54. A Clue for Christmas

54. A Clue for Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

A Clue for Christmas

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

My parents didn’t go out on dates, not even on their anniversary. Their once a year exception was to my mom’s Sunday-school class Christmas party. It was a major event for my mom, who would dress up in anticipation of the party and then regale people with stories about it for years after. But one year my two brothers and I had an even better story — one that we never shared with anyone.

My parents left that evening with the usual attitudes: Mom was excited about going and Dad didn’t like social situations. We were old enough to be left alone, although they felt compelled to warn us not to fight or set the house on fire. My twelve-year-old brother Trent, three years my senior, was officially in charge as he was the oldest.

With the parents out the door we settled in for a binge of once-a-year Christmas television shows starting with A Charlie Brown Christmas and ending with How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

We enjoyed the annual shows but were distracted by the Christmas tree in the corner of the room. Not actually the tree, but those wrapped gifts underneath.

It was family tradition for our mom to take us each shopping separately so we could buy a gift for each of our siblings. Sometimes we bought what the other wished for, but more often we were influenced by our own wants. That year Trent had wanted the board game Clue, so he bought it for my middle brother, Tracey.

It seemed like an impossibly long wait until Christmas morning. And it was as if all those brightly wrapped gifts were calling to us. One in particular was a rectangular box whispering over the sound of the television, “Play me. Play me now.”

And so we did.

Trent carefully unwrapped the gift, being ever so careful not to tear the paper and then oh-so-gently pushed the wrapping to the side. And there it was… Clue!

For the next hour we clandestinely played Clue. Every few minutes we would panic, thinking we had heard our parents’ car pull up. One of us would run to the window to check.

For the first time ever, we didn’t have a single argument. Not once did I threaten to call Mom. Not once did my brothers threaten to kill me if I did.

It was a Norman Rockwell Christmas Card evening as three angelic children gathered around the coffee table rolling dice and wondered if it was Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with a candlestick or Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the lead pipe.

When we couldn’t bear the fear of getting caught any longer, we re-wrapped the gift, putting it on the backside of the tree just in case our mom could tell we had tampered with it.

On Christmas morning it was the first gift Tracey opened, not because he was eager to find out what was in it, but rather to undo any likelihood of Mom noticing its shopworn wrapping. I’m surprised to this day she didn’t catch on that something was amiss, as he gave the worst overacting enthusiastic surprised performance ever displayed for a board game.

Forty years later, I have somehow inherited that Clue game. While deducing with my own children whether the killer was Professor Plum in the conservatory or Mrs. White in the kitchen I remember how, long ago, three co-conspirators played all evening without a clue as to how special that Christmas together was.

~Christine Jarmola

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