When our girls were little, Christmas at the Jessops was memorable. I grew up poor and wanted something better for my children. So, at Christmas I went insane. (See, it’s all my kids’ fault. I’m guessing my wife would disagree, both that it’s the kids’ fault, and that I was only insane at Christmas, but that’s a different blog entirely).
We adopted our first daughter from El Salvador as a baby. The first couple of Christmases were boring, more stuffed animals, blankets, baby clothes, a jolly jumper (that was kind of fun…more later). Christmas at the Jesssops had a slow start. Then, she turned two-and-a-half, and the insanity began.
That December, something in my head snapped, and Christmas at the Jessops took a turn; more like went off the rails. My wife gave me a list of things to buy for our daughter, and told me to just pick a few. I took my credit card to the local Toys “R” Us and filled two shopping carts, along with several tickets for large items. I was proud that I bought my wife’s complete list, and then some. The lady at the checkout counter asked me how many kids I had. When I said, “One,” the look she gave me spoke volumes, as in “Get the net.”
Christmas Eve, I read my daughter “Twas The Night Before Christmas”, and excitement filled the house. The Christmas tree was in the living room that year. Next morning, we could barely get into the room for all the presents. Christmas at the Jessops was in full swing.
Our daughter’s eyes were the size of silver dollars, and she really tore into those packages. An hour later, she had been working so hard she started to cry. She had to eat breakfast and take a nap before continuing. She finished opening presents around two in the afternoon. She spent the rest of the day playing with the wrapping and empty boxes. I now realize that’s the day my poor wife should have ran away.
When our eldest daughter turned five, we also had a second adopted daughter, now three years old. That year, Christmas at the Jessops reached a new level of crazy. Me and two of my favorite credit cards headed for Toys “R” Us, and my poor wife was stuck home with the kids. There was no one to fight the insanity. That year I pulled up to the checkout counter with three shopping carts full of toys, and several tickets for large items.
Checkout lady. “How many children do you have?”
Me. “Two daughters.”
Checkout lady. “Dear God. Where’s your wife?”
Me. “Home, locked in the closet.”
That year, the presents spilled from the living room out into the dining room. It took the girls most of the day to open them all. My wife explained to the girls that Santa ate all the cookies we left him, because he needed extra energy to get all those presents down the chimney. That year’s Christmas at the Jessops was her second signal to run away, but to her credit, she stayed.
The most memorable, but sad, moment of that Christmas was the remote controlled race car. My wife might still mention this one from time to time, whenever I need humbling. My selective memory seems to have forgotten this, but my wife clearly remembers. I apparently bought the five-year-old a remote controlled car. I took her into the garage to teach her how to use it, and yelled at her when she kept crashing it into the wall. According to my wife, I spent more time playing with it than my daughter did, but then my wife is always saying she had to raise four children. Since we only had three daughters, I can’t imagine what she’s talking about.
When my eldest daughter was nine, my wife magically got pregnant. (It had to be magic, because the doctors told us we’d never have our own biological child). So, when my eldest was eleven, we had a one-year-old baby, also a daughter. That Christmas at the Jessops, the presents took up the living room, most of the dining room, and a few larger items, like a plastic castle/jungle gym and a small electric car that the middle child could drive, showed up in our finished basement. My wife postulated that Santa got a hernia delivering to us that year.
This was also the year of the jolly-jumper. As mentioned earlier, we had gotten our oldest daughter one of those things when she was a year old. This was a contraption with a seat with leg holes for the baby, supported by what amounted to two bungee cords. You were supposed to fasten the thing to a bar situated in a door frame. The baby would sit in the seat with their feet touching the ground, and then could push up with their legs and bounce and jump with the help of the bungee cords. Our oldest daughter had loved the thing.
So, when we placed our newest one-year-old in her jolly jumper, we made an error in judgement. This Christmas at the Jessops could have gone badly. My wife remembers it as me making this error, swearing she was downstairs at the time. But, why point fingers? Anyhow, the error involved trusting our ten-year-old to play with the baby while in the jolly jumper.
As I sat there on the floor watching, before I could move to prevent it, our ten-year-old decided to try to launch the baby. She pulled back on the jolly jumper, fully loaded with baby, and aimed for the refrigerator located across the kitchen from the door frame. Fortunately, the baby did not eject from the device, nor did she crash into anything. She just bounced from kitchen to dining room and back several times before I could get up off the floor to stop her flight. The baby actually seemed to like it, although I still think I might have had a small stroke.
The next Christmas was the year of the amazing French pedal car. This was a diabolical device that one of the adults in our family thought might be fun for the kids (again, no finger pointing). This was a small, bright yellow, plastic car with pedals designed for small children to ride on the sidewalk.
The diabolical part resided in the steering device. Instead of a normal steering wheel, or handle bars, the thing had two handles, one on each side. To turn left, you pushed the right handle forward, and pulled the left handle back. Or was it the other way around? Anyhow, it was impossible to figure out how to steer the thing. Worse, we had a driveway on our cul de sac with a small hill, and the girls insisted on sailing down the hill in the amazing French pedal car that was impossible to steer. We used up a lot of band aids that year. The worst part was, I was too big to fit into the thing (don’t tell my wife I said that).
It took me a couple of years to come down off of my Christmas high after the girls grew up and left home. The year after the youngest daughter moved out, we decided to do an Angel Tree. That’s where you pick a name off of a Christmas tree, and buy the child some gifts for Christmas. My wife went with me to Toys “R” Us that year, but she couldn’t stop me. When we delivered the gifts to the designated site, there were so many that the man at the desk made the decision to split them in half. That way, two children would still have a nice Christmas. In that case, maybe my character flaw wasn’t so bad.
I thought it was interesting that only a couple years after our youngest grew up and left home, Toys “R” Us headed for bankruptcy. They eventually went under, and my wife swears to this day that it was my fault. It’s her contention that I kept them in business for several years. I’m happy to see that some other crazy person must have emerged with a similar dysfunction to mine, because I read yesterday that Toys “R” Us is starting up again, with a couple of experimental stores. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I do feel sorry for that man’s wife (assuming it is a man). In my experience, women are the more sensible gender, and not quite as susceptible to this type of insanity.
We sold our family home earlier this year, and once again I was faced with my Christmas insanity, the results of Christmas at the Jessops. My wife and I had to clear out all the closets and drawers, including a lot of stuff left behind by our daughters. Even I was amazed at all the toys, electronics, games, doll houses, stuffed animals, you name it, that were stored away. Much of it had only been played with once or twice, usually on Christmas day. I never did find that radio-controlled car though. I’m guessing that toy disappeared a day or two after Christmas, although to my wife’s credit, she’s still here with me. I’m very grateful for that.
I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing how my grown daughters handle Christmas with their own children yet, but I’m hoping that they inherit the reasonableness of their mother rather than the insanity of their father. I don’t know though. I’m sure Toys “R” Us is rooting for the insanity thing.
One interesting tradition has apparently come out of my Christmas insanity. My daughters now range from 25 to 35 in age, and yet, come Christmas Eve they still insist that I read them the book “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” There’s still something magical about this. If they’re not all here in person, this is done by teleconference. Don’t tell them I said this, but I am quite touched by this tradition. If that’s the main tradition that carries over to them, then I’m one happy guy.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!
If you enjoyed this blog article, and got a laugh or two, you might also enjoy my book PLEASURIA: Take as Directed (Koehler Books), a comedy murder mystery available in bookstores and online on Amazon at http://bit.ly/pleasuria