunities for greed, gluttony, and manipulation–all conducted, of course, when I was a mere child. Let me explain.
When I was about five years old, I lay in bed on Christmas Eve with my eyes wide open and my brain on full alert. The anticipation of the imagined bounty under the tree was just too much to bear, and my heart pounded with chocolate induced wakefulness. I waited an eternity between glances at the clock only to discover that only two minutes (or less) had passed with each hopeful look. Because my parents gave issue to an exceptionally bright child, I was able to hatch a plan. “If I can turn the clocks ahead,” I told myself, “then Christmas morning will come earlier.” I sneaked into my parents’ bedroom and evaluated the soundness of their sleep. Not a creature was stirring, as they say. I carefully plucked the alarm clock off their night stand and turned the hour hand from the 11 to the 12. Satisfied, I went back to bed only to realize that Christmas morning was still too far away for an anxious child to bear. Two more trips back to the crime scene finally had the hour hand at seven…the allowable time for rushing to the tree.
“Wake up, it’s seven!” My brother and I took about twelve and a half minutes to tear through our packages. Dad commented on how dark it was outside and Mom said she didn’t understand why she felt so groggy. My father went to the kitchen to make coffee, and he saw the clock, the clock that read 3…AM. I didn’t think to turn all the clocks ahead, and I was busted. My brother denied any participation in the ruse even though I had kept him apprised of my progress throughout the night. I’ll let you imagine the rest of the story.
Another time my cousins and I were at the kids’ table at my grandfather Rudin’s house. The oldest cousin Frank had graduated to the big person’s table, and the rest of us felt quite ignored. While the adults (and Frank) talked quietly midst the soft sounds of forks on porcelain china, we were getting a little rowdy. My cousin John was really getting on my nerves about something minor, I don’t remember the issue, but I do remember feeling that I had heard enough. To shut him up, I slammed one of the table’s decorative Christmas carolers into his ice cream. John was furious, but speechless, so my attack worked. The downside was that my action didn’t feel as rewarding as I had anticipated. In fact, I felt pretty stupid. My cousins looked at me with pity; I was never going to get to the big person’s table with that kind of behavior.
Both of these incidences taught me something, however, as most encounters with our human condition do. 1) If you’re going to stick your neck out, cover all your bases, and 2) Don’t mess with someone’s ice cream–it shows the world what a child you are.
How about you? What uncommon Christmas memories do you have?