Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Story

The renowned blogger and artist Judith Heartsong is very timely this month with her chosen topic for her monthly Artsy Essay competition.  Although I don’t enter every single month, I try to enter as often as I can and I encourage other journalists to enter as well.  It’s a fun competition and a win, win situation for all.

This month Judith challenges us to write about:

The Funniest Gift
I Have Ever
Given or Received

There is no explanation needed... let's light up the holidays with some laughter here and make sure you spell-check, use colorful and descriptive language, and tell your tale in an engaging way!

You have until the very last minute of the last hour of the last day of this holiday month to spin a yarn to share.

I have taken many days to consider this topic, and almost passed on this assignment, because I don’t have that many funny gift stories.  An interesting thing happened during this process.  I forced myself to sit down and really try to reflect on the Christmases of my past and the gifts I received through the years.  The memories started flooding back in. 

I am one of the fortunate ones that had a great childhood.  My parents loved my sister and me very much and did everything in their power to protect and nurture us.  They didn’t let us get away with much, but their discipline was meted out with our welfare in mind and with much evident love.

Every Christmas Jan and I were asked to write out a wish list early in November.  Mom always hoped she got it well enough in advance that we would forget exactly all that we put on our lists.  You see, the lists were guidelines and she never wanted us to think they were absolutes.  We may have gotten one or two items from the list or, some years, not even one item depending on costs and availability of our requests. 

We never went wanting, though.  Christmas morning Mom and Dad always made sure we would enjoy a great Christmas under the tree and we never went away disappointed.  Sometimes the occasion would call for extreme action to ensure that happiness, but if it was within their power, they would do it.

One such occasion was the year 1964.  That year I wanted a model car racing set.  Not the little tiny ones, but a set with the larger race cars, oh, say, six to eight inches long.  The track was a figure eight design and could be set up in our living room without much problem and plenty of room.

We were living in Smyrna, Tennessee that year.  My father was stationed at Sewart Air Force Base and we were about twenty miles south of Nashville.  This part of Tennessee is of temperate climate and gets snow on the ground for one or two days perhaps twice a winter on average.  1964 was the year that Smyrna would have a white Christmas.

The snow began to fall late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, big white flakes, wet and sticky.  Much different than the almost dry, tiny flurry type of snow we were more accustomed to.  The kids in the area were elated and hopeful.  Too many times we had snow start only to stop a few minutes later and disappear like a phantom in the night, silently appearing and leaving with no notice or trace.

Every few minutes I would leave the comfort of my usual spot in front of the TV, where I would be ensconced on the couch in our den.  I would run to the picture window in the living room or open the back door and peer out.  Once assured that the winter onslaught was still coming down, I’d march through the house and deliver the great news to any I happened upon that, “Yes, it was still snowing and it looked like it was sticking!”  Or, “Yes, it’s still snowing and it looks like an inch deep now!” … and so on as the evening progressed.  By bed time we were assured we would have some snow on the ground come morning.  The only question was, how much?  I fell asleep that night with that wonderful feeling that we would finally experience a White Christmas.

Until that Christmas, a White Christmas was only something I had seen in the movies or heard about from adults who had been raised in a colder climate.  The linking of Christmas with snow on the ground was like magic to me, mystical in a sense that I could not fathom.  When I awoke that Christmas Morning, I sprang out of bed and hurried to the front door.  I opened it on a magical scene that I will never forget. 

Every tree was covered with a white blanket.  The road in front of the house was indiscernible from our front yard.  There were two or three feet of snow out there and it was still falling lightly as I stood in awe.  The term, “winter wonderland,” seemed no exaggeration at the time. 

It was cold on that door step and I pulled myself back into the living room, withdrawing from the cold and reveling in the warmth of our house, my immediate attention fixating on the tree in front of the window.  The lights were twinkling like a thousand stars beckoning to me.  Pretty colors played from the lights and were reflected on the wrappings of our collective gifts.  There, on the floor in the center of the room, my race car track had been constructed and two shiny cars were poised at the starting line, set to speed off at the drop of a flag.

Our custom was that the kids did not do Christmas without Mom and Dad.  I danced around the house as I waited for everyone to assemble in the living room so we could open the presents.  It was pure torture that Mom insisted on taking the time to brew that cup of coffee before we began.  But, alas, the time finally came.  My opportunity to feel the controller in my hand and press the accelerator control had arrived.  I pressed the button and waited with great anticipation for the little race car to roar to life and command that little figure eight track … and waited, and waited!  Nothing happened!

I checked the power cable, I checked all the connections.  I read the instruction manual forwards and backwards.  The car still would not budge.  My racing set did not work.  In today’s retail parlance it was an out of the box failure.

There I sat on Christmas morning with a toy that did not work and, for the first time in years, we were snowed in.  Two feet of snow in that part of Tennessee pretty much paralyzed travel in those days.  There was no equipment available to plow the highways; all you could do was to wait for it to melt.

I will never forget my father for what he did the next morning.  We still had more than two feet of snow on the ground, (it had snowed some more), yet he loaded me and my defective race car set into the family vehicle.  There were few cars on those snow covered roads as we made our way the twenty miles into Nashville, back to the store where the toy had been purchased. 

I thought there would be no chance that the store would even be open with that much snow on the ground, but, lo and behold, we made it there and was able to make the exchange.  The ride back home was one of the scariest I’ve ever made.  Shortly after leaving the store, the snow began to fall again.

The visibility on the highway was about ten feet.  The slippery roads became even slicker.  We almost got pushed off the road by a trucker barreling down on us trying to get out of the area before being stuck there and losing precious time.  The car lurched as we went into a skid, sliding across an unseen tarmac, frantically trying to maintain our path.

We made it home without further incident.  I saw a side of my father that morning that I had not seen before.  It was only after I returned home that I realized to just what extent my father would go and what he was willing to risk to insure the happiness of his son.  Yes, that was truly a magical Christmas that year and one I will never forget.

Thank you, Judith Heartsong.  I may not win a prize in this Essay Contest, because my gift was not a funny one, but the memory I retrieved was priceless.  Merry Christmas everyone, and a very Happy New Year!



jeanno43 said...

That is a beautiful and very moving story that had me spellbound.  A true story of love, the love that a parent has for a child.  Thank you.  I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.


jlocorriere05 said...

What a wonderful magical memory Sam! Your father sounded like a father most kids would love to have. I had a great childhood too with some memorable gifts, none funny but all very special like yours. I don't suppose you'll ever see a white Christmas in Savannah but you have that memory ofrom long ago to cherish! Have a wonderful time tomorrow and give my love to Paulette and Sandy and your kitties of course! Jeannette xx  

robinngabster said...

Beautiful story Sam, thanks for sharing it and merry Christmas to you!

justplainbill said...

Sam, great story, great Dad.
Merry Christmas, enjoy the Holiday Season, Bill

ksquester said...

Good one SAM and I reallly enjoyed it.  At least you didn't get a BB gun and shoot your eye out. I can only imagine the thoughts that went racing through your mind when the "flag" dropped and your car didn't move.  Merry Christmas Sam and thanks for entering and entertaining us all here in J-land.   Anne

madcobug said...

That was great Sam, I could almost see you doing all that. I think you did a very good job in the telling and describing your feelings at that time. Merry Christmas to you, Paulette and Sandy. Helen

piperacharmed1 said...

What a lovely story...thanks for sharing!

I hope you and your wife have a safe and happy holiday   : )


judithheartsong said...

Oh Sam,

What a beautiful story to share... I am so glad you did. Beautifully written and I think we can all feel the love in this memory.

Thank you for writing again,


ab45yui said...

Very nice story Sam, God Bless you and yours and Merry Christmas!

tpiez4me said...

Magical!  Thanks for the story.  Have a Merry Christmas.  

nhd106 said...

Oh you've won alright.    You've won a thousand times over.
Beautiful nice that you have that gratitude for your dad's love.

Happy Holidays Sam!


memes121 said...

What a great gift to us. A wonderful story. Merry Christmas friend! Tammy

astaryth said...

What a wonderful Christmas gift! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

barbpinion said...

Hi Sam. Merry Christmas. Your entry may not be about the funiest gift, but the memory is what is important. That particular Christmas touches you in a way no other Christmas ever could, or ever will. I so enjoyed reading it. Well, you know how much I love taking memory walks. LOL Thank you for sharing this. Loved it..and YOU TOO< of course.
Hugs and prayers always.

mariebm56 said...

WHat a wonderful memory....I loved your story, Sam!!  I think it's a winner!!
Merry Christmas!!!

sunnyside46 said...

I could feel the strength of your father and the faith of your child self
lovely story

slbourgoyne said...

It's hard to picture Uncle David risking life and limb like that, but he was a really wonderful guy!  Great memory.  Merry Christmas.  Love ya'll, Lynn

nightmaremom said...

Sam... great memory thanks for sharing.  It made me feel all warm and fuzzy and then brought tears.  Merry Christmas

ally123130585918 said...

Sam what a lovely memory from your childhood ~ and what a wonderful Dad to go to such lenghts to make his small son's Christmas day a happy one ~ Ally x

coloneljan said...

I had forgotten the trip to Nashville, but you are right.  Dad and Mom loved us enormously and my Christmases reflect the memories they left us.

jmorancoyle said...

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sam. You story was not funny, but it certainly was a reminder of all that we want our parents to be, and all that we want to be as parents. Very well done.

nedmoh said...

What a great story Sam thank you for sharing it with us ,I hope you win a prize ,its well worth one ,best wishes for the new year .......Jean

mutualaide said...

Not a funny gift, but a wonderful story Sam.  Thanks for sharing it with us all.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

carolhehe said...

Hi guy, This is the first time I think I have visited your journal ;) I liked your story. It hurts the head to think back so far sometimes. Carol

donejustwrite said...

If I were voting, you'd win!  This was great.  Very touching.

fowfies said...

Hey that was a great story, thanks for straining the brain and thinking of it. I know it can be tough to think of things like this way back...but if we settle down and take a little time we can think of all sorts of things that happened to us as kids. I am glad you remembered. Greatest dad in the world that day I know!

rjet33 said...

Your entry had me on the edge of my seat!  Having lived in Colorado and driven in that frightening situation personally, I can relate to how your father must have felt both in being a parent and having to fight the snow.  I loved the snow as long as I was on the inside looking out, but hated driving in it.  This is a wonderful memory.  You have a gift for writing.

Happy New Year!~


gravydogg55 said...

 I LIKED THIS STORY.       sam

pcol450 said...

Dear Sam,

what a wonderful wonder your Mom was so crazy about him...Pcol...

childebrand1968 said...

It may not be funny, as directed.. but it is priceless!

After all, who we become as adults depends on how are parents were and how we were treated by them.  You must have had awesome role models :)

And this story truly defines the man you have become because I can see you doing the same thing for your kids, grandkids.. and complete strangers...

Thanks for sharing this joyous memory with us and for making us take some time to appreciate the little things life has to offer, like gorgeous snowfalls!

Hope Christmas this year was grand and best wishes for the New Year :)

Big hugs~

luddie343 said...

What sheer delight reading this!  Your memories are so clear and sharp, the value you put on them is joyous to share, thank you for letting us.  I esp liked how you describe waking to see that "winter wonderland" it rings many familiar bells, alot of this entry does.  Thank you Sam!!  xoxo CATHY  

jeadie05 said...

What a lovely story Sam ,I enjoyed reading about your snow ,and what a lovely Dad you had ,good luck with your entry aJan xx

salemslot9 said...

I live in Michigan
so I have to say that
I was a bit surprised
that you didn't
get all crazy with the snow
making a snowman/snow angel
throwing snowballs
one time we used
clean garbage bags
to go down the hill
when we didn't
have a sled
I know...
the subject was
about your gift

gdireneoe said...

(((Sam)))  A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Sir!  What a wonderful memory.  Amazing the...the insight a child receives...;)  C.

helmswondermom said...

I really loved this story!  What a great memory!

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