Memory is a tricky thing. Bad memories filter to the top while good memories settle to the bottom of a very deep well and we struggle to keep them alive. The key is to replace the bad memories with good—or drown the bad in that well, whichever works. I’m a violent sort, so I’ll be drowning those suckers. 🙂
Holidays in our house growing up were mostly good, but that means I have only this vague recollection and warm, fuzzy feelings for Christmas. Well, all but one. The year I turned five, my father was recovering from a major car accident. Money was tight and we ultimately lost the house and Dad’s business to medical expenses.
That was the year someone adopted us. Just for Christmas presents that is. We were the little angels on a Giving Tree. The night before Christmas, a group of men brought what seemed like a truckload of presents for four kids and two adults. They deposited them under the empty tree just like Santa. I bounced on my toes in sheer joy at the mass of goodies. Too young to read, I didn’t know which presents were mine, but my older brother pointed out a ginormous and awkwardly wrapped present labeled “girl, aged 5.” It was bigger than me and taller than my teenage brother. It was mine, mine, mine!
As the men left to bring another load of goodies, I scooted closer to that funny shaped present. I may have poked the side and heard the wrapping crinkle. The finger may have—accidentally of course—punched through a spot in the wrapper. Come on, I was five. What would you do? I looked.
Inside was something soft, brown, and fuzzy. Fur! I couldn’t see the face, but I pictured a smiling bear face on this wonderfully massive gift. After the elves disappeared, Mom noticed a trail of white stuff all over the family room floor. Not just a few drops, but copious amounts of tiny white Styrofoam balls. Everywhere. She followed the trail to that awkwardly wrapped gift where, sure enough, a hole in the toe and wrapping caused it to bleed all over the house.
She didn’t know I had seen and loved and coveted that fluffy, loveable, stuffed bear, because that would have meant admitting that I had peeked. So she did what any mother would do. She waited until I went to bed.
Come Christmas morning, there was no awkwardly wrapped giant bear to unwrap. It had disappeared overnight. There were other presents under the tree for “girl, aged 5;” hats and gloves and girlie things, but what I remember most is that giant bear that could have been mine if he hadn’t leaked a trail of stuffing all over the family room floor.
That long ago Christmas may be why I’m a bit fanatical about making Christmas special for my kids. And why I wrote the not-quite-perfect Christmas story for Sofia and Logan. Don’t get me wrong, Logan’s trying to create good memories to drown out the bad of Sofia’s former life, so when the presentfest begins, Eli is in for a giant surprise:
With a squeal, Eli leaped from the table and ran for the tree. Wrapping paper flew as he shredded into the first present, a plastic dinosaur the size of a football. Holding her phone out, Sofia hunkered on the floor and snapped pictures. Dumbfounded by the wild activity, Logan perched on the floor against the sofa. Eli unwrapped several dinos before hitting the jackpot with a dinosaur sanctuary straight from the movies. The delight in his screams lit the house more than the Christmas lights. “Mom.”
“That one is all Logan.”
The boy’s eyes grew larger. “Thanks, Logan.”
“Couldn’t you find something bigger?” Sofia mocked.
“No.” He couldn’t take his eyes off Eli’s joyful face. “But I did try.”
“How long did you spend in the toy store?”
This time, he did turn to her. The teasing glint in her eyes and the lightness on her face hadn’t always been there. He’d done that, he thought, and it was a gold-medal moment. Making Sofia smile was his new goal in life. She deserved all the smiles she could get. “Blake and I might have spent two or three hours in the toy store,” he admitted. He pointed to Eli trying, and failing, to open the sanctuary box. “It was worth it.”
Christmas morning starts off perfect-ish in their house, but a mysterious phone call before dinner threatens more than their holiday celebrations. One thing is for certain. This holiday is one she’ll never forget.
Now it’s your turn. Post in the comments about the one Christmas you can’t forget and why it’s so memorable.
Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado as a single mom. Now she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into the one thing she can’t live without: writing. In fiction, she’s addicted to fast-paced suspense, heroes that keep you up all night, and the kind of love that survives that chaos of an imperfect life. Find her on Facebook as Cindy Skaggs, Writer, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or www.CSkaggs.com to sign up for her newsletter.