The Christmas Season is a time we resort to reflecting on the year past, the inner-self and a thirst for giving. We strive for a peaceful co-existence. Consequently, we look at, collectively, upon these ideals shrouded in a warmth, stemming from the virtue of love and good will to all.
Those who are fortunate can, I’m sure, relate through their own experiences. The less fortunate can appreciate the need here while doing without and its impact. Magnification of these ideals, I hope, will reach those who are insensitive and instead resort to hatred, greed and violence.
I aspire to do my part, through these short stories in a pertinent way to activate such ideals. The upshot of such a goal is that this will be one step (small as it maybe). May it resonate one day through each and every one of us.
Chapter 1: The Spirit in Us All
Norman Rockwell had a special place in his heart for small town culture. The Milkman fit into this genre. Milk was deemed a key nutritional source for children; boy, did we need a lot!
Before rejoicing in his own family festivities, come Christmas, deliveries came as a call of duty.
When witnessing 8 children racing down the stairs in anticipation of their precious treasures from a hallway window, he knew the joy of Christmas was not just for children as he felt in his own heart.
Chapter 2: What is going on?
Among my first recollections of any break in a small child’s routine (age 3-4 perhaps) included the pine scent of (what’s this) a tree in the house?
The aesthetics in us is a gift in itself. I saw beauty in the string of light bulbs wrapped around this tree. They were also soothing to look at. I gazed at them for minutes at a time.
Chapter 3: You can’t top this one
Perhaps a child greatest gift is the ability to “make believe” this sensation is pure and refined. It filters out all the ills of the world. Nothing else matters.
“Make believe” yields magical ideas which, in turn, leads to unmitigating thrills.
Prime example: Christmas morning when Santa REALLY came! Still my life’s happiest days.
Chapter 4: The longest quarter hour
Cristmas Eve: the doorstep of the longest night in the season of the longest nights is most apparent to a child. It’ll take forever to fall asleep and them for short interludes only to waken to the black of the pitch dark bedroom time & again.
At wit’s end, I finally rousted my Mom inconsiderate of her needs in doing so. She told me 15 minutes more. Not to mention, we had to wait at the top of the stairs with the magical world still out of sight in addition. I counted the seconds quicker than 60 seconds per minute mind you. Finally time to experience ultimate bliss arrived. Hooray!
Chapter 5: Yuletide Lottery Winner
Ten months to feed and a house to heat squeezed the budget making it like trying to get water out of an acorn. Leftover coin for a tree, this year, seemed a stretch.
My first grade teacher beckoned “all pupils place your carefully spelled and printed name into a box. The name I draw gets to take home the school Christmas Tree”. (Yes, it was real!)
My name was drawn! I’ve never won much of anything at all but for this one time: something indeed money can’t buy in the greater scheme of things. Absolutely true, a thrill of a life time and a tree for the family.
Chapter 6: Must we always have to face reality?
When summoned to the master bedroom, I knew my Mom needed to talk to me but with the re-assurance, I had done nothing wrong.
Filled with curiosity, I listened as she began: “Santa is the spirit of giving not an actual person like you and me”.
I answered “will the gifts and fun be as I recall?”.
When she replied “of course my child” relief and the ensuing joy emerged this I believed her words would not ring hollow.
Chapter 7: Christmas on hold?
With a “snow globe” scene unfolding, we were in for the Christmases of all Christmases”. But, alas, as reality has it: too much of a good thing?
With the snow piling up north of a foot, our parents’ closest friends could not come for Christmas Eve.
Without children of their own, they would often live vicariously through the 8 of us. They would come with presents galore and co-ordinate the dreaded assembly of others. Mind you, the approaching deadline (come morning) was fast on their heels.
Yet this one Christmas morning, in particular, was not the same as the others. The bare spots on the living room floor led us to feel as if something was not right.
But wait; come the snow plows to the rescue. With the roads cleared for travel could this just mean a delay? Will they come anyway?
Soon after, all our hopes were realized. Yes indeed, it was well worth the wait. Joy was had by all.
Chapter 8: Santa’s sweat shop
As the summer heat persists and the leaves still green, Christmas seemed light years away. Yet, one telling sign of what was to come was the four boxes of aluminum foil beside brother Walter’s bed.
“Jingle those bells; Christmas is coming!” was the message implied here. He garnered the forces in an echoing manner. “Christmas is coming, let’s start the chain”.
Ambitions were slow early on with the leaves barely changing. Then came frost after frost and with this the pace quickened.
We gave “thanks” and then move on to something bigger using “Turkey Day” as a catalyst. Now come the LP’s bought at the 5&10, the cards scotch taped to the wood trim, and, non-other, the chain on the tree. A small artificial tree on the dining room table was a “cherry on the sundae” of sorts.
Thank you, Walter!
Chapter 9: The Microscope
In a family deemed needy, a “large” gift seemed but a dream as a growing child’s concept of the real world grew clearer. All others had more, I didn’t just think.
A microscope is what I wanted this year; it was first foremost. “Ain’t gonna happen” was my thought that was engulfing. But wait! Oh wow! It’s under the tree. I can’t believe it!
Just two days later a friend’s birthday came with a party to boot.
The one gift he showed me was, (you guessed it!) a microscope of his own. His came from a lab; mine from a store. Also 30 x’s more resolution (magnification).
Through the years, one thought in turn, magnified” the spirit of giving and the sacrifices made along the way can make the more grandiose gift, become comparatively small. Thank you Mom and Dad!
Chapter 10: Transistor Christmas
As one might expect, space came as a premium. With 7 boys and just one girl, Mary could have used more.
My love of music and the radio as it’s prime source helped me get beyond any fits of rage and bouts of depression.
In 1962, the technology of cordless, hand held variety of the radio had arrived. It was called “the transistor”.
Under the tree, I saw a small present which brought a big smile. I now could migrate to a space free from the hustle and bustle of a house full of kids.
It also lay open my contact with the news, sports and weather. The news made me more informed thus broadening my horizons. The weather was intriguing (the anti-monotony, one might say). And, of course, the Red Sox were my favorite team. Thank you for 1967, 2004, 2007, 2013 and beyond!
Chapter 11: Just another work day
Even on Christmas day work is needed to be done. There are those amongst us who had to do it.
My stint at a nursing home was a short one, but it included a “working” Christmas as such facilities, understandably, must operate 24/7.
I think of that morning when festivities were getting underway but that I had to leave. Come the end of the day, I returned to partake in the wrap-up, thinking what I had missed. It helped me appreciate what the day really meant both then and now.
Chapter 12: The North Pole Came Without Santa
Christmas Eve Day in downtown Maynard was as festive as the song “Silver Bells” might well have rung true. A few last items to be purchased, a beer at each store (backroom, of course) and a wrap-up tour at an establishment designed for imbibing before closing time (early, mind you!). A mild early winter’s day made this experience all the more pleasant.
Come Christmas morning, it all changed. “What happened!?” preoccupied most minds of us all.
Courtesy of the “Montreal Express”, an epic cold snap came to grip.
The howling wind blowing through the pre-dawn hours made for a telling sign. 8 degrees below zero and getting colder, that is right even colder! Inside the house, it struggled to warm up. Car seats crackled when getting in. The engines droned before starting, if they started at all! Church attendance was as down as the temperature.
Some people came down ill, compounding the misery to overcome. Despite some, thus, no-shows, the candle of Christmas showed us the way through it all, still shining brightly. The weather analogous to a “Grinch” incarnation could not stop Christmas from coming. “Who-ville” I guessed it; it came anyway!
This is not where it ends. As time passed from year to year to year and having children of my own, I can relate to and share their joy come this magical morning.
Like the circle of life, I can reflect as if in flashback mode. Yes, Christmas is not just for kids. It’s like seeing it all happening through the eyes of the Milkman.
Peter Mullin was one of 8 children (7 boys and one girl!), whose parents (Leo and Alice Mullin) were high school teachers. Alice was the English Teacher in the family, and was a major influence in Peter’s life.