(6 minute read)
Once upon a time there lived four children who could hardly be described as children anymore. Their long legs extended under the round oak table, knobby knees bumping and toes colliding. While the table remained the same diameter it always had through the years, these children grew like beanstalks, making the eating area shrink. Not yet full fledged independent self supporting adults, they clung to the comforting traditions of their childhood. As did their doting mother and father.
Father prepared the annual Christmas Eve seafood feast while Mother went through her mental checklist of all that still needed to be done before they lay down to sleep in order to produce the magical morning for her long legged adult children. Mother had said, “Once the magic ends the magic stops…so who does not believe in the magic of Christmas?” Santa came down the chimney and filled their stockings and left one unwrapped gift for each child next to the fireplace each year.
On this one special night while everyone was elbow deep in cracked crab and shrimp, Mother excused herself from the table. She removed her plastic seafood eating bib and set it on the back of her chair. “I will be back in just a minute.” The feasters hardly noticed her absence. Then she ran up the two staircases heading straight for the attic. She giggled at the brilliant idea that came to her earlier. For a bit of nostalgia, Mother would retrieve from the attic several of the saved special toys from her children’s younger years. The Legos, the American Girl doll, the Thomas the Trains, and the Rescue Heroes. In keeping with the tradition of Santa coming down the chimney during the night and leaving a toy for each child, the memorable toys would be pulled out of storage and placed next to the hearth.
Time was short as Mother entered and flipped the switch to light up the partially finished attic. She knew what and where they toys were. Her plan was to carry them down to hide in a closet closer to the living room for the night. She found Molly, once her daughter’s favorite American Girl Doll. Then she grabbed the Rescue Hero tower with a couple Rescue Heroes off of a stack of boxes. To the far side she spotted the light blue Thomas the Tank Engine shaped train box. She took several steps, until all of a sudden “Crash!” Her foot broke through the attic floor. One leg was dangling inside of a gaping hole. The only thing that kept her from falling right through the unfinished pink installation material covered plaster ceiling of a room below was the wood beam that she painfully straddled. The shock of falling through the floor startled her and masked the pain. Somehow she pried her leg free of the hole and scooted back onto plywood that was strong enough to support a person. She brushed the debris of white plaster and pink fluffy insulation from her Christmas sweater. That’s when she noticed the bloody scrapes up and down her arms. She pulled down her sleeves, wiped the sweat off of her brow and gathered up the toys to take down to the closet.
As Mother passed by the open door to her bedroom, something caught her eye. She approached and her jaw dropped. The beige carpeted floor was littered with white plaster bits and chunks. Their dark brown bedspread was a mess. She looked up at the ceiling above her side of the bed and could see right into the attic. As she pieced together what took place she heard her kids calling from downstairs. “Mom!” Leaving the room exactly as is, she closed the door and called out, “Coming!” Out of breath with scrapes and bruises hidden under her sleeves and pants, Mother returned to the dinner table. Nobody noticed anything odd. Following dinner and dessert, after the kitchen was cleaned up they all sat in their matching pajamas and listened to Father read Twas the Night Before Christmas. Mother could feel her leg throbbing and the sting of her cut up arms. She said nothing of what took place. All the children retreated to their rooms for the night.
Father was walking toward the closed door of their bedroom. Mother caught up to him and squeezed his hand and whispered, “Do not say anything? Do not react?” Puzzled, he opened the door and took one step inside. Quickly Mother shut the door and explained the reason for the white plaster disaster in front of them (and above them). Wide-eyed, he broke into a big smile, then wrinkled his brows in concern, “Are you okay?” He shook his head in disbelief. She rolled up her sleeves to reveal the scrapes and cuts. She pulled up the pant leg of the bruised leg that had dangled through the attic floor (through their bedroom ceiling). “How did this happen? What were you doing?” She began to silently laugh so hard she started to cry. They gathered up the large chunks of plaster and shook off their bedspread. Down the hall the kids were asleep.
The next morning it was Christmas. The kids came down the stairs in their matching pajamas playfully going along with the “Santa brought you all something from the North Pole!” Each of them broke into big toothy grins as they recognized their familiar toys from years ago. Mother sat down on the sofa with a sigh as they rifled through their stuffed stockings. She started to giggle. Then laugh. Then howl. All of her grown children looked over at her as she continued to rock back and forth in laughter so hard it was silent and tears fell down her cheeks. “What is going on? Are you okay?” She jumped off the sofa and told them to follow her. Everyone trailed behind her as she went up the stairs, opened the door revealing the plaster disaster and the the gaping hole in the ceiling. Their reactions were even more memorable than the nostalgic toys. A Christmas story for the ages.