the ghost of christmases past
I watched a modern adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol this evening and it got me started thinking about my past Christmases and what would happen if a ghost were to come and take me on a journey to revisit some of the more memorable ones.
Where would I begin? Which Christmases would I include?
Of course it would only be natural to include a few of my first Christmases. My ghost would undoubtedly catch me in the act of meticulously unwrapping my presents under the tree to peek and then carefully rewrapping them and tucking them back in their places so my mother wouldn’t know. I wonder if she has any idea that I have been doing that for years. I suspect my children might do the same thing (it could very well be a genetic trait.) This may be the main reason I don’t put presents under my tree until Christmas Eve.
Or maybe I don’t put presents under the tree because of that one childhood Christmas when the dog tore through all the presents about two weeks before Christmas. We thought we had been robbed…until we saw teeth marks in the packages.
Surely the ghost would take me back to my first Christmas after marrying my ex-husband. My mother, my sister, and my sister’s husband (Uncle Paul) traveled to New York to spend Christmas with my new in-laws on Long Island. It was interesting at best.
Like the Osbornes spending Christmas with the Obamas.
Uncle Paul wreaked havoc with the water lines, ensuring that everyone got a nice little shock in the shower at least once. And my sister’s morning sickness, combined with my former mother-in-law’s dictator-like regime with regard to the kitchen, sent my family trekking through the backs of yards to the closest McDonald’s at all hours of the day and night.
The only worthwhile moment of the entire trip came in the form of a tour of New York City in the back of a beat up pick-up truck driven by my ex-husband’s crazy Uncle Jimmy.
Uncle Jimmy was not my ex husband’s real uncle, but rather a very close family friend. I believe he had served in World War 2 with my former father-in-law. He was in his sixties, and missing a few teeth as I recall, but he was a live wire who enjoyed life to the fullest.
It was December in New York, and the city was covered in snow. This particular night was especially cold, and even with a camper top on the bed of the truck, it was still freezing cold. Because my sister was pregnant she was allowed to sit in the front of the cab, and I was allowed to ride up there with her. That might have been a perk if the passenger window hadn’t been stuck in the open position. The heater was turned up to full power to keep the frostbite from setting in, but we were still wrapped up in wool coats and scarves like foreign immigrants landing on Ellis Island circa the turn of the twentieth century.
My mother rode in the truck bed with her sons-in-law, and had to listen to them whining about dying from breathing in exhaust fumes, despite the fact that the back window and the window to the cab were both wide open. I remember looking through the small opening at the three of them, shivering in the back as they sat against the side walls of the truck like a load of illegal day workers. My mother laughed the entire time as the men complained.
In the front of the truck, Uncle Jimmy narrated our journey…loudly…with more than a trace of Jack Daniels on his breath. We were introduced to every sight the city had to offer.
Uncle Paul shouted from the back that he wanted to see a real prostitute, so Uncle Jimmy drove us to 42nd Street to find one. As we set out on foot, Uncle Paul approached several women dressed in flashy winter attire and inquired, “Are you a hooker?”
He was asked to leave two separate topless bars for similar questions.
We even ran across a religious zealot, shouting for us to save ourselves while we still had time, and carrying a sign that promised the end of days was nigh. Twenty two years later we’re still here, so I gather his timing was just a bit off.
There were many Christmases before that year, there have been many Christmases since, and hopefully there will be many yet to come, but I will never forget that night in New York City. It was the best tour I had ever taken, and the best tour guide a person could ask for. We even got to see the heart of Harlem and Lady Liberty from afar.
Uncle Jimmy past away several years ago, but he will never be forgotten, I am certain.
Until the next time…I’ll be waiting for the spirit of Christmases yet to come!