The Time I Caught “Santa”
By Noah Graff
As a child I always questioned the fictional characters parents told their children about. Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Not that I didn’t believe them, I was just curious why I never saw them. Christmas 2007 was approaching and I was six years old. At the time Christmas was my favorite holiday, so the suspense was building. This Christmas was different though. I was determined to catch Santa, even if I had to sacrifice not getting any presents that year.
I had a plan. Every night around midnight my parents would check if I was asleep. I was going to watch my alarm until 12 and pretend like I was sleeping when they checked. Soon enough, I heard my door creek then close slowly. Yes! The plan worked so far. Now I was going to stay up a little longer to be sure my parents were asleep.
Around 1:30, I knew it was time. I slowly rolled out of my bed and tiptoed to the door. When I turned the knob, I started to have second thoughts. But I wanted to find out the truth. Very steady, I turned the knob the whole way and opened the door. I crept into the hallway, trying not to make the floor creek. I planned on hiding behind the couch facing our tree until Santa arrived. Almost to the living room, I heard shuffling. Was it Santa? The only way to find out was to look around the corner. As I peeked around the wall I saw a figure. It was very dark so I could just make out the silhouette. I examined the man, quickly realizing it wasn’t the Santa I saw in pictures.
Still convinced it was Santa, I contemplated my next move. Do I say something? Do I wait and watch? Do I tackle him and expose his identity like a Scooby-Doo episode? I chose to watch him a little longer. As I made out the shape of the man it began to look more familiar. Santa wasn’t as fat as I remembered and actually rather fit. Moments later another being walked into the living room. Not far from me, I realized it was my mom! Surprised, a slight gasp slipped out of my mouth. My mom turned my way and saw that it was me. She told me to come out and I realized Santa was my dad. I had found out the truth.
Every day after that I would question my parents on everything. And until all my friends found out Santa wasn’t really, it took everything not to tell them the truth.
Keeping The Memories Alive
By Julie Burrell
Big fat snowflakes shining bright in the headlights of my Dad’s El Camino… Practicing Christmas songs for hours before family showed up, promising to sing for them all, only to chicken out every single year…pumpkin pie with burnt crust… Granny’s famous potato salad… sledding in the dark with my brothers…Christmas brunch at my grandma’s…snowball fights with my cousins…20 people stuffed into my Granny’s living room opening presents as I pretended to be Santa… These memories of my childhood holidays have turned into Elf on the Shelf…sneaking presents upstairs after the kids go to bed…matching Christmas pajamas for my babies…Drinks with the in-laws on Christmas Eve… Christmas Brunch at my Moms…. Christmas Day at my in-laws…. Savoring the wonder on the faces of my children as they see the tree after Santa came…and a tiny bit of relaxation with my amazingly perfect family of 4.
There’s no place I’d rather be, and no people I’d rather spend the holidays with.
As life evolves and gets busier by the day, it can be so easy to forget the original traditions and those who pass on. For the benefit of our children, tell the stories, keep the traditions, and don’t stop visiting the grandmas, grannys, mimis, and nanas.
By Marianne Boerigter
If you are of at least a certain age, you remember them too; the slides and the slide projector. Almost every family had slides. There was always that one person in the family who could actually run the projector correctly, without them all looking backwards or upside down.
At Thanksgiving, a few of us in my family were talking about old family photos, and of course, slides came up. My sister said she had the slides our parents had taken, and I remembered I had a small case of slides from our grandparents. Later that weekend, I started googling how to best transfer slides to a more usable digital format so maybe all of us in the family could have copies. I came upon a "film to digital converter" gadget and hit the "order now" button.
The next day I pulled that case of slides from our grandparents out of the back of the my closet and found twelve Kodak slide trays with 30 slides in each. I took out the first tray and started holding up each slide to the light…..hmmm. Beautiful fall trees, geese, and people I had absolutely no idea who they were.
The second tray had much more promise. A piece of tape on the side said "Kids". Sure enough, slides from the late 50's and 60's of our family, Christmas, birthdays, and brand new cars with the proud owners standing next to them. Being the youngest in the family, many of them were from before me or when I was a very young. My brother and sisters, mom and dad and grandparents looking so young, smiling and happy. Yes, these are the ones I needed to work on to convert and share.
My new converter gadget worked wonderfully. I quickly get through the 30 slides in the "Kids" tray and went on to the next tray. My grandparents' house, and few more family shots, and then……hmmm. Beautiful fall trees, geese, and more people I had absolutely no idea who they are. Grandpa apparently really liked the trees in their fall colors.
Next tray reads "Holland Tulip Time Floats". Really? No, there can't really be 30 slides of 1961 Tulip Time floats in there, right? Oh yes, there was. Next tray, "Flowers". Yep, roses, tulips, peonies, and flowering bushes with no clue where they were located. More un-labeled trays produced about 20 more slides that were recognizable for location at least or the people in them. Out of 360 slides, 50 of them I converted. But I have to say, they are the best 50 photos around because they all capture a special time for our family.
This holiday season I encourage you to pull out some old photo albums or even the dreaded slide projector and take some time to remember. I imagine you will find some that give you that warm feeling of family and good times. Share some with your friends and family and spread love, laughter and memories. Happy Holidays!
By Ken DeLaat
While we rejoice and celebrate the season there are always folks who are experiencing loss during these days and no other time magnifies those feelings like the holidays.
“This year, Christmas just is what it is”, she said softly.
Garnishing the strength within and the resolve of having made strides toward change and determined to use those tools gained in the process, she came to the only place you can go and remain honest with yourself and others.
I can’t feel any better than this right now.
No amount of pretending will make it go away.
I’m too tired to take care of all of you.
Now, please, don’t attempt to wrest a Rockwell moment out of the ashes of my Christmas of loss.
Enjoy and rejoice and revel and don’t feel obligated to take care of me.
Just show me you care by acknowledging me, loving me, and leaving me be as I desire.
I’m not gone nor am I forever changed.
I’ll be happy again at my time and pace.
I’ll come back to you.
But this year, please, Christmas just is what it is.
Christmas Tree Adventures
By Megan Wirts
A few years ago my husband, Jeremy, and I decided that we needed a real Christmas tree. Ok, I decided that we needed a real Christmas tree and the small people and I campaigned for it for a few weeks. We won.
It wasn’t just about the tree, it was about the experience. My husband and children had never experienced going out and cutting down their own Christmas tree and I was convinced that they needed this experience in order to live full lives. The only time my husband ever had a real tree as a child was when a friend of his family came for a visit and noticed that there was no tree in the house. He told Jeremy and his family that he would be back in a few minutes and returned with a freshly chopped down real Christmas tree. The details about where he found said tree and if it was totally legal were never discussed, my husband and his siblings were just happy to have a tree that year.
When I was growing up we had a real tree a few times, but then my mom got a fancy schmancy fake tree and that was the end of ever having a real Christmas tree. I’m not bashing on fancy shmancy fake Christmas trees or even non fancy fake Christmas trees. I have had fake trees and I have liked them just fine. They are easy to put up, you don’t have to water them, you don’t have needles all over your house and you can get them pre lit to avoid having to deal with tangled webs of Christmas lights. I see the appeal. I totally get it, but there is just something about having a real tree in the house that I just love. Plus, I wanted the experience.
Oh, the experience! The wagon rides, horse drawn carriages, roasted chestnuts, cocoa and maybe even a Santa sighting. You know, the stuff Hallmark movies are made of. I wanted that perfect happy family moment, with the perfect happy family photo in front the the perfect happy tree that we picked out together. Guess what? Perfect doesn’t exist. Perfect is unattainable and is a lie that social media will have you believe exists. Sure, there are wagon rides, but it’s usually so cold that the air makes your face turn to ice and tears sting your eyes and you just repeat to yourself, “I wanted this, I wanted this, I wanted this”, while trying to remember what it was like to feel your fingertips.
Then you have to find the tree (that you ALL agree on) and cut it down. The first year that we got our real tree, Jeremy vowed to never get one again because cutting it down was not as easy as it looked, especially when using an old dull saw. That first year, I was newly disabled and the small people were much too small to help. It took him so long to get that tree down that we were all certain the entire Christmas season would pass us by before we even left the tree farm. The second year, we were more prepared with a better saw (that belonged to my great grandfather and was freshly sharpened) and promises of the children actually helping. Luckily for Jeremy, our boy has a great affinity for cutting things down and using sharp dangerous objects. It has attributed to the growing amounts of grey hair on the top of my head, but I have to believe that these skills will be of use to him in the future and I can always dye my hair.
This year, we made the long trek to the Christmas tree farm. By long trek, I mean a few hundred feet. We literally live across the street from the tree farm. Which is another reason we really must have a real tree. I mean, they are right there. I can see them from my bedroom window. I felt like they were taunting me all those years we had that fake tree. All those beautiful evergreens just sitting there looking all Christmasy and beautiful, smelling of pine and fresh snow. I needed one in my house dang it! So, anyway, this year we got to the tree farm and decided to forgo the wagon ride (thank goodness!) and drove to where the Fraser Firs were located. (Fraser Firs are by far the superior tree of all Christmas trees. They have the softest needles and they smell so freaking good!) To make it even more of a perfect Hallmark moment we brought along our dog, Bosco, thinking it would be so much fun for him. It was, until he slipped out of his collar and he almost got hit by a tractor. Actually, it was probably fun for him for that brief moment of freedom, but it absolutely was not fun for me and that meant poor Bosco was going to have to wait out the tree finding adventure in the car, where he barked like a crazed maniac at anyone that walked by.
We did find our tree and we did get that family photo that I wanted and nobody really cried this time. At least not until we got home. When we arrived home with the giant 10 foot tall and 5 foot wide tree that takes up more than half of my living room, I did shed a few tears. Not out of frustration, anger or sadness, they were tears of joy and relief. Joy filled my eyes from seeing my perfectly imperfect family be happy together and relief spilled over because that stupidly huge tree mostly fit in the house.
Our tree finding adventures may not always go smoothly or be perfect Hallmark moments and the tears shed are not always tears of joy, but it’s something we do together and it’s always memorable. We also always end up with a beautiful Christmas tree to fill our home with that delicious pine smell and lots and lots of needles by the end of the holiday season.
MJ Meets - The Holidays
Let me start by admitting right off the “bat” that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Give me all things spooky, all of the time (like the stuffed crow which I still have on my desk at work in protest of the witching season being complete for 2018). With that being said, there is something wonderfully magical about the days that fall between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The lights, the music, the movies—all classic staples of my childhood. The holiday season always brings with it a deluge of memories, and with this season being my first without all of my grandparents, I am especially grateful for these recollections.
Traditions run deep in my family, and I often have a difficult time with swallowing change. The Christmases of my entire childhood followed the same schedule: Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family, Christmas morning with my parents, and Christmas Day with my dad’s side of the family. Always the same food (lasagna on Christmas Eve, kielbasa and homemade cheesecake on Christmas day), and, for the most part, the same locations. You could always count on my Grandpa Little to wear his infamous Garfield Christmas sweatshirt on Christmas Eve (Garfield in a stocking cap holding lumps of coal saying “There must be some mistake.” Classic grandfather sweater.) My Grandma Little would inevitably give one of us extra plastic bags or another random household gift. On Christmas Day my Grandma Della was always the peacekeeper, and prevented our family from falling apart over an argument over whatever Trivial Pursuit we happened to be playing.
On February 9, 2013, we lost my Grandma Della. There was not a lot of time to prepare for it, and with me living in Florida, it was even more difficult to cope with. The first Christmas without her was strange—it felt like the traditions would never be the same. Instead, our family rallied, and while we still argue over trivia, we now also participate in a family game of BINGO—Grandma’s favorite. Kielbasa is still served, and my aunt has exceeded expectations at making the famous cheesecake.
On February 8, 2014, we lost my Grandma Little—almost exactly a year apart from my other grandmother. Traditions had already begun changing on that side of the family—with my cousin’s family growing, it was too hard to meet in any of our houses on Christmas Eve, so we had already moved the date and location. We didn’t get plastic bags or boxes of tea that year, but we still had lasagna (her original recipe), and my grandpa still wore his Garfield sweatshirt.
Finally, on August 8, 2018, we lost my Grandpa Little, four years and six months after his sweetheart. This coming Christmas will be the strangest yet, without his re-telling (and re-telling and re-telling) of stories, and the smell of black coffee. We will still have lasagna, though, and I will be wearing that Garfield sweatshirt with a huge smile on my face.
A shift in tradition can be hard during the holiday season, but that’s not necessarily bad (or sad) as this story implies. The change my family has endured has also allowed growth for new traditions, some of which aren’t limited to the holiday season. Changes will always keep coming, but each year we find ways to embrace them and create new memories while treasuring the old ones more and more.
BALL OF LIGHTNESS
PUFF OF FUR HELD IN HAND
DEAD OF WINTERS HARDY SWIVER
STILL AS SNOW HOWLS YOU WAIT
BLACK-CAPPED FEATHERED WARRIOR
SOFT ELEGANT SWOOSH ONTO
SPACIOUS BUFFET LANDING SITE
SEED DISH FORMERLY BIRD BATH
ALOOF AMONG SKIRMISHES OF BLUEJAYS AND DOVES
DARTING DAGGERS OF BEAKS SORTING AND SNORTING
STEALING SEEDS IN PLAIN SMEARED WINDOW VIEW
ROCKET PROPELLED UPTO YOUR LEAF STRIPPED BRANCH
YOU ARE MY SUPER HERO
Christmas with a Bang
By Charles Chandler
Louisiana, my birth state is a strange, small, boot shaped affair that should be an icon for cultural diversity. This trend toward diversity began around 2000 BC, when some Mayans traders from the Yucatan in Mexico, paddled across the Gulf, up the Mississippi River and took a left at Bayou Marcon. In a few miles they found some high ground, built some big mounds and develop a far-flung successful trading business that lasted for about 1000 years.
After a bit the French, Spanish, Caribbeans, Creoles, Arcadians, African Americans, British Americans, Germans, Italians, and Mexicans started to drop by. Everyone and everything so to speak went into the Gumbo Pot. Now each Parish, city or village in this small sub-tropical state has a different ethnicity with an associated food and holiday tradition.
In the British American populated piney woods of Winn Parish where I grew up, it was all about Christmas. Residents assuredly agree that "everybody celebrates Christmas but in Louisiana, Christmas is a colorful, diverse and unique celebration." In our part of the Gumbo Pot the secular center of our Christmas holiday was the BIG BANG. Fireworks, loud, colorful and by the bunches. Fireworks may be a national event for Independence Day, but people in Louisiana sell, buy and ignite more fireworks over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than on July 4th. According to one local Louisiana fire popper vendor “we sell about two-and-a-half times as many fireworks over the Christmas holidays as we do for the Fourth of July.”
As children, our Christmas presents included the practical pairs of socks, and replacement underwear and blue jeans. The big-ticket items for those packs of smelly feral little boys were ammunition for their official Red Rider Daisy BB Guns, a little fishing tackle and strings of Black Cat firecrackers. If our parents had a good year, maybe some prized roman candles, sparklers, buzz bombs, and small rockets. When we reached the age of responsibility, probably around ten, we got the good stuff, cherry bombs, and silver salutes (now illegal). We terrorized the countryside with these mini mortar shells. Half of my generation probably has tinnitus from these small but powerful brain-jarring concussion grenades. We loved these fireworks and I truly owe my very existence to a lady finger the smallest of this collection of pyrotechnics.
As the story goes, my beloved little blue-eyed always smiling Welsh Grandfather, Edward Lewis was fatally smitten by the beauty of my English Grandmother Essie Moore. During that long-ago Christmas holiday, Edward had come calling on Essie at her parents’ home in Jackson Parish. He had driven up in his smart little buggy pulled by the family horse, Prince.
The Moore family were by country farm standards well off in more ways than one. They had a large farm, nice home, good stock and four daughters. On this day there were several young swains visiting the older Moore girls. It was a warm evening and the group was out on the veranda enjoying holiday pastries and beverages. A good time was being had by all until someone broke out the firecrackers. In this case, the poppers were lady fingers, they are about a half inch long and smaller than a pencil. It was acceptable for the women of the day to light them off if they were wearing their gloves, hence the name lady fingers. These lady fingers would produce a petite pop and if held too long would result in nothing more than a bruised finger.
At one point in the party Edward bragged that these little lady fingers were so harmless that he could hold one in his teeth and light it. We will never know what Ed was thinking, maybe he wanted to impress Essie or separate himself from the pack of other suitors, but we do know what he did next.
The crowd called his bluff and he put one of the small lady fingers in his jaw, clamped down and someone stuck a match to the fuse. The short-term results of his stunt were that he was instantly knocked out. He was carried in the house and the local doctor was called. The Doctor arrived in his Tin Lizzy and examined Edward the Brave. Country Doc said that his molar was loose and he probably had a slight concussion and proclaimed him to be a young fool. The long-term results of the explosive event were that Essie married Edward and I became their first and certainly most favorite grandson.
And as long as our family gathered at Papa and Mamma Lewis’s home for Christmas Dinner and gifts were exchanged this story was retold. When one of the grandkids would invariably open a package containing a treasure trove of firecrackers that would be our cue to start begging Mama Lewis to tell us about the time Papa Lewis put a firecracker in his mouth and blew his head off.
By Chris Wren
Waking up Christmas morning brings happiness and joy to me that is very special and deep in family tradition. I love the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day football, but nothing beats Christmas morning.
I will never forget Christmas morning when I was eight years old and running downstairs to the biggest present I had ever seen. As I tore into the wrapping paper I knew that my efforts of pestering my parents for months paid off and the G.I. Joe aircraft carrier was in fact under the tree. I shook with excitement and may even have fainted for a moment it was a great present but more importantly solidified how special Christmas morning can be. It wasn’t the present but sharing the moment with my family.
Knowing that my dad had as much fun as I did watching me open a present and being with the family truly resonated from that day forward. Over thirty years later, I still wake up with the same excitement and happiness that I had that day. My wife can confirm that we don’t usually make it past 6 am before I am up excited to get the morning going. The weeks of shaking presents, decorating the house and preparing for the morning is my favorite time of the year.
This year will be the most special Christmas morning yet for me as I will for the first time get to wake up with a son of my own. I don’t foresee a G.I. Joe aircraft carrier this year, but the love and happiness that my dad created for me will be replicated. Continuing the family tradition for Christmas morning is exciting and I am looking forward to seeing the happiness on my son’s face when he opens his presents and is surrounded by love, even though he will probably be more excited for the box the present comes in. Getting the coffee going, cooking a big breakfast and spending the morning with those who I love is the perfect tradition I will continue as my parents did with me.
This year I may not make it past 5 am.