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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Santa Caper

Christmas is, for me, always a time for reflection. I look back to my childhood with such fondness for the way  things were back in the 1950s.  I live in the present and don't dwell on the past, but I cannot shake my memories of wonderful times past.

My parents were barely out of their teens when my sister was born in 19030.  Five years later my big brother was born. Those two kids got to live through the Depression and moved with my mom and dad from city to city wherever my dad could find work. I came along in 1947 and had the good fortune to live in a family who thought the Depression was still going on. Throughout my youth and teen years, my mother was as tight as old Ebeneezer.

Still I remember the cookies and fudge and divinity she made, the sprinkles and gum drops and hot chocolate too.  Even back then they sold Christmas trees by the foot.  She cheated and bought a shorter tree and placed it on top of our coffee table which made it look taller. There is an old photo of tiny me, looking up at that special tree. I remember one night so damned well, I pulled on an ornament, and down the tree fell. She screamed at wee me and I thought bloody hell, I'm done for.

A few years later on Christmas Eve day, I was helping my mother clean out the refrigerator to make room for our Christmas feast. I was perhaps eight or nine years old. I placed every single thing from the refrigerator on top of the blond drop leaf dining table with its extended leaf. (I must diverge a moment: years earlier I learned about electricity maybe ten feet away from that very table. I stuck a key into an outlet and across the room I flew in flash.)

My dad liked to try new things. He also liked to buy in bulk. I guess he thought the more you buy, the more you save. Once he took me to the store and bought an entire box of Peter Paul Mounds. One was great, two was wonderful, three was pretty good still, but after four the thrill was over. I was a little pig and ate the whole box, but I learned that too much of a good thing is more than enough.

Just before Christmas my dad found this new time saving can of concentrated coffee (the size of a big old tomato juice can).  The concept was simple: put a spoon of concentrated coffee into a cup, add hot water, and whamo you have hot brewed intensely rich coffee.  The last item I placed on the drop leaf table was the big can of liquid coffee. Back then tin cans had holes punched on either side to allow air pressure to let the contents flow: I guess resealable tops had not yet been invented.  At first the table leaf teetered, and then it tottered. I reacted quickly, but not quick enough. The table tumbled onto our brand new wall to wall carpet.  Bloody hell again!  I thought for sure I would die on this day. I raced to the phone and called my dad to come home quick, I told him my mom was going to kill me for my bad little trick.

I think it was the next Christmas that my folks last spent together. My dad had been in the hospital for some unspoken problem which I know think involved in prostate. I remember being surprised and so happy when he came home on Christmas Eve day.  I told him how much I missed him and loved him. I remember him hugging me so tightly that day.  A week later on New Year's Eve day we all awoke to a great fire. No, it wasn't at my house but we did not know where it was at first. The sirens were screaming in our little town. That sort of thing just did not happen back then. Sirens and cops and fire engines were foreign to me.  We looked out from our living room window to flames and smoke more than three blocks away. I remember it well, this truly was bloody hell. The next day was New Years Day, my birthday.  I walked up to the scene of the fire: a Safeway store at 38th and Benton. I remember people walking among the ruins. The front wall was gone and water was all over the floor. People were picking up cans of food as though they were souvenirs or something. Like a little fool I followed the adults inside and found a lime, which I kept as my prize.

By the next Christmas my mother and dad had divorced. My mother told me there would be no Santa Claus that year. She said I was too big. I was not too big: I was still a squirt. My big brother had told me continuously for years that there was no Santa. The year prior (when my dad came home from the hospital) I went shopping with my mother and grandmother.  My prying eyes spotted little toys and a 45 RPM record of Ave Marie that ended up in my Santa stocking on Christmas Day. So I reluctantly admitted to myself that my treacherous brother hadn't made this stuff up. Well, he was still being mean: he told me because he wanted to spoil Christmas for me. Not so fast, you big dick.  I'll teach you one last trick.

So on that Christmas Eve day when I was told not to hang my stocking, I decided instead to go Christmas shopping.  I went to Woolworth's and bought some candy and small toys including pieces for my Lionel train set.  (My Christmas stocking was always an old nylon hose of my mother.  Since we did not have a fireplace or chimney, I would hang it on the switch of a floor lamp in our living room. I made sure to leave the front door unlocked so so Santa could get in to give me toys and treats.)  After I completed my shopping, and while my mother was still at work, I found an old stocking which I crammed it the toys from my earlier day's work. I hid it in the garage. Before I went to bed that last Christmas Eve night,  I made a point of going into my mother's bedroom to get one final stocking. I hung it on the lamp. My mother said, it would be of no use. She knew not of my soon to be ruse. I went to bed, but not to sleep.  In the middle of the night through the house did I sneak  while my mother and brother continued to sleep. Then I crept to the garage to retrieve my shocking stocking. While my mother and my brother continued to doze, my Christmas trick replaced her old nylon hose.

For every year that I could remember, I would spring from my bed by dawn's early light, to see what Santa had left me that night. I remember on year my mother yelling at me from her bedroom with the door ajar, to get back into bed! So that last Christmas I stayed in bed until my mother and brother had arisen, and through the door, did I listen. She asked my brother if he had filled the stocking toys and treats not to be found in our house. No he said, had she? How could it be, did Santa exist after all? I finally got up and delighted with myself played with my Christmas stocking. I never  admitted to a thing.

Merry Christmas to my Dear Readers!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you proved - Santa Claus did exist. He was just traveling under the name Gary that morning.


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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.