Every year I write a Christmas list of things I would like to have for my mother and siblings to shop from. It started when I was seven years old and I realized there was no point in writing to Santa.
There I was, a little kid, asleep in my room. Like any kid told to go to bed at 7:30 on Christmas Eve to stop bugging their parents, I slept lightly. A pin dropping to a carpeted floor could have awoken me. You see, it was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. My stocking was hanging from my bedpost complete with Santa Alarm to wake me so I could see the big guy.
Instead I was awoken by a clatter of a different sort. The dogs were barking, there was a crash on the front porch and a loud "GODDAMMIT!" I leaped from my bed, and sneaked down the hallway to catch Santa in the act. Instead of finding a jolly, red-faced, rotund man, I found my father. He was red-faced, definitely not jolly, but sort of rotund. He was also trying to get a freshly put together bicycle through the door.
I was shocked. And saddened. It was true. Santa Claus didn't exist. It was my mom, there sticking wrapped gifts under the tree, and my dad putting handlebars on another bicycle. I crept back to bed and went to sleep. Not only did I know what to expect under the tree, but the whole fantasy of Christmas was gone. I did not wake at the normal pre-dawn hour. My siblings called me out of bed, "BIKES!" "SANTA CAME!"
I couldn't tell them the truth. There was no way. I dutifully crawled out of bed and went to see which bike was mine.
There was not a bike for me under the tree. Three bicycles, none for me. I had a Barbie and clothes. Clothes! I spent Christmas sitting on the porch steps watching my siblings ride up and down the driveway on their brand new bicycles. And I decided I should obviously have been a little more direct in what I wanted. No more, "I've been good, I would love new toys!"
Since then, the list has pretty much determined if I have a good Christmas in terms of the presents received. Good Christmas = getting things from the list. Bad Christmas = someone deviating from the list.
When I was in Junior High, I had a horse named Tiny. I bought her with my own money I had saved from babysitting when she was just a foal. About Christmas time, I had started working with Tiny on learning to stand tied. Tiny didn't like this idea and things weren't going well.
That Christmas morning, I ripped open my gifts to find nothing from my list. Socks. Socks! And a gigantic bungee cord.
"It's so you can teach Tiny to stand tied! This way if she sits back, she won't tear the barn down," my mother responded to the look of disbelief on my face.
What a crappy Christmas, I decided. A little while later found my older sister and I sitting in our room. Our beds sat directly across from each other. She sat on her bed, I sat on mine. Between us stretch the bungee cord with its heavy duty snaps on either end.
"What a crappy Christmas," I said.
"It could have been worse," she responded.
"At least you got cool stuff," I replied. "All I got is this crappy bungee cord."
We stretched the bungee cord and unstretched it. Stretched and unstretched. At some point, I decided to spice things up and would loosen my grip when the cord was stretched and catch it back before it slipped through my hand.
I let it slip, and caught it. Let it slip, and caught it. Let it slipped, and missed.
The heavy duty snap hit my sister right in the eye. She wailed. I apologized.
"She could have lost her eye," my mother scolded me later. "You could have blinded her!"
"I just wanted a make-up kit!" I replied. "I didn't want a bungee cord!"
I spent the rest of the day in my room. My sister had a black eye. And that's why you shouldn't deviate from the Christmas list.