By Katie Compton Boyd
No doubt about it, my gramps loved Christmas. He loved everything about it, the meaning, the reason, the joy dancing across children’s faces. Each Christmas he assembled scores of his adult children, grandchildren running around excitedly in footie pajamas.
Christmas Eve we would go “fishing” and the old man would crouch behind his leather recliner and an anxious child would cast the pole and a few tugs, would pull up a dime store toy to satiate and quiet the quells of “Can I just open one little pressy?” Yes, he loved Christmas.
The excitement would end with a visit from Santa and midnight service. Gramps would occasionally involve a neighbor or friend to dress up, a few robust “ho Ho HOs” as we’d fog up the windows pressed against the glass for a glimpse at The Big Guy.
His last Christmas on this earth was similar to this – an election year, 2000 and a nation divided and turning attention to voter issues (those darned hanging chads.)
As a final gift he spent hours with a hole punch filling clear Christmas balls full of them, with glitter pen on each reading “hanging chads”, which he thought was a stroke of marketing brilliance.
He’d not live to know the outcome or see the twin towers fall that fateful day. This was a man who signed up upon that most infamous day when terror rained down upon Pearl Harbor. His flat feet saw him into the Air Corps.
We all dreaded that first Christmas without the old man; the cloak of grief hung heavy over our hearts and minds. Worst still was the family member, a granddaughter with three rambunctious children all under the age of 4, in a row. That Christmas she finally decided black and blue were not good eye shadow colors and left the cad, but with three babies all in a row and little to celebrate. Hard candy Christmas that it was for her, we rallied around her, bought gifts and tried our best to give them all a reprieve and reason to believe.
I had just started my freshman year of college and knew little of toddlers but these toddlers were a handful! One child would bumble about, one would bite your ankles as you walked by. The littlest one knew one word: ‘NO’ which she screamed incessantly. Folks wanted to know why I waited a while to start a family and these were three reasons why.
Nannie, long indulged and wonderfully spoiled by gramps, was always a bit of a dingbat. She once thought someone stole her steering wheel at the Winn Dixie when she mistakenly got in the back seat.
“Ohh if Daddy was here, he’d have these children just a smiling and laughing!” Nannie got to reminiscing that Christmas Eve and encouraged the children to look out for Santa. We didn’t think much of it at the time, just an octogenarian widow harking back on happier times. She excused herself for what we figured was private grief.
Little did we know Nannie had found Gramps’ old Barbasol.
All of a sudden in the sunroom there was a terrible banging on the window. The three children looked out in horror. One spindly, liver-spotted hand banged and scratched at the glass! Like Darth Vader her years of smoking let out a raspy ‘hoooo hoooo’ much more menacing, not merry. My mother, horrified and stunned yelled “for Lord fields sake!”
Nannie stood outside the glass as Santa, her puffs of old lady perm flew wildly out of the Santa hat, her pink robe splattered with bits of white foam as her shaving cream beard blooped down. She had taken eyeliner and darkened her brows to appear more masculine but made her instead look like a menacing villain with a unibrow.
The four-year-old boy had his brain awakened likely for the first time. Sensing danger he dashed down the hall and hid under a bed, screaming. The three-year-old ankle biter bitterly sobbed hiding under the glass table. The youngest who only said ‘no’ continued saying no but in horrific screams.
Nannie in dingbat fashion took this as screams of delight and continued pounding and “Ho ho-ing” ominously like a ghoul. I sat doubled over laughing as a cacophony of cries of torment filled the house.
Not a creature was stirring, yeah right, not in this house.
Suffice to say, that first Christmas without the old man was tough, but not without excitement. There are just some things, no matter how good the intentions are, better left undone. Such was the case as the very bad Santa of 2001. Of all the happy warm and fuzzy memories I have, none were quite as funny, and sometimes you just have to laugh…and save up for future therapy sessions.