Saturday, December 24, 2011

Once Upon a Time During the Holidays-Part II

Proof that Santa is for the Amish, too.
     As the clock struck nine, we scooted to bed.  Our parents warned us to remain in our rooms all night; it wouldn’t do to surprise Santa as he somehow managed to squeeze through our furnace grate (we didn’t have a fireplace) to place wonderful treasures under the ugliest tree known to man.
None of the nuns (pardon the pun)
looked like this at Saint Stanislaus.
Neither could they fly.
But, I guess that would go without saying.
    OK, we bought it.  Then again, we believed in the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, and that a nun could fly.  After all, it was no crazier than believing the Partridge Family could sing.
Making a joyful noise unto the Lord
this blessed Christmas Eve.
    We tossed and turned throughout the evening; our pent-up excitement made sleep impossible.  To pass the time, we regaled each other with tales of what Santa would bring and mortified Karen by making fart noises under our armpits.
    As midnight approached, there came the sound of movement downstairs.  Instantly calling a halt to our armpit symphony, we strained to hear what was happening.
    “Santa’s here!” Gary gasped in wide-eyed wonderment as he slid beneath his covers.
    Straining my ears, I heard something, too.  The muffled sound of scuffing feet barely disguised a quiet rustling of paper and shuffling of boxes.  Even so, I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on.  It was only when I heard a sharp bang followed by a string of colorful words that I knew the magic of Christmas had arrived.
    Buoyed by the wonderment of the moment, I happily closed my eyes.  I was confident that I was due for a windfall of goodies when I awakened.
    What seemed like mere seconds later, I was rudely shaken awake.  “C’mon,” Gary excitedly cried, “Santa Claus came last night!”
NOTE:  As children, we never caught the double-entendre of this statement.  Apparently, Santa visited the Playboy Mansion, too.
Normally associated with Halloween.
    That he seemed genuinely surprised caused me a little concern.  Where had he been all these weeks?  Of course Santa Claus came last night!  Who’d he expect, Nixon?
    We bounded downstairs to a dazzling rainbow of brightly wrapped presents beneath our garish tin pole.  Quickly diving into the pile, we were brought up short by our mother’s shrill, “Nobody opens anything until your father and I get there!”
    Thus admonished, we perched of the edge of our avocado and gold couch, nervous energy barely held in check.  It seemed an eternity until our parents trudged like zombies into the living room.
    Coming out of her narcoleptic daze, my mother gushed with mock wonderment, “Wow!  What happened here?  Did Santa Claus come?”  (Amazingly, she sounded as shocked as my brother.  What was it with these people?  Did they all have brain damage?).
    Ignoring her faux amazement, my father hesitated several seconds.  Finally, he took a deep breath, sighed, and nodded.
Crap! Another year without color.
    Instantly responding, we dove under the tree, intent only on finding that which was ours.  Gripped in a giddy paroxysm of joy, I joined the frenzy of ripping anything with my name on it to shreds.  We were a brood of children possessed, we were seized with the spirit, we were seagulls descending on a chicken bone.  
    After we had torn open our presents and cavalierly tossed the discarded wrappings throughout the living room, our parents solemnly proclaimed that it was time for church.  As much as tinsel, mistletoe, and holly wreaths, they declared, Christmas was all about sitting uncomfortably on wooden pews and incoherently mumbling our way through carols.
    Despite the fact that Paris Hilton makes more appearances at Mensa meetings than we did at Mass, we were “going, goddammit!” our mother piously announced.  So, after scrubbing melted chocolate footballs from our faces and exchanging footie pajamas for swanky “Dad N Lad” polyester wear, off we sped in the family Batmobile to Saint Stanislaus.  
    Upon arrival-five minutes after the service started, naturally-my father ushered us into the very last pew.  “That way,” he whispered to us, despite withering looks from Mom, “we can beat the traffic.” 
    Even though I somehow doubted that departing parishioners were the same as fans leaving a Yankees game, I believed in my Dad.  After all, he gave us such pearls of wisdom as, “Seatbelts can only trap you in a burning car.  Underwater.”
    The service was fairly tolerable.  There were a bunch of holiday hymns, a Christmas sermon about how Jesus never got coal, what my father called “bells, whistles, and secret handshakes,” and Phil needing the Heimlich maneuver to get that communion wafer out of his throat. 
    Before you could say “Dominus Nabisco,” we were done and headed out the door in front of everyone else.
    As badly as we felt for being “Twice a Year Catholics” (the other time, of course, being Easter), I really was convinced our father was a deeply religious man.  After all, anyone who invoked the name of the deity as often as he did while watching football must surely walk with the angels.
G.I. Joe's case of the crabs made him
mighty suspicious of Barbie.
NOTE: I know this is a scorpion.
But, it's kinda crab-like
    Once home, we joyfully returned to our toys, although now we wanted to see how creative we could get.  For instance, G.I. Joe (with “Kung Fu grip”) didn’t fare too well in the Vietcong EZ Bake Oven.  We also discovered that, if you removed the rubber suction cups, toy arrows sharpen up real nice and stick in the couch.  Or each other.
    Meanwhile, our mother bustled about the kitchen merrily preparing the “Holiday Feast.”  The star of the show was, of course, the turkey, which had been slowly mummifying in the oven the past two days.  Its aroma filled the house with flavor as its burning grease flooded the kitchen with smoke. 
Missing:  SPAM casserole, Dad's can of Ballantine,
cranberry sauce with the rings. And people, apparently.
    Besides the turkey, though, our Christmas feast featured food you’d never see any other time of year. For instance, I can’t imagine any egg nog keggers at a Fourth of July picnic.
    When presented a choice of turnips, squash, candied yams, egg nog, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce (always from the can), plum pudding, marzipan, the horrifying blood pudding, mincemeat pie (which always struck me as some sort of Dawn of the Dead concoction), and that ubiquitous doorstop, the fruitcake, we children usually settled for white meat, Hungry Jack mashed potatoes, and marshmallow snowmen.
    After which, we fought over the drumstick.  And flung dinner rolls at Karen and our dog.
    Sufficiently gorged, we retired to the living room to see how else we could tear apart our presents while Mom hosed down the dining room.  Dad, on the other hand, now comfortably attired in his festive holiday outfit of tee shirt and tighty-whiteys, plopped down in front of the television and scratched his back with a fork.
    As the afternoon dragged closer toward evening, our eyelids grew heavy.  Our early morning rampage had finally caught up with us and, chocolate-fueled frenzy notwithstanding, we were sliding closer to sleep.
    Through lidded eyes, I remember my father lurching toward the kitchen.  Before I lapsed into a food coma, I remember a faint, “Boy, I sure could use a turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip.”
    With a jolt, I felt myself roughly yanked from my reveries by a shaking hand.  I forced my eyes open to look directly into the beaming face of my daughter.
    “Merry Christmas, Daddy,” she smiled.
    I nervously looked around the room, half-expecting to see a virtual bloodlust of demons whipped up into holiday froth by the intoxicating scent of evergreen and sight of ribbons and bows.
    Instead, I saw a calm scene of my wife, sipping her first cup of coffee and my two children quietly sorting through gifts.
    Sheepishly, I informed my daughter, “I’m sorry, honey, I couldn’t figure out how to program your iPod.”
    My son, ever the optimist, calmly looked over his shoulder and reassured his sister, “No problem.  I can do that for you.”
    Hearing that, I realized I’d been home for the holidays all along.
    Looking at my children, I smiled.
    Smiled at the “Ghosts of Christmas Yet to Come.” 

Have a wonderful, wonderful holiday with family, friends, and people who probably wished you weren't invited to the same party! By the time you read this, I'm probably full of the spirit of the season.  And Christmas punch.  And why is Mrs. Penwasser giving me the stick eye...?


  1. This is the very first time I ever really thought about "Santa Claus came last night." Had to make my mind go to the gutter didn't you?...haha Paris Hilton was around back then too, geez no wonder she has all that plastic surgery.

    Merry Christmas! And I annoy those people at the party, gets rid of them fast..haha

  2. Al you did it again. Damn you making me laugh my ass off at a stupid computer screen. Mummifying in the oven for two days oh my I think you were at my inlaws. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  3. Oh wow Al, what a great read, I've loved this post from start to finish! Have an excellent Christmas to you and your family and friends as well buddy, look forward to hearing about how good a Christmas it was!

  4. That was absolutely wonderful! You spin an enjoyable yarn! Merry Christmas!

  5. better to be with relatives who may or may not wish you were gone. if it were up to you, you might be dining on a fine holiday spam and plain bread this christmas.
    that's always my favorite thing about christmas. people cook for me!

  6. You always make me laugh/smile Al. Have a very Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year!

  7. Have a wonderfully silly Christmas and New Year's, Al. So glad for our connection. You're a gem.

  8. Wishing you a very happy Christmas, Al, with lots of good cheer!

  9. What evocative memories! I hope you and your family have a wonderful (and not too frantic) Christmas.

  10. And part II of the movie!
    Ah, I like "Twice a year Catholics" better than "C & E people". I'm neither. What a heathen.

    Enjoy your Christmas Al!

  11. Dropping by to wish you and yours a very Merry Amish Christmas, Al.
    (you crack me up)


  12. Who knew toys were so promiscuous? And who knew their STD's (or is it STI's now?) were so deadly!?

  13. I enjoyed Part II of the Penwasser Wonder Years filled with lots of wit and holiday charm! Have a Happy New Year with your family! Julie

  14. Lol. Too funny. Your so creative. Enjoy your break and get those creative juices flowing. I'm sure that won't be too hard for you. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

  15. "Like seagulls to a chicken bone..."
    I loved this post. Merry Christmas, Penwasser. :)

  16. In the last line, I meant "stink" eye. Geez, "stick" eye doesn't make any frikkin' sense. That's what I get for hurrying out of town, I suppose. And being drunk.
    But, mostly drunk.