Twas The Week Before Christmas

Chad W. Lutz
‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the web, our writers were stirring; up restless in bed. Swirling and twirling in thought and in mind, just like the snow almost three weeks behind. Their charge was to bring you some holiday cheer, to go right along with your pint of spiced beer. So, in lieu of this magical, memorable time, our writers have taken their pens to the grind. To unfold happy tales of holidays, old. To recount the memories which stand out, so bold. All of them mulling on Christmas’ past; without further adieu, let’s introduce cast.

The first stop we make on this holiday cruise is to recount the tale of a little boy’s muse. Here you will find a heart-warming tale involving Bo Jackson and a Love that prevails…

Darren C. Demaree – Managing Editor

Christmas peaked when I was nine years old. That December I begged, as in shamefully begged, for the Bo Jackson hand-held baseball/football video game. I cut out pictures of it. I snuck it into the shopping cart a few times, assuming I could get my parents to buy it for me by accident. I wanted that toy, the same way I now desire Half-Price Books Gift Cards, and my demonstrations were no less than shameful.

So, my parents did what most parents would do. Sure, there were toys under the tree from Santa Claus. Some good ones, like a new racecar set, complete with a track with multiple flips in it, but the Bo Jackson game was nowhere to be found. When they saw my disappointment, they came up to me, and hand on my shoulder, handed me one more package. My dad said, “This is from me and your mom. I hope you like it.”

Just like Bo, the present ran straight into the end zone of my heart. Flipped over, it was a home run to the deep right field of my joy. I played through the initial set of batteries in one weekend. I brought it to school to play during recess, as opposed to participating in our normal 1-on-1 basketball tournaments on the Elmwood playground. I wore both sides of that game out.

More importantly, I learned a very important parenting lesson, which I will use for my daughter when the chance presents itself. Santa is a cool guy who will give Belle many great gifts, but if I have a chance to get her the ultimate present she has been asking for, then that one will be from Daddy.

Now, wasn’t that lovely, a tangible treat? An ode great hope in the face of defeat. There’s more where that came from, sit back and relax. It’s time for Ms. Tucker to warm us with facts…

Dawn M. Tucker – Lifestyle Writer

Holiday memories come hard to me: vague flashes like photos I have forgotten, a silver tree my mom always put up, hiding with my sister behind the couch trying to find Santa, sitting at the top of the stairs secretly praying for a loud noise to wake our parents up.

My happy holiday memory came to me much later in life. I have three kids. At the time they were around four, ten, and eleven years of age. I would take them to nursing homes and they would sing Christmas carols and hand out candy canes to the residents of the home. My daughter would play keyboard, and her brothers would stand in the background and sing.

We were through caroling and about to leave the nursing home when my little girl reaches up to tug on my shirt. “What honey?” I ask. She responds, “What about all of the people who couldn't get out of their beds to hear us sing?” Well, she had me... I started wondering, “What about them?” My three kids and I then went door to door handing out candy canes and talking to the residents who were bed bound. We'd share a story, or sing a song. We touched a lot of hearts that day, but none was touched more than mine.

In a time that has become a huge commercial undertaking rather than a focus on family values and traditions, I was proud that my kids took time out of their lives to touch the lives of others. Not once did they complain, not once did they whine or ask, “When are we leaving?” What they did ask me when they were done was, “Mom, can we do this again next year?”
(Jamie playing keyboard...and the far right behind her
are her two brothers, Barry and Gene.)
Sometimes it takes nothing to fill us with cheer. Some music, our loved ones; just having them near. And sometimes what gets us is almost unseen. Take Matt’s retrospective past holiday piece…

Matt MacDonald – Lifestyle Writer

This particular Christmas that I would like to share with you has nothing to do with Christmas. Jesus wasn’t involved nor did anyone have to sit on some pervy stranger’s lap. There was, however, a miracle. And I witnessed it.

A billion years ago, I used to work for a company called Giant Eagle. Anyone who has worked in retail sales is well aware of the fact that no one is allowed to have the holidays off, especially Christmas Eve. This is an absolute especially if your area of retail has anything to do with food.

The sad part about this is that no one seems to realize that this has a tendency to ruin holidays for most retail workers. The same people who make sure the shelves are full of your favorite little treats are also the same people who celebrate the same holiday that you do. The only thing that separates you from them is that (in some cases) they have to do it later. Or in some really unfortunate cases, they have to “schedule” that same holiday to coincide with their work schedule.

This makes for a lot of bitter and skewed views on the idea of holiday spirit. I was no exception to this. For a very long time, I hated Christmas.

The Christmas miracle that I would like to share with you occurred when I was in my early 20’s. As you can imagine, I had to work on Christmas Eve. It was another exhausting Christmas Eve rush I had suffered through and I was actually looking forward to going over to my mother’s house. She was planning a big dinner for my entire family (truth be told, I was tired as hell and I was more excited about putting my feet up than I was the food). I had gotten there early and the first thing that I saw was my Father and my Stepfather sitting at the dining room table, bullshitting.

That was the miracle.

Yes, you read that right. Stupidly, I didn’t realize that was the miracle either until the following spring when my closest cousin had pointed out the gravity of that scene to me.

My father was a Cleveland Police Officer for 32 years. That kind of job in that kind of city for that amount of time will jade, if not crush a person. Personally, I’d like to think that my father was equal parts jaded and crushed.

As a result, this armed him with an almost super-human ability to “read” a person and give you a general idea of whoever they were. Additionally, this left him with a certain amount of disdain for anyone who had the nerve to court my mother, let alone interact socially with his children.

The lone exception to this was my stepfather. To this day I still don’t know what it was about him. But he had the ability to charm the fur off of a gorilla. In this instance, the gorilla in question was my father.

There they were, chatting like old friends. I couldn’t tell you what happened after that. I don’t remember what I got that year. I don’t remember if the food was any good. The only thing that I remember with any amount of clarity is that my father, the hard-ass retired police officer, was willingly sitting at a table (that he used to sit at for many years and helped purchase, if I am not mistaken) on Christmas Eve with my stepfather.

They’re both dead now. Both of them fell prey to two different types of cancer within two years of each other. Are my Christmas’ hindered by their absence when viewed through the lens of this memory?

Not in the slightest.

I was the only one in my family to see my father interact with my stepfather as an equal instead of an adversary. That’s a hell of a lot better than any gift anyone has ever gotten for me.

As this last tale shows, sometimes it’s unknown just where our fond memories come from or grow. But Christmas is like that. It tends to amaze, especially with things seldom seen by our gaze. Up next is a story from the young Miss Witwer, we all should be blessed to have grannies like hers…

Hallie Witwer – Lifestyle Writer

Favorite childhood Christmas memories are numerous for me, but one definitely pops out in front of the others as I access those long ago years. Perhaps this particular one is even more special now that the star has passed away. When I was little, my grandmother would spend the night every Christmas Eve so she could be there when we opened presents. Our house wasn’t big enough to offer her a spare bedroom so she would camp out on the couch that was conveniently next to both the tree and the fireplace. Like most other children, I was, of course, completely unable to contain my excitement on that special night. Unlike most other children I would pass the time by emptying out my toy box and closing myself inside for the entire night until my parents made me go to bed (I was an odd child). At any rate, before I would climb the stairs I would always ask my grandma to keep a lookout for Santa for me.
Christmas morning would come and I would run downstairs. More important to me than all the gifts under the tree though was the yearly report from my grandma. Believe it or not, I would pass by the tree surrounded by perfectly wrapped presents and go straight to my grandma where she would tell me this, without fail, every year- “I saw him! He was right there! I made sure to lie real still when I heard him come down the chimney and only opened one eye so he wouldn’t know I was awake!” To this day I can picture her winking face as she acted out her story for me. Christmas is such a magical time, especially for children. Sometimes I wish we could all regain that innocence we once held, but for now, I’ll take solace in the small things, such as a kiss at the end of a long workday or the pleasure of a drink when I please.

Our next Christmas story involves family, too: a story from one of our new points of view. It talks of tradition and waking in bed to find out Kris Kringle arrived in his sled. Here’s Chris with her take on the joys of the day, but don’t take my word, here’s what she has to say…

Chris Lindsey – Lifestyle Writer

There are very few things as sacred and as magical to a seven-year old child than Christmas Morning. I had the honor of having my Grandparents raise me from a very young age along with my twin brother. Since they had decades of Christmas Mornings under their belt with four children prior, my grandparents had perfected the tradition. Of course, at the time I didn’t know it was them, as I was mesmerized by Santa’s mythical legend.

Our Kentucky home would be streaming with the morning’s first light and the twinkle of the tree as my brother and I would rush sleepy-eyed from our beds. Before my eyes could take in the wonder that jolly big guy left the smell of homemade biscuits would engulf my nose and awaken my salivary glands. There in our living room, Mr. Claus’s booty would be laid out from wall to wall. There were not any tidy boxes wrapped up in snowflake print underneath our tree or elaborate ribbons and bows to MacGuyver-off shoeboxes. Instead the tub-o-Legos were used to build castles, pirate ships or spacecrafts. Barbie was adorned fashionably on a pink beach cruiser near the sofa where GI Joe was repelling from the arm with a few good men. Teddy Ruxpin had put on his apron and decided to bake a treat in the Easy Bake Oven, which of course he was sharing with Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite. Every toy was cleverly placed.

Those mornings spent in that wonderland my Grandparents created for us have set the traditions as an adult in my own home with my own children. My husband and I don’t spend hours wrapping gifts or finding solutions to bulbous, awkward shapes. It is spent creating a similar bliss where our children can eat homemade biscuits in footy pajamas all while discovering each new treasure creatively left.

So far we’ve heard stories, both recent and old: warm fuzzies of Christmas, pure holiday gold. For our very last tale, we talk of TV, of family, of Grandma, and lights on the tree. A reflection on knowing the good times must end and the wonder of knowing they’ll begin soon, again. Here’s Chad with the lead, please excuse his soft prose. But, according to him, this is how Christmas goes…

Chad W. Lutz – Lifestyle Editor

Christmas has taken on various personas throughout my life. In my early years, I was utterly infatuated with the warm and tingly idea of giving to others, including the trim and packaging of the holiday as it exists today. By the time I reached high school, I guess you could say I was more or less indifferent about the idea. The only grandmother I was ever really close to passed away Christmas Eve morning a month before my ninth birthday and from there the idea of going through the whole ordeal again and again every year just seemed like more of a chore than a celebration.

From then on it was all kind of downhill. The older I became and the more exposed to culture, society, and tradition, the more poisoned against the commercial racketeering and obvious farce of attitudes many people carry during the holiday season. I can still remember how excited I used to get about my grandmother staying with us every Christmas. It’s a memory that, I suppose, still keeps the holidays alive for me.

What excites me today is that I’m still here and able to enjoy the things that remind me not to take life so seriously, for fear of never making it out alive; however simple they may be. Things like 24 hours of A Christmas Story, of which I inevitably end up watching 10 of the 12 screenings every single year, or the holiday lights that illuminate the dark and otherwise frigid and blistery early-morning and late-night runs, or the cheesy TV specials like, “It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown!” In the years since graduating from college, I’ve learned to enjoy, if not love, Christmas again. It’s taken some time, but it’s something I feel my grandmother would have wanted. And I think that might be what the spirit of the season means anyways, or at least something close to it, for whatever it’s worth.

As the winter winds blow and the sun dulls to dark, we hope that this article served as a spark; as a glimmer of hope as we greet the New Year, a tiding of joy and an ode to what’s dear. From all of us here, proudly poised with our pens, we’re humbled and grateful to serve you, good friends. May your holiday season reveal much joy…

And to all a good night.

(Or something like that)