Yesterday's Magazette

7 – A Grinch Who Stole My Christmas

A Grinch Who Stole

My Christmas

By Sheron Donahue

School let out for the Christmas holidays a week before Santa’s big day. It was 1949 and I was a happy-go-lucky ten year old. I had relinquished my childhood notion of a stocky, bearded man dressed in red tumbling down the chimney and filling my stocking, but Mom and Dad took over where the legend left off. They filled my stocking with an apple, an orange, some walnuts and, often, a candy cane.

I slept late that first day of Christmas break and when I awoke, I bounced down the stairs in my red and white flannel nightgown and matching red bunny slippers. Mom and Dad had left for work, but a note lay on the kitchen table. “Eat breakfast. There’s Shredded Wheat in the cupboard and make sure to wash up the dishes and pick up your bedroom. Love, Mom.”

After finishing my cereal, I dabbed some dish soap on the spoon and bowl, ran tap water over them and let the dish rack do the drying. Then I skipped up the stairs, smoothed the bed covers, and changed into jeans and my favorite holiday green sweater.

As I headed back down the stairs, I spied our Christmas tree standing tall between the two corner windows, so I dashed over and plugged in the lights, hummed a few bars of  “Oh, Christmas Tree,” and while admiring its beauty, I noticed several strands of tinsel lying on the floor. So, I picked them up, smoothed them and placed them back on the branches.

I also noticed the beautifully wrapped gifts underneath–each with different colored handmade bows and ribbons. I knelt down and looked at one of the tags; then read them all. Wow! They’re all for me, I realized. I wonder what’s in them–a blouse, vest, scarf, mittens, a sweater–maybe all those things. I couldn’t resist, I picked one up and shook it.

Then I recalled Mom’s warning, “Don’t shake a gift or it might break.” Or, she’d say, “If you guess what’s in it, you’ll spoil the surprise.”

Earlier that month, while I was at the retail store where Mom worked, I spied a whole row of Storybook Dolls lining the top shelf and had asked her, “Please, Mom, can I have just one for Christmas?”

But as I knelt beneath the tree, I remembered Mom saying, “We can’t afford such a frivolous gift.  Besides, you have plenty of dolls that you don‘t play with now.” I knew that was true and that both my parents had to work just to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Besides, I surmised the boxes did feel more like clothes, like something practical.

I stood up and caught a whiff of evergreen as I marveled at the glitter from the colored lights reflecting on the ornaments. It seemed magical. However, two bulbs didn’t light, so I tried to tighten them thinking they might be loose. When that didn’t work, I decided to replace the lights, but made sure each color was the same as before, just as I’d been taught–red, green, gold, then white. Then I noticed the shiny gold star leaning, so dragging the stepladder from the back hall, I stood on the next to the top rung and straightened the star. Now, the tree’s perfect, I thought.

After picking up a few needles that fell and unplugging the lights, I thought it would be fun to shovel the light snow that had fallen overnight. I threw on my overcoat and galoshes, grabbed the shovel from the back hallway, and carved a path to the street. That’s enough; it’s freezing out here, I thought as I dashed back in the house to warm my fingers and toes.

By this time, the morning had slipped away and it was time for my favorite peanut butter and jam sandwich. After lunch, I plopped down on the living room davenport and, again, spotted all those fancily-wrapped packages. As I leaned back clasping my hands behind my head, I closed my eyes and imagined everything on my list appearing under the tree on Christmas morning.

Suddenly, I had an impish thought. Maybe, I could peek at just one present and no one would know. I moved to the floor, sitting cross-legged next to the gifts, looking at how carefully Mom had wrapped each one. Maybe, I thought, just one won‘t be noticed. Cautiously, I untied the ribbon that horizontally and vertically crossed the package, and slid my fingers gently under the tape, so as not to tear the paper.

Before I knew it, I’d unwrapped twelve boxes. There in front of me lay twelve beautiful Storybook Dolls: a bride, an Irish dancer, a Dutch girl, and more. My eyes opened wide and my mouth even wider. I couldn’t believe it.  I had asked for one, but here lay all twelve collector dolls. Recalling this today, I’m sure that’s why Mom and Dad didn’t eat any butter, bread, or drink milk back then. They must have scraped and scrimped for months just to surprise me.

My delight at seeing the pricey dolls soon turned to shame and I couldn’t let Mom and Dad know what I‘d done. I began the long, arduous task of rewrapping the gifts, exactly, and placing them back in their original places. Finally, I realized, I let that darn Grinch inside me have its way. I’d ruined my own Christmas.

On that holiday morning, I crept down the stairs in my bunny slippers, noticing a few snow flakes drifting downward past the two corner windows where the lit-up tree stood. Then, I saw Mom and Dad sitting on the davenport, huddled in robes and sipping their morning coffee. They waited for me, to see my surprise and hear my excitement. I, on the other hand, would feign delight, while underneath, I’d hide my disappointment and guilt: There’d be no surprises for me this Christmas.

Fortunately, my parents never suspected my Christmas fiasco, or at least they never let on. Still … I knew. As a result, I learned one of life’s lessons: Don’t let the Grinch inside you spoil your Christmas by talking you into opening gifts ahead of time. It spoils the surprise … it spoils everything.

In spite of learning this lesson the hard way, I did come away with a positive aspect. You see, I learned how to wrap presents–almost perfectly–that day.

Bio: Sheron has writing credits in WritersWeekly.com, Working Writer, Yesterday’s Magazette, Complete Woman, Chicago Connections, Contact, Singles, Woman Magazine, P.W.P. Single Parent, Solo, Real Estate Today and Coldwell Banker Regional.

Vol. 36 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter – 2009-2010

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