Odd Holiday Events

The Winter Solstice brings together a number of religious and holiday traditions, including welcoming the New Year.  These celebrations typically involve families gathering, perhaps some gift giving, a variety of parties (both at work and with friends) and lots of eating.  No two people in the world have the same experience of the holidays.  I’d like to hear about an odd holiday event from your past.  It can be a unique tradition, an unusual memory, or even something best forgotten.

Take us with you into a weird holiday scene.  Fiction and nonfiction are both welcome!

18 responses to “Odd Holiday Events

  1. Seven Hours in the Car on Christmas Day

    Christmas Day, 2013
    Quickly, we shuffled him out of the hospital and into our car and to the warmth of his own back seat. He wanted to see the Christmas lights, he told me. I promised him he would. We sang carols to pass the time, the three of us; Jim, myself and he. On our way back home to Upstate New York.
    He sang off-key and I chocked back tears. The sweetest sound I had heard in years. I thought of the good Samaritan who had kicked the lighter from his hand. He had survived and now we will spend seven hours in the car, on Christmas Day.

    Twelve Days Earlier
    He sat quietly in the booth nearest the window and watched while strangers filed into the gas station across the street. He had traveled 72 miles, on foot, to end up at Pat’s Pizzeria staring out the window and waiting for further instructions. One knock you go home, two knocks you cross the street. He waited for the knocks. One, two. He was sure he had heard two.
    When he was three, his favorite crayon was black.
    At eight he began tapping on his knees in even numbers; first with his right hand and then with his left. This rhythm. This fashion. No exceptions.
    By age nine he developed a facial tic. To mask its untimely arrival, he would pretend there was something very interesting on his right side causing him to jerk so suddenly in that direction but there never was.
    Even though he carried an above average IQ, 142, he was failing in all areas; math, reading and social skills.
    One doctor thought it could be Asperger’s Syndrome, but every other doctor disagreed. A teacher suspected he might be having mini seizures so he was tested for this too. No, it wasn’t that.
    By age fourteen he discovered pot and the real darkness set in.
    But in his senior year of high school the miracle arrived. He suddenly came alive. He was smiling and excited to share his plans for the future. He wanted to become a nurse. He began staying up late, every night, and then jumping up early for school the next morning. He received “The Most Improved” award from the principal at his high school, Mr. P.
    Time stood still.
    But two weeks later Mr. P. called me. “You need to get down here right away, there is something very wrong with him. We have never seen him like this before. Please come right away.”
    He wasn’t wearing his typical band tee shirt and faded jeans when I arrived. Today he resembled what I’m sure he thought was a college professor; brown corduroy pants, a navy blazer with suede elbow pads and a striped, Oxford shirt. All he needed was a Churchwarden pipe. He sat quietly, legs crossed, ready for our meeting. He was in total control.
    Mr. P. began. Apparently, he had come to school that day with hundreds of leaflets and began passing them out to his classmates and teachers calling it his “Manifesto“.
    “It is a very important piece of work that will resolve many of the problems affecting this nation and the globe,” he explained to us, assembled there. “Of course there are consequences, but ones I am willing to accept. Once the CIA and the FBI discover what I have written they will have me assassinated. By the way, Mom, they have already begun tapping our phone at home.”
    Everyone fell silent.
    Finally, I focused, and said, “Honey, maybe we should go to the hospital and talk to the doctors because they will know what to do.” He agreed so we went. It was that simple.
    We waited for what seemed to be an eternity until Jim finally arrived. Jim began to reason with him, trying to unscramble the words of his Manifesto. This was too much for him. He jumped up from the bed, ran thru the corridor and out of the ER and into the main reception area. There, with nowhere else to go, he leaped up onto the receptionist’s desk, stripped off his gown and shouted, “Repent! Repent! Jesus has died on the cross for your sins!”
    What happened next is today a distant memory of things long ago. He was taken down from his perch, covered with a blanket and given a shot, some type of sedative. I remember people looking at me, staring at us, as if to ask, ‘Who is this person, this freak?’ I didn’t know either but I would soon find out.
    When the diagnosis came, it was startling. But finally, after all these years, I had an answer that made sense. Schizoeffective Disorder.
    Another day I may have the strength to write about the next eight years but not today. In short, he doesn’t believe he is ill. He thinks the ones who love him cannot see. He is clairvoyant. Why can we not see this? Can we not see the signs? Why does no one understand?
    This is his world. Which is why on a cold December night he walked from his brother’s home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania to Edgewood, Maryland to listen for the knocks.
    Once he was certain there had been two, he paid for his slice of pizza and walked across the street to the gas station. In one motion he swiped his debit card, removed the nozzle from the pump, doused himself with gasoline, drank a cup and then walked into the nearest intersection. He then removed the lighter from his pocket.
    My love, my life, my Michael.

  2. Not only a Christmas story, but a love story, written from your aching heart. Would that I could offer more comfort than words alone. Do know that your own words are read and we have joined you in these moments.

  3. Thanks, Ann….maybe you could delete it now? Thanks, Olivia

  4. The Christmas Intervention

    When I pulled into Kathy’s driveway I could see that her other guests had already arrived and I suddenly became nervous about the whole affair. It had been far too long, years in fact, since I’d been out of the house but writing my first novel took time. They say that Ernest Hemingway took days, sometimes weeks, agonizing over just one sentence. Thank God Kathy and my closest friends, all of whom would be assembled here tonight for an early Christmas dinner, understood. I wouldn’t be able to make any progress on my book if I didn’t have their support. I was so lucky.

    I was filled with child-like anticipation when Kathy opened the door and let me in. I loved the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven and I could hardly wait to get a sniff. But, oddly enough, it didn’t smell like turkey…it smelled more like…cat. Oh, no, how embarrassing. I made a mental note to pull her aside later on and remind her it was time to change the kitty litter.

    “Hi, Kathy,” I said, as I handed her a bottle of my favorite dry Riesling and removed my coat and hat. “Thanks again for inviting me to dinner, Kathy. It’s been years since I was invited to someone else’s house for Christmas.”

    She didn’t respond. Hosting a party for ten is terribly stressful. Poor thing, I should have insisted on helping her. Obviously, she could have used my help. As I passed through the dining room I noticed there was no music playing nor any h’orderves set out for her guests. Wow, this was shocking! ‘Hosting a Party 101’ completely ignored.

    But my biggest surprise came when I entered the living room and saw the huge “Intervention” sign hanging from the fireplace mantel. Oh no, was Kathy’s husband boozing again? And here I brought a bottle of wine. I wish Kathy would tell me these things!

    “Olivia,” Kathy began. “We are all here because we love you.”

    “Well, I love you too Kathy….what’s going on?” I looked around the room where all of my friends stood, facing me, blank expressions on their faces

    “It’s your writing….”

    “What about my writing?”

    “Well, honey, it’s really not very good. And, well, we thought you should hear it from us, first…the people who love you because you know that writing group of yours would never do the same. Besides, we never see you anymore; you are always off writing somewhere.”

    “I see,” I said as I sat down on the sofa. “Thank you; I appreciate your candor, Kathy.”

    “Oh, Olivia,” Kathy said, as she took a seat next to me and put her arm around my shoulder. “We are so happy you understand. We were all so worried this would get awkward, or that you would take it the wrong way.”

    “Oh, don’t be silly, Kathy. Why would it be awkward? It’s just my blood dripping from the pages that I write,” I said, as I glared at Mary Munson, the slut.
    Everyone knew that she hosted orgies in her basement for strangers on Tuesday nights but I, for one, pretended not to know. And then there was Kevin, the coward, standing in the corner still not making eye contact with me. I knew that he was the Peeping Tom in the neighborhood but, again, I kept my mouth shut. Waldo was right, people suck!

    I stood up and walked into the kitchen and grabbed my bottle of Riesling off of the table and opened a few drawers until I found the opener. I took a big swig. “So long, mother f’ers!” I said, as I put on my coat and hat and opened the front door; bottle of Riesling tucked safely under my left arm. “And another thing, Kathy,” I said as I leaned in. “Your house spells like goddam cat shit!”

  5. Olivia – what a mar-velos take on an overused theme. I was totally taken in at the point of the intervention reason. Fantastically good job.

  6. Santa and the Hooker

    Sometimes they simply stared at each other through the clouds of their breath. He claimed one corner of the downtown intersection. She the one opposite, caddy corner if you will. Or was it catty corner? She preferred kitty corner. Regardless, it was turf warfare, each vying for pedestrian attention.

    He had his tripod, kettle and bell. And, his ho-ho-hos. She shot him the finger every time she sensed one of his ho-hos contained a double meaning.

    “Call me a “ho’” you fat faker? At least I’m the real thing.” She lifted her boobs at him in contempt. The Santa figure replied with a crotch grab.

    ‘Tis the season to be jolly.

    She envied his red suit, a lot warmer than her red hot pants and tube top. And that bell. It always got attention. People seemed glad to drop a buck in the pot just to get him to stop ringing it. He had lots of activity going. More than her. She needed to attract more attention. It wasn’t like she could holler to the heavens, “Come and get it boys. I got sumthin’ your gal won’t give you for Christmas.” She needed a gimmick.

    She thought about a bell, a bigger and louder bell, but she was already suffering carpal tunnel from too much wrist action when she scored. She had a black pot as well, but if she showed it on the corner she would get busted, big time. Twenty-four hours in city jail for soliciting was a bad enough deterrent.

    She tried nestling an iPod between her boobs and playing Christmas recordings, but the sound kept getting muffled.

    The wind picked up. Snow that earlier was falling lazily like in a snow globe was turning to ice pellets. The sidewalk traffic was thinning. “Bizzness” was dead. She looked at the fat man and shrugged her shoulders. He held his hands up in front of him in a mock surrender and nodded towards the bar on the on one of the other corners. They met under the awning, and he opened the door for her.

    They sat facing each other in the back corner booth. Perry Como and his “…be home for Christmas” song played a little too loudly from the juke box. When it finished, blessed silence. They ordered.

    Drinks came. Eye contact. They touched glasses.

    “So, howdja do?” he asked.

    “Not worth shit,” she replied. “Too cold to be humpin’ ass in the back of the van. And you?”

    “I ran a tally in my head. Last I remember I was just at five-hundred.”

    “Damn, boy. You done good. That’s a hellova way to sell crank.”

    “Chicken one day. Feathers the next,” he replied.

    They sipped their drinks.

    “Looks like JD will have his bicycle this Christmas. He was so disappointed last year.”

    “Yep. Boy’ll be happy.”

    “And Claireece, too. We can get her the mini iPad, the pink one.”

    “Yep. Happy girl too.”

    “S’posed to be warmer tomorrow.”

    “Yep. That’ll be good.”

    “Two days ‘till Christmas.”

    “Yep.”

    Something soft and slow came on the jukebox.

    “Wanna dance?” he asked.

    “I’m kinda cold,” she replied. “And the kids gotta be fed and homework and all that.”

    “Yep.”

    They finished their drinks and headed for the door. For home. For one more day.

  7. OMG! I haven’t laughed out loud like that for a long time, Jeff. “…suffering carpal tunnel from too much wrist action!” Funny, funny stuff. Thank you, I needed that.

  8. This may be a re-post, but weird it certainly is…and it is absolutely True! I want you all to know just how honored to be able to play writing with the talented group. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas !

    It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

    On Black Friday, 1978, and I was the manager of Pierre Moran Mall which meant that I was in charge of all events and decorating pertaining to Holidays. Each year there was an unspoken competition amongst the area malls to have the most spectacular “Santa Arrival.” This particular year, Pierre Moran would reign supreme, I was completely confident of that.
    I had started working toward this day back in July. My team and I carefully inventoried and checked the condition of all seventy Christmas trees, decorations, lights, and mechanical workings of the animated characters that populated several winter scenes throughout the mall. There were always numerous causalities among the Elves, Snowmen, and Polar Bears that needed to be repaired or replaced.
    The previous year there had been a horrible incident involving an elf hammering on a toy in Santa’s Workshop and a three year old who breached the fence in order to hug the elf. Unfortunately, the elf’s hammer came down on the little tike’s hand and in retaliation, the little boy ripped off the elf’s head. It made all the papers;

    “Child is hammered and beheads Elf.”

    That particular year , I had arranged to have Santa arrive via parachute. It promised be magnificent. Santa was to land on the roof of Sears and proceed to an access ladder which was concealed inside a column in the center of the mall. The column had been decorated to look like a fireplace and chimney. Santa would emerge out of the fireplace into a sea of screaming, gleaming children and move to his throne to begin his six weeks of Ho-Ho-Hoing. Even if I do say so myself, it was a brilliant plan.
    As the moment approached for St. Nick to dive out of the plane, the parking lot was packed with kids and parents looking skyward in anticipation. Finally, the plane came into view and Santa, in all his finery, jumped and glided down to Sears’ roof, just as planned.
    The mass of Christmas revelers marched into the mall behind the Municipal Band playing carols. The excitement was tangible as all eyes turned to focus on the fireplace, eagerly awaiting Satan’s entrance.
    Several minutes passed and Santa did not come down the chimney. It was starting to become awkward, I was a bit stressed, but was willing to wait a few moments more for him to emerge. Five more minutes clicked by and still no Santa. The crowd was getting anxious and fidgety.
    I instructed my dimwitted but congenial maintenance man, Doyle Wilhoit and his even dimmer son, Boy Wilhoit to, “Get up on that roof and get Santa down that chimney, NOW!”
    Unbeknownst to me, Santa had made an especially hard landing on an especially soft spot of Sear’s roof. His leg had penetrated the structure and he was completely jammed, one leg on the roof and one, broken leg, dangling from Sear’s ceiling.
    As agonizing minutes passed, the crowd grew even more impatient and the band was running out of music to play. I began to panic.
    “Why today … Why me … Why do I hate Christmas?” I grumbled under my breath.
    Just as I started toward the chimney so that I could make some kind of calming statement to the disappointed children and angry parents, the crowd began to cheer and squeal with excitement.
    “Santa….it’s Santa….We love you Santa!”
    I turned around and what to my wondering eyes should appear but Santa…. who looked strangely familiar…… Boy Wilhoit had been transformed into Santa! Once Boy and Doyle reached the site of the skydiver on the roof, they told him to strip down to his undies and Boy donned Santa’s suit.
    It was a Christmas Miracle, the Wilhoits had a modicum of problem solving skills, and even though I had a wounded skydiver in his skivvies on the roof of Sears, the crowd was ecstatic with Santa’s Arrival.

    As you celebrate the Birth of Christ, may you and your family feel all the Love and Joy that this season brings. Merry Christmas !

  9. The weather outside the hospital is pretty bad and expected to deteriorate. The weather inside the hospital is horrid and might be the end of me if it gets worse.

    Somewhere, in a room on a floor either above me or below me, my husband lies in hospital bed. He is scarcely aware of why he’s there. My confusion about his location is due to the fact that I don’t know where I am exactly. The elevator cab I’m in is stuck between the fourth and sixth floors.

    I have nothing with me to tell me how much time has elapsed since the cab came to a stop and the doors didn’t open. It’s been lLong enough for me to get over the confusion about how to communicate with the hospital’s desk and let them know my predicament. Long enough to talk with maintenance and learn the hospital has no one on site who can rescue me. Long enough to find out he has to call Otis and have them send a technician.

    Good luck with that. It’s Christmas Eve afternoon and there’s a gale screaming into a blizzard out there.

    How long? Long enough to be grateful there’s no one in the cab with me, in case murder comes to mind. Long enough to cry, long enough to get angry, long enough to do breathing exercises to calm down. Long enough to imagine jumping up in the air just before a plummeting elevator hits bottom. What a laugh that is. How would I know when that moment comes?

    “You’re perfectly safe, ma’am,” said the maintenance guy. The hell I am. I’m in a machine that’s already failed once, I tell him. That’s what machines do—they fail.

    “I don’t want to be tomorrow’s headlines!”

    I sit on the floor; I stand in the corner; I pound on the doors. All done carefully, of course. No sense shaking this thing and causing it the fall. I reail against machinery over which I have no power, but which absolute power over me. I do not need this stress added to the stress of the overburdened, exhausted caregiver that I already am.

    The surgeon has already signed the release forms for my husband. Did you know that illnesses, any illnesses, can cause an Alzheimer’s sufferer to lose his cognitive abilities and hallucinate? This time—I’ve lost track of how many “times” there have been in the last four years—it was an emergency appendectomy. It was an emergency because the appendix had not only burst, it was already necrotic.

    The elevator suddenly drops about four inches. “WHOA!” I cry.

    From above me: “ It’s okay. I’m just lowering the elevator so you can get out.”

    JESUS! No warning, no nothing. Slowly he cranks the cab down and slowly the doors start to open. Should I tiptoe to the opening? Should I leap to the doors? I tiptoe, step down a half foot to the floor and….

    There’s nobody there. Not a soul. No hospital representative to apologize, give me a hug, or defibrillate my heart. I find a clock and figure I was in that cab for an hour and 20 minutes. Then I find the stairwell and go down a floor to where my husband waits.

    His room is directly across from the nurse’s station, the better to keep an eye on him. Someone looks up and asks if I’m all right. “No, I’m not all right. I’ve been trapped in the elevator for an hour and twenty minutes.”

    They all laugh, except for one woman. She comes out from behind the counter and asks if I need a hug. I do. I need a lot of hugs.

    I need someone to make all of this go away.

    (The rest of the story: Everything that could wrong that afternoon did go wrong. A new clerk mischarged my credit card for the room I’d stayed in for four nights. He didn’t know how to make a correction. That process took almost an hour before we could leave.

    I stopped at a grocery pharmacy to fill a prescription for an antibiotic. I didn’t dare leave my husband in the van alone so I pushed him around the store in a kiddie cart. Then, because four inches of snow fell before I got back outside, I couldn’t find the van and was afraid it was stolen, all the while wondering if my husband had stayed where I’d told him to stay or was wandering around lost. He could not communicate with anyone.

    I had 100 miles to drive in a blizzard at 30 mph, through two mountain passes.

    We spent Christmas Day at home, but the next morning he was back in the hospital with an infected incision. And then things got much, much worse.

    All of this happened eleven years ago, and yet after writing this I feel my heart rate has increased, there’s a tightness in my chest, and I really, really need a drink, and I rarely drink. When I was stuck in the elevator, I thought that at some time in the future I would be able to tell this story and laugh at it. That day has yet to arrive.)

  10. Looks like my “odd holiday” is forming as we speak…going downhill fast. Don’t know what I’m going to do with all this food…y’all are welcome to come over and eat. And you don’t have to bring a thing. I have plenty.

    Merry Christmas,
    KathyH

  11. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you. I’d invite you over, but it’s 2 degrees above zero and we’re expecting a blizzard. Instead, meet you in Hawaii?

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