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A Glitch Steals Christmas by Phyllis Marchese

Each year we try to share a Christmas greeting with you, created by one of the many talents among the James family. This year, Phyllis Ann Phillips-Marchese shares a Christmas story from her past – A Glitch Steals Christmas. From the entire James family to you and yours, a Merry Christmas for us all.

A Glitch Steals Christmas

When I was a youngster, I read a lot of books, heard endless radio programs, and saw countless movies about Christmas. There was a certain similarity in all of those tales. Wishes and prayers magically came true. Santa Claus always had the ‘requested’ gifts for everyone. They were wrapped, tagged and tied with big, bright red bows. Families would get together to share their blessings and the joy of the Christmas season. Separated couples would reunite, exhausted battle weary soldiers would return from wars in far off lands. Lonely people would find their perfect mate. Miracles, miracles, they were everywhere! Even on 34th Street in New York City! Peace and love covered the globe.

That never happened in our family. Something seemed to take a bit of the warmth out of our family gatherings. There was always a glitch or two, no matter how well those special occasions were planned.

In my vivid memories, one of those holiday glitches was the year we had the most unusual Christmas tree in the neighborhood. My Uncle Bud came to our house a few days before Christmas. The plan was for him and my Dad to go shopping for our Christmas tree. After a light lunch, they were off to find a tree. They must have looked for the perfect tree, because they didn’t get home until 10:30 that night.

They went straight to their task with vigor. The tree stand and the lights came out of the storage boxes. Bud held the tree while Dad, on his hands and knees, tried to get it centered and level. There were some orders given to Bud to hold the tree straight while Dad twisted and turned the screws into the trunk. Bud told Dad that he was doing it wrong because the tree was leaning. Dad told Bud that it was because he wasn’t holding it straight. After some name calling and a few expletives, Dad got up off his knees. He became keenly aware that the trunk of the tree resembled the S-curve on Lake Shore Drive. Off to the cellar they went, in search of a rope, ladder, a large nail and a hook. Bud held the ladder while Dad used a spike (they couldn’t find a large nail) to tap on the ceiling to find a joist. After a few trips up and down the ladder, and a number of tries, the hook was inserted. The rope was securely tied to the tree, and the two men raised the tree until they felt it was hanging straight.

That was the one and only time that the tree was placed in front of the sofa instead of the bay window, its traditional setting. It was the year that I can truly say “Santa put our presents under the tree.” I added a few new words to my limited vocabulary that night. New Years’ Day was going to be celebrated at our home with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. The tree was taken down the day after Christmas. It was lowered down to the floor, and the rest of that week was spent patching and painting the ceiling and walls.      –  A holiday glitch.

Phyllis Marchese with husband Pete
Pete & Phyllis Marchese

Now let us fast forward about twenty years. My family, my siblings, and all the nieces and nephews are at my parents’ home for our traditional Christmas Eve. I bought a new crystal punch bowl. It sat in a brass rack with twenty-four matching cups. It was to hold the gourmet eggnog that I created at home. I used two quarts of cream, whipped into lovely little peaks. Milk, vanilla beans, fresh ground nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, a simple sugar syrup, and farm fresh eggs were added. I thought I had the perfect combinations of spices and texture. My ten-year-old niece was intrigued with it. She took the glass ladle and started to stir the eggnog. I asked her not to do that. Her mother, my oldest sister informed me that I had spoken too abruptly to her little girl. That is when the little “darling” stirred it faster and the ladle went through the side of the bowl. All of the food on the table was covered in a soft, rather sticky, flowing, white blanket. The floor was also covered with it. –  A glitch.

Another Christmas Eve, my nephews were hanging around outside my parents’ home. They were playing in the snow, waiting to open the presents under the tree. We had just purchased a new Corvair and it was parked in my parents’ driveway. Unknown to us, the fifteen-year-old, had been in our car and played with the floor mounted stick shift. We called them in to open the gifts. A few minutes later, the neighbor across the street knocked on the door to tell us that our Corvair had just torn down his fence, his garage door and smashed his car that was parked inside the garage. Try explaining that to the insurance company.  –  Another glitch.

Before my big night, Christmas Eve at my home, I started to watch the cooking shows on television. I wanted it to be as perfect as possible. One of the tips was to peel the celery on the appetizer tray. That would make it tender and much more palatable. A little granddaughter was getting some new teeth. I gave her a celery stick like I gave to my children at that age. It feels so cool and soothing on sore gums according to Dr. Spock. Her new teeth were sharper than I thought they were. Panic came over the room when she started to choke and turn a peculiar shade of blue. My son saved the day, and his kid, by giving her a variation of the Heimlich maneuver.   –  Another glitch.

Three years later on Christmas Eve, my one-year-old granddaughter had her arm broken. My formal dinner was delayed a few hours while the little one had her cast put on in the emergency room. Her parents didn’t partake in that Christmas feast. They chose to go straight home from the hospital.  –  A glitch.

I am now nearly two decades older, I cannot wait to see what Christmas surprises I have this year!

You’re invited to send us your Christmas stories, as well as your stories year round. Or, add them below.