063: Christmas Stories 2: Christmas Sprouts

This is the 2nd of 7 Christmas stories. Click here to read: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5Part 6. Part 7.

AND — if in the year-end rush you missed our earlier Hanukkah Week series, you can jump back to enjoy that here: Part 1 of 5 for Hanukkah.

    Our 2nd Christmas
Story this week introduces a writer who we hope you’ll come to enjoy in 2008. For most of his career in media, Rodney Curtis has been known for his expertise in the visual arts. A longtime photographer, videographer and photo editor, Curtis also has been jotting down memoirs over the years, but — until now — he has been tossing them into a drawer without much thought about the lives his stories might touch. Here at ReadTheSpirit, when we got wind of his skill in the genre of spiritual memoir, our colleagues began to pass around some of his essays — and we were hooked. In 2008, ReadTheSpirit Books plans to publish a first volume of Rodney’s stories, affectionately renaming him: “The Spiritual Wanderer.”
    Today’s story is typical of his jottings. His memoirs read like letters from an old friend. We hope you’ll enjoy his fresh voice.

    AND NOW, from Rodney Curtis, The Spiritual Wanderer …

Christmas Sprouts

Maybe my buddy Chris had it right. He and his wife, ignoring convention, decided not to spread wild rumors and weave false hopes in their daughters’ minds. Instead, they told them up front, from as early an age as the girls can remember: Santa Claus is a myth. I don’t know how they managed to pull off such a counter-cultural move, but their kids seem unscarred.
    Even writing the words — “Santa Claus is a myth” — makes me nervous.

    Chris’ strategy does beat what my wife and I had to go through when each of our daughters discovered the awful truth. Our eldest, after an evening of tears, proclaimed that her entire childhood had been a lie as she rattled off the demise of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and even St. Patrick’s Day leprechauns.
    Our youngest, after an evening of tears, went back to believing in the guy. I appreciate her style. We had lied to her for so long that, when we dropped the ball, she picked up the fumble and ran with it. We’re pretty sure she knows what’s going on by now, but we don’t really want to go through a second round, so we aren’t going to bring it up again.
    Avoidance is a wildly under-used parental tactic.
    It’s great until, after never having gotten around to purchasing a better fake Christmas tree, I was forced to haul out the old one that we agreed we’d never use again. After fiddling with the tree stand in the basement for what seemed like the full twelve days of Christmas, I finally started swearing at the engineers who designed such complicated rigging.
    In our family, we remember that as ‘The Year Daddy Swore at the Christmas Tree.’

    We’ve all got holiday traditions that we share with a smile and a shudder, don’t we?
    As a pre-adolescent boy, my mother figured that I wasn’t embarrassed enough in social situations. So, as Christmas came around one year, she and her twin made me join my cousin in playing holiday songs on our trombones outside in the snow. Worse, they took pictures and wanted us to perform an encore in front of our church as Christmas Eve services let out.
    To this day, “Good King Wenceslas” makes me break out in hives.

    Tradition also demands that every couple of Christmases, Mom gets to retell the story about Rodney and the Magic Beans.
    No, I didn’t get them from some guy along the road in a swap for the family cow, but they did sprout in a giant way — far too fast for the Pepsi bottles in which I secretly kept them under my bed, watering them religiously every night for two weeks before December 25th.

    I was so proud of those sprouts! Until that year, my whole family had been ordinary meat-and-potatoes Protestants. Then, my parents discovered healthy eating and bean sprouts were the new “It” food. What better Christmas present than two giant Pepsi bottles stuffed with sprouts?
    To this day, my mother breaks into hysterics as she retells the story about hearing strange dragging noises upstairs when I went to bed each night. She thinks it’s the funniest thing to imagine me pulling the glass bottles from underneath my bed and furtively watering them in the bathroom sink. But what brings tears to her eyes with each new telling of the story is remembering how she and my father thanked me for the lovely gift — then spent Christmas day shaking the bottles furiously to dislodge the tangled mass through the narrow glass necks.

    Not all that funny, you say?
    So, what holiday stories do you retell, year after year?
    Bottles and bathrooms are strange holiday motifs for me. One eerie Christmas tale of bottles and bathrooms even involves a guinea pig, named Squeaky.
    I was such a dutiful kid that I always took great care in cleaning out Squeaky’s glass bottle with her special toothbrush that reached all the way down to the bottom to clear out the accumulation of gunk. And, it was at Christmas one year as I performed this nightly ritual that my brother Scott walked in and yelled:
    “What are you doing with my toothbrush?”
    “It’s not yours, it’s Squeaky’s,” I said. I just knew he was mistaken.
    But, no.
    He and Squeaky had been sharing that toothbrush for months. I’m not sure who came first, but Squeaky was definitely the last to use it.

    Still not laughing?
    Well, I never saw the humor in these stories, either, until my Mom sent me the following email: “The more I think about the Bean Sprout story, the more I realize why it still isn’t funny to you! You were the one who was trying his utmost to surprise and please his Mom … and it’s difficult for you to hear me laughing about it! But to me, it’s such a precious story for the very same reason!”
    She’s right.
    At Christmas time, no matter how old I am chronologically, I’m still a 10-year-old boy in my gut. Even my own daughters know it! One year, they bought me a GI Joe — and, the next? A race car set.
    What’s worse is that all they want are clothes or gift cards. They’re 12 and 13 — already two and three years older than I am at Christmas.
    They understand my stunted growth, but man, it stinks when your kids are older than you.
    This year, I’m hoping for an iPhone.
    They’re hoping for pants.

COME BACK TOMORROW for another Christmas story.

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