In lieu if a full sized Christmas tree, I settled for a very small flower from a plant called Cannabis Ruderalis, broke it up, rolled it in cigar paper, lit it on fire, and inhaled it’s smoke until my eyes are as red as Santa’s sleigh.
I have no Christmas spirit anymore. It started leaving when I was 3, nearly 4. I remember, so clearly, my Mom telling me to go to bed, or Santa would put pepper in my eyes so I wouldn’t see my gifts. I was horrified, terrified, and, a few minutes later, I would be transmogrified.
My Mom told me that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. I’d had my doubts, even that young, because my Dad (a quasi Jehovah’s Witness) had told me.
Over the coming years, as my dad got more into his religion that he dragged me, kicking and screaming, into, he ruined Christmas every year. He’d tell me all the big things my Mom was getting me. It was hard, because I still had to act surprised, for Mom’s sake.
Opening gifts was still magical, until I was 14. I’d had a cold, and I thought that maybe that’s why this year isn’t as fun as other years. I’m the type of person who gets one, maybe 2 colds a year, but when I do get one, it lasts 2 weeks and it’s terrible. So, I thought my general misery was cold-related, or maybe because I didn’t get any fun stuff that year, just clothes and an iron. I still enjoyed random gifts (like art sets, books, board games, ect) and video games at that age, so I was a tad disappointed. (yes, I was pretty spoiled my my Mom, I realize while writing this how much of an ungrateful brat I was) I thought that was why I didn’t feel any magic. It was still fun to watch my 4 and 3 year old siblings open their gifts.
The year after that, right before Christmas break, one of my classmates told me that the magic was gone for her as well. At this point, my Christmas spirit was at, like, 60%. I knew most of the big stuff I was getting, plus my 16-month-old God sister had been killed in a car accident earlier that month, so I was still mourning her. I kept replaying this one scene in my head, over and over again, that still makes me cry to this day. Her 4-year-old brother, at the funeral, wasn’t sad, and was acting like it was just normal for people to be in a church where a picture of his baby sister was at the alter. He was high-fiving people. I always imagined him not realizing the gravity of the situation until he got home that night, and his beautiful baby sister, whom he absolutely loved and adored, wasn’t there.
I was 15 that year, and wasn’t playing basketball anymore, because work schedules had changed, and I had to get the siblings off the bus, and there was no one to take me to practice anymore. That was a year of growing up, a whole lot. So, my Mom ‘surprised’ me with my first cell phone. I say surprised in quotes, because I’d had a feeling I was getting one, and I saw my Mom frantically trying to hide a yellow, rectangular box that I’d had an idea of what it was. It was Christmas Eve, in Walmart when she purchased that phone. I clearly remember this. My Dad didn’t even have a chance to ruin the surprise. Man, that was half my life ago. Today marks my 30th Christmas, and my 15th year of having a cell phone. My first phone was one of those Nokia Tracphones, and texting wasn’t yet a thing, and you had to buy minutes for it. We weren’t exactly poor, but our financial situation was such that, if I came home to no electricity, it was only a matter of hours before my parents scraped up enough money to get it back on. So, I didn’t get a lot of minutes put on my phone, but those that I did get, I either used them sparingly, or I purchased multiple polyphonic ringtones. There was no in-between.
The next year, I was 16, with a job at Walmart. I hated it, but I was making $6.50 an hour, 25 hours a week. That was much more than most of my classmates. This is the year I understood why adults were always saying “I’ll be glad when Christmas is over”. So much pressure! My Christmas spirit was steadily waning, it was probably a good 50% that year. The only redemption, was that I was a great and thoughtful gift giver. I looked forward to my family opening the gifts that I had brought them with my hard-earned money.
Then, on December 22nd. 2003, terrible things happened.
It was a Monday, the first day of the break from school. I was 16, my siblings were 6 and 5. I rushed down the stairs, thinking I was late for school. I laughed at my self halfway down, realizing my mistake. My Mom, having no children to wake up that morning, was still in bed. She’d just gotten over the flu. I kissed her, as I did every morning, and laid down beside her. The news was on, and I was halfway listening to it, halfway listening to the phone conversation between my parents. My dad was at work (he worked the night shift at the same Walmart I worked at).
I’ll never forget what happened next.
The news anchor was this guy named Juan Conde. I grew up listening to him on the radio, then on TV. He has a very nice, deep voice, but his voice doesn’t match his face. Sort of like when you first see Susan Boyle, before you know what she’s capable of.
I’ll never forget the words he said that morning, verbatim.
“Still no word on any suspects in the murder that occurred in the 2300 block of Treehaven Drive on December 20th. That victim has now been identified as 16-year-old E’lon Nelson.”
I shot straight up in the bed. “What? E’lon Nelson? Nooooo, he’s one of my best friends! I just saw him on Friday at the mall with you!”
My Mom tried to comfort me as best she could. She held me and stroked my face, neck, and back, as I lay there in total shock. She told my dad over the phone what had just happened.
Little did I know, the day would only get worse from here.
My dad came home from work, my Mom went to work after offering as much emotional support as she could, and I went back up to my room.
I woke up with my siblings around 9, hoping it had all been a bad dream, but knowing it wasn’t. My dad was sleeping, so my siblings and I ate and played until around 11, then I left them in the living room with our sleeping dad and went back to my room.
I was on the phone with Danielle, my friend since middle school, just making general conversation. But mostly, I wanted to stay awake until noon, to see the news again. I asked my friend, who wasn’t close with E’lon, if she’d heard the news. She said she had heard, so I wanted her to watch the news with me. This time, I don’t remember all of that the news anchor said, but s/he more or less confirmed what was said earlier, this time with a photo I’ll never forget.
They showed the inside of the apartment he was killed in, and there was a pool of blood on the floor. I was horrified, and wanted to throw up. I ended the conversation with Danielle, and just started crying uncontrollably.
As I was getting myself together, I hear my brother calling my name. Maybe it was teenage hormones, maybe I was just emotional, but I was super annoyed at him. He was rapidly and repeatedly calling my name and calling for Dad, one after another, after another. “Daddy! Nay-nay! Nay-nay! Daddy!” I didn’t answer at first, because just thought he was being irritating because he woke up hungry. He managed to wake dad up before I angrily barked out ‘WHUT BOY’. My dad said “Oh No! Nay, call 911!”
I grabbed my cell phone and the house phone, and started running down the stairs as I was calling 911. A dozen scenarios ran through my head as I came down the stairs. A fire? No, I don’t smell anything. Is an intruder in the house? No, my dad would have been fighting him off by now. Someone trying to break in? That’s what I thought it had to be. I finally got to where I could see what was going on, and I saw my sister on the couch, having a seizure, and my dad doing what he was taught to do in that situation.
I was talking to 911, and when I wasn’t sure of an answer, I would ask my dad. He seemed to be very angry at me, and began saying ‘you should know these things’. Dude, I was 16, in high school, with a job, I’m sorry I don’t keep up with your child’s medical records. The ambulance came in minutes, which felt like hours. As my Dad left with my sister, I was tasked with calling my Mom to tell her the horrible news.
This was one of the rare times my Mom actually answered her work phone, I could hear the cheer in her voice and everything. I told her the news, and she screamed. I told her the ambulance was on her way to the hospital she worked at, and she’s stopped seizing already, so don’t worry.
Doctors determined that my sister’s seizure came from her having a fever, which was caused by her having a mild case of the flu. To protect her, we all had to be on Tamiflu. My dad came home and picked my brother and I up, because the doctor needed to lay eyes on us to prescribe the medicine.
The second my brother and I got into the car, my dad insulted, berated, yelled at, and threatened me. Looking back on it, he was stressed about my sister, but so was I. I didn’t deserve the things he was saying to me, such as I was stupid, I was an idiot, he sees why I’m in special ed, he sees why I get some of the bad grades I get, he raised his hand to me, but dropped it, stating “I almost slapped you in your face just now”, he was just taking all this anger out on me. I was barely even speaking, just crying at that point. Crying because one of my best friends was dead, because I was worried about my sister, and because I was being verbally assaulted once again, for no reason, by my father. When he parked the car, he said, in the nastiest tone I’ve ever heard, “Starting now, I’m going to treat you so bad, you’re going to want to go live with your Grandma. And, I’m not going to be against it”
Then, in the same nasty tone, he started telling me to get my brother out of his car seat. Hold his hand. Watch him in the waiting room until we come back for yall.
Christmas spirit level: 10%. If not for it being my 6-month-old baby cousin’s first Christmas, it would have been zero at that point.
Over the years, we had a few more babies born into the family, and I grew up a lot. Christmas spirit remains at about 20%.
Fast forward to 2016. We all know that was the year the grim reaper was loose in Hollywood. And, on December 18th, I lost my Grandma, who was one of my favorite people on this Earth. I don’t think I wrote that story, because it is too painful. Christmas spirit? zero.
This year, I have a 1-month-old nephew, and today is his first Christmas. I feel so happy right now. I get to take pictures of him, hold him, breathe in his wonderful baby scent, and see everything he’s getting for his first Christmas. My Grandma is still on my mind, especially since I just lost my Nanny about 2 months ago. But, I had a dream I was in Heaven with my Grandma a few nights ago. I guess she was letting me know she’s alright.
Man, this has been such a long entry. I’ve watched “A Christmas Story” twice while writing this.
You get another cookie for reading this far. As before, the cookie is calorie free. It’s only made of air, so it’s very light! It’s right in front of you, reach out and grab it.
I’ll answer your questions soon! Ask me more, and give me photo requests!
Sorry for any typos. Yall know what I meant!