A SHORT STORY ABOUT THE JOYS OF CHRISTMAS ~
(originally posted December 2013)
The people were surrounding me stepping on my foot, jabbing with their elbows, bumping me into other people. I was pushing back just to maintain my balance. There was so much noise my head was pounding. A squealing sound near the ceiling of the big room made my headache worse. Long lines, crying babies, noisy talkers, so many bodies pressed against me.
Why did I ever agree to go out shopping and make myself nervous and tired? Sure, she’s my best friend and her kids are normally fun and cuddly, but right now, I wish they were sleeping in their little beds at home. I thought it would be festive if Momma, Sabrina, my husband, Matt, and I met them at the mall for Santa pictures where he sits in the big chair surrounded by magic snow and more screaming kids.
Baby Bradley pulled on my coat asking, “What is that white stuff around Santa?”
It’s magic snow, Bradley,” I said as I smiled.
He broke away from his sister’s hand and laughed as he crawled around in the white stuff now covering his Christmas suit and matching hat. Children–the innocence of Christmas.
And that’s how it all started…with magic snow!
Momma said it would be a good day to get out and enjoy the season. Really! Well, I’m worried about her as well as myself. I would feel so bad if someone pushed her down and caused a broken bone.
My teenage daughter, Sabrina, with all sorts of tubes and ear muffs on her multi-pierced ears, is not listening to a word I yell at her. Of course she’s not because she hasn’t heard anything I’ve said since she was 13 when her aunt Elizabeth bought her those earphone things. I can tell from the rolling eyes—the only way she communicates with me for the past year—she wishes this “seasonal event” was over so she could meet her friends. I’ve learned to accept that all of us, as old people, are such lame companions.
My husband said he would just wait in the car and watch the rest of some ballgame on his phone sipping his café espresso .
“Well, of course, honey, that’s fine if you want,” I grimaced at him—and he smiled as if I just made a pass at him!
So much for thinking he would carry the packages. I looked back at him as the rest of us got out slowly watching for ice patches surrounding the van. Why can’t I be the one in the car with my Grande peppermint mocha latte? When do I get my Christmas wish?
Immediately I heard the shrieks of Bradley and his older sister running up and down the sidewalk. The kids were jumping up and down and waving their chubby mitten-covered hands beckoning us to join their fun.
As we entered the mall and I saw all the people, I remembered how horrible it could be shopping on Christmas Eve. If I survive this mob, I’ve still got to stop and get replacement bulbs for the tree lights. Got to go to four more stores for gift cards, and pick up the ingredients for my famous rum pumpkin pie. Rum? Maybe two bottles I’m thinking!
It’s coming back to me now how much I hate shopping on Christmas Eve.
In fact, I am so tired that if Christmas doesn’t hurry up and get here and gone, I may just see if Santa could use a new elf for next year—I hear it’s a year-long training in a far-away place!
Splat! Ouch! Ugh!
I’ve been attacked with something akin to a baseball bat! Oh, it’s just Baby Bradley and his bottle he’s swinging like a boomerang. The screeching sound in my ear is him laughing and squeaking.
My friend said,“Bradley, honey, don’t hit anyone with that.”
No problem, my friend, it’s not anyone—it’s only me!
A short time later, I got candy cane sticky kisses and hugs from Bradley and his sister. My friend and her two little ones left us to our shopping.
Where is my daughter? You’d think I could find her with all that electrical equipment on her head but I think she’s run away and left me in this colossal mess and disorderly crowd. Surely she knows if she retreats to the car with her dad, I’ll be left alone to fend for myself and Momma. Would she do that? In a heartbeat or a drumbeat or whatever her stethoscope-like wires hear when they are stuck in her ear.
Oh, no, where’s Momma! Did someone slam her to the floor and steal her huge purse. No, they couldn’t wrench it off her shoulder the way she ties that on…and they would be weighted down with its contents. But where is she?
“Oh, I’m so sorry ma’am – I didn’t mean to bump into you and step on your foot and elbow you and the little ones,” I said.
I apologized profusely to a woman and five children strung out like a “Hands Across America” exhibit. I really had done nothing to her but it sounded nicer if I apologized to them as they continued on through the crowd forming a bulldozer-like barricade.
Momma, Sabrina, come back and help me. I’m dropping the packages and a boy has his Game of Thrones-like sword stuck in my back and he’s jabbing me with it.
I raised my voice above that of the blaring loud-speaker crying, “Come back and help me!
After what seemed like hours of abuse and stomping and noise, I realized it was quiet and dark. Oh, no, I’ve blacked out and am dying! The crowd of people are all finally gone and debris is all around me. My packages are strewn about with their contents lying hither and yon.
Oh, no! My ribs hurt as I chuckled because draped over my feet are the Santa boxers that are supposed to be a private gift for my Naughty Santa husband. My purse—where’s my purse? Ouch…that must be it I’m lying on that’s punching me in the ribs. Well, at least no one took that—one good thing. The sign which had been hanging near the checkout line was across my body. I could still read it though:
“Last Mark Down Items For Christmas Eve Shoppers”
Now I remember… I’m in the midst of the Joys of Christmas
Slowly I saw feet…yes, that must be what it is…feet of big monsters coming to get me. Oh, please don’t let it be that kid with the sword again. Two, four, five—no—six—wait seven feet. One of those must be another victim of the monster kid—and he’s cut off someone’s leg this time. I blinked and realized it was my husband’s black boot near me…just one boot…just one foot…what was going on?
He was leaning on a makeshift crutch–oh, there’s his other foot—kind of behind him just hanging in mid-air. He truly looks strange!
Matt said, “You’ll never believe what happened!”
By now I felt like some of the bodies connected to the feet around me should be helping me up. In the increasing darkness of the store, a man with legs attached to his feet—one, two—yes, but I don’t recognize those shoes of that member of the 7-legged group.
As he knelt beside me, he asked, “Do you need an ambulance?”
I heard my Momma’s ever present voice—slightly raised because she thought we couldn’t hear her if she couldn’t hear us.
“I thought you’d be watching out for me, but we got separated and almost mowed down by a string of kids.” Oh, yes, I remember the human barricade.
I tried to move, but my shoulder—the one holding the purse—was sore. I raised up a little on the other shoulder.
“Sorry, Momma, are you OK?”
“Yes, but with no help from you.”
The knees beside Momma were twitching impatiently and I recognize those outrageously expensive boots I bought earlier this year for Sabrina’s birthday.
My teenager said, “Mom, that’s so embarrassing. I had to leave the store before someone recognized who was lying on the floor!”
Lucky for us, my ever-faithful Sabrina had not been captured by the same mob that was taking over the mall only moments earlier. Didn’t they want her? No, of course not–they returned her to her owner! How grateful am I?
Shaking the fog from my head, I raised up slowly and sat on my sore butt. I looked up at the one leg. Then I raised my head slowly to meet the gnarled white face of my husband.
I asked, “What happened to you?”
He said, “It’s this dang Christmas shopping! Momma came running out of the store saying it wasn’t safe in here. Sabrina came out and buried her head in the seat of the car saying she’ll never be able to go to school again because of you. I figured someone had to support you in your hour of need so I left them in the car and slid on the ice covering the store’s parking lot. I dropped my café espresso! How did you all get across that ice without getting killed? Luckily there was a broom there so I hobbled in to see if anyone knew where you were.”
“So that’s where the snowman’s broom went. That’s company property, Mister,” the previously helpful manager said as he jerked it from my husband. Matt came tumbling down on me.
Ouch! Ugh! Yell—Scream—it’s either my ribs that are broken or the sword-yielding monster kid again.
Sabrina said, “You two are so embarrassing! I’ll never be able to show my face at school, and I’ll become a dropout, and live on the street, and go into malls to stay out of the cold, and there you’ll be again falling all over the place and I’ll have to drop out of homelessness. My entire life is ruined.”
Momma added, “Well this didn’t turn out to be much fun!”
As the store lights flickered the sound over the intercom was clear now. No people hustling and bustling and no crying, screaming kids.
You must leave the store now ~ We are closed ~ Merry Christmas to all ~ We will reopen the day after tomorrow!
I looked at my disgusted family and said, “Does that mean they’ve closed down Christmas, too? Is it over and we can just lie here until New Year’s Eve? Please let me just lie here.”
“I thought you were gonna make that rum pumpkin pie,” Momma said.
My husband had picked up the Santa boxers looking at them with a puzzled look on his face.
Sabrina again screeched. “Oh, no! This could not be more embarrassing! What are you doing with those, Dad?”
“They’re not mine,” he said. “Only a drunken Santa would wear these!”
I looked at the various faces about me now. My family, my loved ones, and a store manager with a broom. I thought of what was left of Christmas Eve. Right then and there, I made a decision.
“Honey, you want to help me up and we’ll go get that rum at Charlie’s Pub? Oh, no, no, bring those boxers with you,” I said emphatically.
“Momma, can you call a cab for you and Sabrina? And those packages—take them all home except this one,” I said as I tucked a little silver bag under my arm.
“Take what you want out of them. Matt and I will be home tomorrow in time for Christmas dinner.”
“Who’s gonna cook dinner? What do I tell Aunt Elizabeth when she comes early like she always does?” Sabrina screamed with a stricken look on her face.
“Just sprinkle magic snow all over the table and it will happen,” I said.
Of course, I didn’t mean that. What I meant was everything was already prepared for the dinner and no one would go hungry. But I kept that little secret to myself.
“What does that mean?” she asked quietly.
“Where are we going?” Matt asked me holding his boxers against his chest a little like Superman’s S.
I smiled at how he looked as he was now leaning on the display table to hold himself up. He did look kind of like I was making a pass and he was about to accept it. That’s my Naughty Santa!
“You remember that little B&B down the street from the pub? Charlie owns that and I bet it’s got a vacancy for Christmas Eve night.”
With my secret bag tucked under my arm, I moved toward Matt. He leaned on my sore shoulder. We hobbled out of the store leaving Momma yelling for us to come back. Sabrina had sunk to the floor with her scarf covering her face. They surely knew I loved them, but I had to find some peace and quiet and a little magic couldn’t hurt!
Then the manager, holding the broom Matt had been leaning on, said, “Who’s gonna pay for all this?”
“Santa will. He has magic snow,” I said as we left the disastrous scene.
“This will be the most unusual Christmas Eve we’ve ever had,” Matt said as he smiled at me and winked………….and so it was!
The magic snow was not limited to the area around Santa’s big chair where Baby Bradley had crawled. Snow was right on the top of Matt’s blonde hair as we drug into Charlie’s Pub looking more like we should be dragging out. I had visions of sugar plums and magic snow dancing in my head after we had tasted the rum.
Later that night in the upstairs room of the Victorian B&B house, I was sitting in the four-poster bed with the massive thick quilt pulled up under my chin.
With just his head peeking out from behind the bathroom door, Matt said “What’s that little silver bag on the bed?”
“Oh, nothing…well it’s something…but you’ll have to come here to see it.”
Matt stepped into the room, fireplace burning brightly, a partially sampled bottle of rum on the nightstand, and my favorite expression of his—the Robert Redford smile. I stifled a laugh as he stood there in those Santa boxers and his long-sleeved thermal undershirt shivering just a little.
“Shouldn’t you crawl under these covers so you won’t get cold, Santa?”
As he snuck under the quilt, he laughed and said, “Well, Mrs. Clause, that’s a cute little outfit you are wearing. And what are those? Bells?” A muffled jingle filled the air and we laughed.
“What are you thinking?” he asked me.
“Just that this is the best Christmas wish I’ve ever had answered on Christmas Eve, by my own Santa.”
We turned to hug, and outside the big picture window, we could see it was beginning to snow heavily.
And that’s how it ended…the magic day of magic snow!
Oh, the Joys of Christmas
© Van Hess and New Journeys on Old Roads, 2013. [Full details included in My Rules] #1-1/12/13