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James R. Stout

Christmas Memories - 1983, 1986, and 1990

            1983 – It got very cold that year. Down to 8 degrees at the farm. I felt like a roast on a rotisserie. I would stand in front of the old wood stove with my back to it and then turn around with my front to it until my previously warm backside got cold again. Then repeat. We had a great Christmas Eve with my family and spent the night nice and warm in a motel given there just wasn’t room for everyone at the farm. Christmas morning, we drove the 90 miles over to my wife’s parent’s home to spend Christmas Day and night with them. My ex-mother-in-law was very big on stocking stuffers. I could usually count on a big orange, a big apple, some pecans, a pair of socks, and then some kind of candy. It was still quite cold when we got there, and she had already filled the stockings that hung from the fireplace mantle. After another Christmas dinner, we had our present exchange. The stockings always came last. I received a quilted vest that would be all the craze in two years due to Marty McFly would wear one like it in “Back To The Future”. It came time for the stockings, and I got mine and started to check things out. Sure enough there was the regular fruit and nuts (Oh, I’m sorely tempted with that) and a pair of socks and then there was the blob. That’s what I called the thoroughly melted bag of Hershey’s Kisses. There was just no eating that chocolate due to the aluminum foil wrappers were embedded in the melted candy from the heat of the fireplace. It was travesty, is what it was!

            1986 – This was the first Christmas that both of our kids were old enough to really enjoy Christmas. Unfortunately, I needed to work that Christmas Eve. I was working a part-time job delivering pizzas. I volunteered because we needed the money so bad. We didn’t get paid much by the company. The hourly minimum wage, 50 cents per pizza delivered for the usage of our personal cars, and whatever tips that we might get. Generally speaking, the tips could make or break things. Good tips meant we actually got a profit for ourselves. Bad or no tips meant barely breaking even for the cost of gas, insurance, and labor. I had volunteered to work Christmas Eve thinking that the tips would be great. Everyone would be in the Christmas spirit. Uh-huh. Apparently, people who called for pizza delivery on Christmas Eve were infected with the bah-hum-bug. I started working at 5 p.m. and by 9 p.m. it appeared the rush was over. Then I got a big pie order. You always hoped for those because it usually meant there would be a big tip. The order was for 6 pizzas! As I’m driving to deliver them, visions of $5 or $10 tips filled my head. I got to the house and there were several cars parked there. It was very nice brick home with a manicured lawn. I got the pizzas and rang the doorbell. A woman of about 30 answered the door and shouted to someone to come help with the pizzas. A couple of teenagers came and took the 6 boxes away. The lady handed me a check for the pizzas, and I check to make sure it was the correct amount. There was no tip on the check, nor did she hand me any cash for a tip. My face must have given away my disappointment because just as she was about to close the door her eyes flew open and she said, “Oh! A Tip!” She looked around her and there on a table near the door was a candy dish with, you guessed it, Hershey’s Kisses. She grabbed two of the chocolate delights and handed them to me and said, “Merry Christmas!” as she closed the door. Well, I was so embarrassed and yet somewhat miffed that I just dropped the candy on the ground and left. I told the manager I was going home when I got back. On the drive back to the store I thought about the time with my kids that I had missed while delivering pizzas. It just wasn’t worth it. The kids were asleep when I got home, but I went into each of their rooms and sat beside them petting their hair, giving them REAL kisses, and thanking God for them. The next morning the looks on their faces when they came into the living room to see the presents, however meager they might have seemed to me, were priceless. We played together for a little while and then got ready to go to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner. Perhaps one of the reasons I love seeing my grandkids on Christmas is the vicarious do-over with my kids that I get. I get to give my grandkids presents and enjoy them just the way I did with their parents.

            1990 – I had graduated from Houston Baptist University in the summer of that year. But getting a job was a longer process than I had hoped. But I started a new job the first week of December. It meant that we would have money for Christmas. My Children were 5 and 6 years- old. It was the first Christmas of their lives that we had enough money to actually get them some nice presents. No, there was no pony or a trip to Disneyworld, but the presents were things that they really wanted. I had a great time going Christmas shopping with my wife. We hired one of the youths at our church to babysit and we went out to dinner and then shopping. The one thing that my daughter wanted the most was a kitchen playset. We found one perfect for her. My son was into everything having to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We found some of the figures that he didn’t have and then splurged on a TMJT Blimp! No kidding. My son was also into the TMJT trading cards and I found a big package of them. We also got my daughter a set of play dishes for her new play kitchen. Then there were the usual presents that included some new clothes and stocking stuffers. I cannot begin to tell you how much I treasure the memory of putting that kitchen playset together and watching my daughter delight in it. She must have fixed me 10 cups of tea and a couple of dozen cookies that we shared! I also had a great time putting together the blimp for my son and there was plenty of time for us to look over his TMJT cards that I read the info on the back to him. It was a great Christmas.

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