Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Tales of Christmases past needn’t stop with holiday’s pass

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 12/27/2013

“DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL CHRISTMAS!”

Those words were emblazoned on the package Barbara D’Amario received every December from her mother. She never heeded the instructions. “In the battle of ethics versus curiosity, ethics never prevailed,” she wrote in her story “The Package,” published in one of our Christmas books.

“DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL CHRISTMAS!”

Those words were emblazoned on the package Barbara D’Amario received every December from her mother. She never heeded the instructions. “In the battle of ethics versus curiosity, ethics never prevailed,” she wrote in her story “The Package,” published in one of our Christmas books.

It wasn’t that she was so eager to have the gifts inside. In fact, apart from the delicious “date and nut loaf” that came every year, the gifts tended to be somewhat eccentric. “Over the years,” Barbara wrote, “there were jewelry caddies, address books covered in simulated zebra skin, swizzle sticks with cute sayings and a gold electroplated Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer necklace, complete with ‘genuine ruby nose.’” The importance of the box was that it was Barbara’s sign that the holidays had begun and it was a way to feel close to her mother who lived far away.

When Barbara’s children were old enough, eagerly awaiting the Christmas package from Grandma became a family tradition. And guessing at what strange items would be inside was half the fun. “My mom had a talent for finding mutant versions of rather ordinary things,” Barbara wrote. So, after Barbara’s daughter began taking dance classes, there were salad spoons with hula dancer handles and sunglasses with plastic, ballet dancers attached to the frames.

The boxes arrived without fail every December until the last year of Barbara’s mother’s life. She died one October. When Barbara cleaned out her mom’s house she found a package addressed to her. Of course, she knew what it was. She took it home and, at Christmastime, placed it under the tree. It might have been the first time she heeded her mother’s instruction not to open the package before Christmas. In fact, Barbara never opened that last package. Every year she places it under the tree. It’s her way of keeping her mother involved in the holiday, and it’s still her sign that the season has arrived. As Barbara wrote in her story, when she sees the package under the tree she knows it’s time to “let the festivities begin!”

•••

One of the delights of parenting is being surprised by our children’s generous moments. It seems these moments are particularly common this time of year, at least judging by some of the stories in our most recent Christmas book.

In her story “Lauren’s Lesson,” Kara M. Bietz wrote about finding a letter her daughter Lauren had written to Santa. At first Kara just thought it was a cute wish list. But when she looked closer she was surprised to find that almost all of the gifts listed were for other people. Among Lauren’s requests were, “NO MORE WAR! PEACE PLEASE!” and “A tablet for my brother Ryan. He really really wants one.”

In “A Little Help for Santa,” Deborah Agler wrote about one Christmas morning when her two young sons excitedly asked her what Santa had left in her stocking. She realized she’d forgotten to hang and fill her own stocking, so she stalled, saying she’d open it later. Then her younger son dropped the stocking in her lap, and she was surprised to find it had some weight to it. When she reached in, she found a box of candy she knew had been originally placed in his stocking. At some point, her little boy had discovered his mom’s stocking was empty and put his treat in it so she wouldn’t be disappointed. “Wow, Mommy, you got a great gift!” he exclaimed.

Ed Marriott spends Decembers dressed as Santa at a supermarket. As he wrote in “What Would You Like for Christmas, Santa?” one evening he got discouraged when one kid after another made rude demands and threw temper tantrums. He was about to trudge home when a mother asked if he had time for one more. He pulled the girl onto his lap, expecting more of the same bad behavior. But when he asked what she wanted for Christmas, she said, sincerely, “Anything you have left over.” Then, she looked him in the eyes and asked, “What would you like for Christmas, Santa?” After his long day, Ed was floored, and delighted. “In her childlike innocence,” he wrote, “she had already given Santa his Christmas gift.”

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

comments powered by Disqus