Worst Christmas ever
It was probably 1958. Maybe 1959. But most likely 1958.
And it was the Worst Christmas Ever.
I mean it.
In capital letters.
Worst. Christmas. Ever.
Most likely, I was seven, going on eight years old, and my sister Diana was 9, going on 10. A bit older than we are in this photo, but this’ll have to do.
No adult had ever flat out told us there was no such person as Santa Claus, but we knew. Oh yes we knew.1
Given the times, and considering my age, I might have had another year or two with Santa, had I not started school at four. But I was in the third grade already, with kids up to two years older. I’m sure it had been a topic of conversation for weeks before December ever arrived that year.
Now Diana had never said anything to me about Santa Claus not being real. So I can’t quite remember how the idea came up.
I can only say I’m pretty sure it wasn’t her idea.2
No, it was almost undoubtedly my idea.
My very bad idea.
The idea to stage the Great Christmas Closet Caper.
You see, in the great big Dutch colonial house where we grew up, the master bedroom had these his-and-her closets.
And for at least two or three weeks before Christmas each year, our mother’s closet was definitely Off Limits.
In other words, that’s where all of our Christmas gifts were stashed. Diana’s. Mine. And those for the two younger siblings who’d come on the scene by then.
But we didn’t care about their presents. We cared about ours. And since, after all, Santa wasn’t going to be watching to see if we were good or bad, what could the harm be in checking things out in advance, anyway?
How we managed to have uninterrupted access to the closet isn’t something either of us remembers any more. Chances are pretty good that we were supposed to be doing something else, like keeping an eye on the younger kids. Since we didn’t get caught, I’m pretty sure the presents weren’t wrapped yet.3 But, one way or another, we found the opportunity, and the time, and we carefully examined the contents of the entire closet and figured out every single solitary blessed thing that would be under the tree on Christmas Eve.
We found out we were getting most everything we really, really wanted!
The closet raid was a complete success!
It was the perfect caper!
It was absolutely positively… awful.
Like the crash after the sugar high, our Christmas spirits crashed within hours.
The anticipation… the speculation… the maybe-yes-maybe-no of the days leading up to the Big Event… the very wonder of Christmas Eve for a pair of gradeschoolers… all of it… gone in a few minutes of snooping.
No need to shake that box under the tree. No reason to wonder if maybe this box had that inside. Not one whit left of that delicious agony of waiting and hoping and being sure-but-not-but-sure-but-not.
Yes. my recollection and Diana’s, when I checked with her yesterday, is that we got most, maybe even all, of what we really wanted that Christmas.
All but the one thing we ourselves had given away: the joy of uncertainty.
It was, without a doubt, the Worst Christmas Ever.
- I probably knew by the time of this photo, when what’s probably going through my mind is “get your hand off me or else, buster!” ↩
- It’s pretty much a given that anything we ever did that had the capacity to get us into trouble was my idea. ↩
- My wrapping skills, to this day, are essentially nonexistent. If you ever get a beautifully wrapped gift from me, you can bet your bottom dollar I paid somebody else to wrap it. My cats could do a better job. ↩