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Christmas is all about memories
Jeff Mullin, Enid News & Eagle
December 25, 2009

While we're living through it, Christmas is a blur of shopping, cooking, wrapping, eating, holiday programs and parties, wrapped around more mundane chores like work or school.

But viewed through the filter of time, Christmas is magical, or, at least, memorable.

My own Christmas memories are largely pleasant, warm and filled with images of family, food and fun.

But then there are the special Christmases, the ones that stand out clearly from the rest. Like last Christmas, for instance, the year of the assassination attempt. But more about that later.

Then there was the Christmas of the bird. My father-in-law had made an offhand remark in the course of that long-ago year about how it might be nice to have a pet bird, with no real thought of ever getting one.

But his children and grandchildren latched onto it, setting in motion an elaborate hoax.

By the time the family gathered under the tree on Christmas morning, the plot was in full flight, so to speak. One by one he opened his presents, consisting of a bag of bird seed and other items any new bird owner would need. With every gift he opened he got more and more flustered, despite his attempts to keep smiling through his discomfiture.

Occasionally there came the sound of a bird chirping somewhere in the room. It was coming from a tree ornament from which bird songs emanated when its electric cord was plugged into the wall socket. One family member sitting near the tree would surreptitiously plug the ornament in for a few seconds, then unplug it, leaving my father-in-law craning his neck to discover the source of the sound.

Finally it was time for the last gift, which no amount of gift wrap could disguise. It was, clearly, a bird cage.

My father-in-law clearly was wary as he carefully peeled the paper off the cage. All at once a broad smile split his face. There was a bird in the cage, all right, a stuffed toy one. The room bubbled with laughter as the prank was revealed, and his real Christmas presents were brought from another room.

Last Christmas morning my sister-in-law was bustling around the kitchen preparing the annual holiday brunch, as I lounged in a recliner in the other room. No one else was around, and the rest of the family had yet to arrive.

All at once a single shot rang out. I jumped from the chair and ran to the kitchen, fearing the worst. I stopped short when I spotted the carnage — not blood, but egg casserole splattered all over the floor.

There had been no gunplay. The noise instead was the sound of a tempered glass container containing said egg casserole exploding. The container had been sitting on top of the stove to keep it warm. The blast spread casserole and glass fragments throughout the room. Fortunately my sister-in-law was across the room at the time, or she could have been badly injured. Thankfully the only casualty was the centerpiece of the morning’s repast, but rest assured no one went hungry.

Not all Christmas memories are funny, exciting or even marginally pleasant. Some are, at best, grim.

A fellow I know spent part of his childhood in Wichita, living in a home that could only generously be described as dysfunctional. Both his parents were alcoholics, and seemed to care more for the bottle than making any Christmas preparations for their children.

One Christmas Eve there was no sign of the holiday in the family's home, so my friend and his brother went out and found a small evergreen tree, which they cut down and dragged home.

They put up the tree and decorated it with makeshift garlands consisting of popcorn and string.

There were no presents under the tree, nor would there be. That Christmas Eve both parents got roaring drunk and proceeded to beat each other bloody, while the children cowered in fear.

That was the last night the family ever spent together.

When your family gathers to make Christmas memories today, take a moment to offer a prayer for those whose memories will not be good ones.

Merry Christmas, and watch for flying egg casserole.