AND THEN AGAIN…… by Tamara Pettit

…….We all have Christmas stories which warm our hearts.  Some of those stories belong to others and some are only known to us.  On Christmas day I always watch “A Christmas Story” because more than any other Christmas movie it makes me laugh and Raphie’s inner voice resonates with me.  We all relate to that little boy and his thoughts at Christmas.  .   Regardless of the whether it was the forties, sixties, nineties or today, Ralphie is everyone of us as a child.  The internal dialogue that Ralphie has throughout the movie is the  running patter which played in each of our heads as kids.    

……Getting that perfect gift from Santa wasn’t always easy.  As a little girl, I did not care for baby dolls, but I received one every year because girls got baby dolls.  My parents seemed in awe of me as a child…never quite understanding this strange girl-child who didn’t care for doll babies and invented mystery stories which she wrote in her own little novels in third grade.   But, my mom took her responsibility of making Christmas happen and really tried.   One year I, of no musical talent or interest, got a Zither.   It’s German harp kinda thing and the directions were all in German..  Surely, I remember thinking, some German kid has gotten my gift.

….. One year, my mom saved the best for last.  She  demanded I go check on the turkey in the laundry room.    The roaster and the turkey lived in the laundry room,.  After much mumbling, I did and sure enough, there was a Chemistry set all laid out on  the laundry room table.   I despaired.  In addition to not liking baby dolls, I was not particularly smart and actually dumb when it came to chemistry.   I consoled myself with the idea I now could blow up the  house  or poison the turkey and  then, best of all, write a book about it.

…… As the years went on I noticed I did not age much in my Mother’s eyes.  Why else would she buy me a pink snow suit  when I was 42?    I  had just gotten elected to the House of Delegates and  would be driving to Charleston in the worst months of winter, she said.    Of course ,I needed a snow suit…..a pink, one-piece zip up nylon snowsuit.     It made perfect sense to her,   “You’re going to make that trip and what if your car breaks down.   You can keep this in your trunk, jump right in it to keep warm while you wait for help,”   And then she said the dreaded words every child, regardless of age, hates to hear on Christmas morning with the entire family  gathered round,    “Go try it on…no  right now.   I need to see if it fits and the kids want to see it.”   For once my kids stopped unwrapping their presents in gleeful anticipation of their mom enduring the humiliation Grandma usually reserved for them.   Did I try it on?  Of course.   Did it fit?  Yup.   Did I keep it.   Yeah and it stayed in the trunk of my car for the eleven years of legislative service, a constant reminder that even though I was an independent woman able to face anything that came my way, there still was a snowsuit that  may have kept me warm, but more than that reminded me that my mom’s love was always with me.

……While Ralphie may have told the Department store Santa what he wanted for Christmas, my kids knew there  was  only one person in the whole wide world who made it his goal to outdo Santa… dad, their grandfather known to them as Popa.   My Dad was competitive and his desire to be number one extended beyond the ballot box at election time…. it included Santa.   Dad had a well-thought-out method when it came to outpacing Santa for Christmas.    Every Thanksgiving he would arrive with the Sears catalogue in tow; sit himself  down on the couch and invite the grandkids to join him.    Macy’s Christmas parade would cease to be the center of attention.  With Shannon on one side and Doug on the other they would peruse the toy section page by page..  After much deliberation they would circle what they wanted.   It was a genius move on his part.   He moved quicky and put his Sear’s  order in on Friday following Thanksgiving  and “pooof” without even getting chimney dust in his hair  he had one upped Santa who was still working on toy production problems and the kids’  parents who had not yet waded through the many wants, and balanced them with their budget.

…..  My kids have Christmas stories as well.  Christmas 1972 will always be remembered as the Christmas Doug in a tremendous show of valor saved his mom from a deadly alien.    Popa barely made it through the door that Christmas morning when he put down the Cadillac of gifts,  a two-foot-high battery powered robot and turned it on.   A terrified Doug watched aghast as the robot,  taking goose steps and making a strange whirring noise, headed straight towards his beloved mother.     Doug jumped into action; grabbed the robot by both arms  before it could harm his mom; and smashed it to the ground dismembering it   and saving the day.    The adults in the room all  looked at each other, but no one said a word,   Shannon, breathed a sigh of relief knowing that she was safe from robots and others who might  do her harm thanks to her brother.     We never spoke of the robot again.  As Doug tells the story,” Popa did not say a word and the next year I got the present of my dreams once again from him.“ 

……Popa wasn’t the only competitive person in the family when it came to Christmas gifts……his grandson, Doug, was a close second.    The year Shannon was 12, she and her brother who was 15 both wanted a stereo.   Shannon circled hers in the Sear’s catalogue.  Her brother, however, said he would just like money this year.  Perhaps he was saving for college or maybe he was investing in the stock market…no matter Popa gave him the equivalent of Shannon’s gift in cash.  Christmas Day came and Shannon got her stereo.   The day after Christmas dawned and Doug headed to the after Christmas sale to  get a twice-as-nice as Shannon’s stereo.