The Christmas of '96

by Lis Stanford

Editor's note: 'The Christmas of '96' was the first piece published in our Smoking Under the Mistletoe series in December 2016. The series also includes 'Childhood Wasteland' by Isabelle McCauley, 'A Letter From Rudolf' by Rachel Sheldon, and 'Years Only Happen Here Now' by Jaxon Bradshaw.

One Christmas at the age of 3 I would get my “big girl” bed. Back then my mom would stay up all night arranging the living room of our mobile home to make it look as if Santa Claus had come to visit. She would write on the tags of very specific presents:

“To: Elisabeth/From: Santa Claus.”

Even then I would recognize my mom’s handwriting.

It’s too unique to mistake it for an old fat man’s.

That morning I would wake up at the crack of dawn, jump on top of my big brother’s bed and run into the living room to find all kinds of gifts. My mom and dad would already be awake. No doubt my mom had not slept the entire night. They would already be behind the video camera in their slippers and fleece pajamas sipping their steaming cups of coffee.

“Merry Christmas darlings!” my mother would exclaim. My father would say nothing. I would run to jump on my “big girl” bed and fall straight through. My mother would scream and fumble to switch off the camera.

My father would laugh.

My mother would glare.

I would wonder why I had fallen through. My mother would explain she just put a blanket over the bed frame to make it look presentable, that they hadn’t put on the mattress yet because I was sleeping on it.

Years later I would find it hilarious. My mother would still be horrified. And my father wouldn’t have spoken to me in 4 years.

Thumbnail image by Evelyn Stetzer.