This particular year would be more like the Griswald family Christmas instead of the postcard perfect Christmas.
My family was very traditional around Christmas. We had a traditional meal, the same decorations and the same gift giving activities. My mom was always someone who liked to have the house decorated. So the men of the house would hang the outside lights and all of us would help with the inside festivities. Each year looked very similar to the previous year, except this Christmas.
I was about 13 years old and my brother was 15. It seemed like such an innocent thing when my Mom bought a cute little stuffed Christmas tree. It was made of fabric and stuffed with filling, making it very soft. It was the kind of thing a 15 year old boy might throw at his younger brother IF his mom wasn’t looking. I’m not saying this happened but I’m not saying it didn’t happen either.
When my mom was decorating she decided to put two tall thin taper candles beside the highly flammable stuffed Christmas tree. Taper candles are so prone to falling over that you need a special taper candle holder. But the candles give such a warm and inviting light to any dinner, how could we live without them. She must have seen that in the stacks of Better Homes and Garden magazine beside the couch. There was an unwritten rule in my house, never light a decorative candle UNLESS people are coming over. So in the weeks before Christmas the tipsy taper candle was never lit. It did fall over several times though.
On Christmas Eve the two taper candles full of Christmas cheer decided to have a meet and greet with the stuffed Christmas tree. The cute little stuffed Christmas tree went up in flames like it was doused in gasoline. Brightly it shone, from the wooden dining room table to the old west style wooden light fixture.
My brother and I were the first to see its heavenly light and we were sore afraid. We stood there staring in wonder at the blazing fire on our dining room table like shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Suddenly a great company of family members appeared. My father, a man of action, wasn’t going to stand there in awe while his house burned. He barked an order, “Go get blankets…NOW”. My brother who was almost 2 years older immediately turned and ran for a blanket. I must have been stuck in the beauty of the moment because it took me a second or two longer for my brain to register the words. I think my internal conversation went something like this….
“That’s a really big fire on our dining room table. Wouldn’t that be cool if we could always have a fire like this inside? Nobody else in our neighborhood would have something as cool as this, not the Smiths, the Pucketts or the Kidwells. Oh, sure their pool is great but just during the summer. An indoor fire would be awesome in winter. Is anyone going to do something about this large fire on a wood table. hmmm. Wait, did Dad just say something?”
“Go get blankets…NOW”
Inside my head again,
“Why is he looking at me? Ohhh, he wants me to get a blanket.”
And off I ran to my bedroom. My brother was running out with a blanket while I was running in. By the time I got back into the dining room my Dad was wrapping the flames in swaddling clothes (blanket). He grabbed mine and completely killed the flame. We opened up the doors and windows releasing the smoke while allowing the cold winter air to fill our house.
The little stuffed Christmas tree was gone (and it was so cute). Our 8 foot long wooden dining room table had a near perfect black circle burned on it. Scorched like some alien weapon had been fired on it. My brother and I crawled under the table and pretended to stick our heads through the table. Making it look like a Christmas dinner at a cannibal house. With that, the almost tragic moment turned into joy and Christmas lore.
Some Christmas celebrations aren’t as much traditional but very memorable. If you have a good Christmas story please share it with me and I’ll post it here.