84: Thanksgiving Christmas

84: Thanksgiving Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Thanksgiving Christmas

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.

~Joyce Brothers

Christmas in my family was never small. Every year my parents went all out to make sure their kids got the best Christmas money could buy. The result of these grand annual events was usually my father screaming about the Christmas lights.

Every year, Mom would drag Dad to the tree lot next to Walmart and pick the tallest, fattest tree. One year it was actually too fat to fit through the front door, so they had to bring it through the patio door in the kitchen.

When it came time to decorate, the whole family was together. Mom would put in her usual mix of Christmas CDs and we would all work together filling the tree. Once it was complete, a marathon of Christmas movies would begin, accompanied by a glass of eggnog. I cherish those memories.

The holiday season of 1990 started like all the others. It was early November. The family drew names for special Christmas exchanges, wrote out their wish list, and went about their business. I have always been a bigger fan of Thanksgiving, so I procrastinated. Why taint Thanksgiving with Christmas? It’s a sin to put out decorations before Black Friday.

I don’t recall exactly when the call came, or how my parents told my older brother, sister, and me. What I do remember is having a Thanksgiving-Christmas to be truly thankful for.

Dad was in the Navy Reserve, and Desert Storm was in full swing. His reserve unit was called into war. Since he was to leave right after Thanksgiving, my family decided we would have Christmas on Thanksgiving.

There was no time to buy a tree, so Mom got creative. She took a half-dead three-foot-tall potted tree in our living room and tossed some tinsel on it. Then we hung as many ornaments as the tree could handle. When we stepped back to marvel at our work, I had to fight off a giggle. Our sad little leafless tree reminded me of the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

On Thanksgiving-Christmas morning we woke, ate breakfast together, then turned on the holiday music and began handing out our meager supply of gifts, including a special one I received from my dad. For months I had begged my dad to buy me a stuffed tiger and he refused. Yet that day, my dad extracted a not-so-cleverly hidden large black trash bag from under our Charlie Brown tree.

When he handed me the gift I nearly jumped up and down with glee. I had yet to open the bag but I already knew what was inside. My three-foot-long tiger. More excited than ever before, I tore at the bag and hugged the tiger close.

Shortly before Christmas Mom received a call from Dad saying he was not to be shipped out from North Carolina until after Christmas. So across the Skyway Bridge with a mother terrified of heights, through an Indiana ice storm that froze our car doors shut, and through the Smoky Mountains, my mother drove us to see our father.

Though I have very fond memories of a surprisingly wonderful Christmas in North Carolina, it’s the memories of that Thanksgiving-Christmas that stand out. All the months my dad was in Saudi, that special tiger helped me sleep at night. It made me feel like my dad was right there beside me. It was the most precious item I had. I took good care of it, because in my ten-year-old head, I decided that as long as the tiger was unharmed, so would be my father.

I still have that tiger twenty-three years later. She still reminds me how much our family has to be grateful for.

~Star Davies

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