Ho … Ho … Help
My cousin Bobby and I were often regaled by our grandmother with stories about Uncle Bill’s growing up on Torchlight Mountain. Bobby’s dad, my Uncle Bob, is also a storyteller, and what Grandma New left out, Uncle Bob shared.
I also have my very own special memories of Uncle Bill, like the time he lined all of his stepchildren up for haircuts, and because I was staying the summer with Grandma New, I somehow got into that line. You’ve heard of the bowl cut–the one where the bowl is placed over your head, and the hair is trimmed. Well, that was the method that Uncle Bill used. When he finished with my cut, he stood back and started laughing. “You look like Carol Burnett.” In case you didn’t know, that was not a compliment for a twelve-year-old girl.
Last year, Bobby and I discussed Christmas memories of Uncle Bill and he reminded me of a particularly memorable Christmas.
You see, our Grandma and Grandpa New (called Mamaw and Papaw by most of the grandchildren), liked to spend Christmas in Florida. My mother was the first to move here, followed by one of her younger brothers and her older sister. Our Aunt Irene was the Christmas Eve hostess year after year. She put out a spread: ham, cheeses, salads, desserts–including the most wonderful rum balls a child could sneak off the table. The crowd was often a large one since my grandparents had seven surviving children and each child had between one and four children, and the age difference in the children’s children meant that many first and second cousins were the same age.
On this Christmas Eve, I remembered the rum balls, the fact that it was particularly warm–even for Florida–and the children all together in Aunt Irene’s house. You see, we had a special visitor every year on Christmas Eve. The kids would be ushered inside right after the sun went down. The adults’ faces would begin to shine. Back then I thought maybe it was from the excitement of our visitor, but now that I look back, I wonder if it wasn’t caused by something else. Anyway, every once in a while, a mom or dad or an older cousin would ask, “Did you hear something? Were those jingling bells?”
The children would quieten, and we’d strain to hear. I’d often strain to sneak one more rum ball while no one was looking.
After awhile, year after year, the bells would ring, and the children would gasp and go silent. I can’t speak for any of the other cousins, but I always counted back the days to last Christmas to recall if our visitor could hold something against me. Would I get a lump of coal from the family’s Kentucky mountain that would dub me the heathen I actually was or would Santa forget about my crimes? I didn’t ponder it too long or too seriously. Instead, I’d sneak another rum ball.
Out on the lawn–the back lawn–on this particular year, there arose a clatter. The adults moved toward the door, casting wondering glances at each other. They didn’t relax until they heard, “Ho … Ho … Ho!”
“It’s him! Santa’s here,” the whispers would reach to the very front of the house to the cousins vying for the best spot around the tree. Well, everyone but me. I stayed near the food table, sneaking another bite of my favorite dessert.
We waited … and waited. Adults began to whisper to each other.
“Ho … Ho … Ho!” the greet resounded in the night air.
The bells jingled, but Santa didn’t appear.
One adult bravely stepped into the night, and he returned doubled over.
Laughing! Laughing at Santa. If he wasn’t careful, we’d all get pieces of coal.
Around me, kids began to fidget. Had something happened to our beloved Santa Claus?
The bells rang, and we came to attention. Then we heard the Jolly Old Elf cry out. “Ho … Ho … Help!”
The adults laughed.
The children stood in stunned silence.
“Ho … Ho … Help!” Santa said something else, but it was muffled by the laughter of our parents, who designated a committee that gathered at the door and went outside.
The children were held back. “Santa will be in soon.”
Several minutes passed, and finally the sliding door to the back porch opened.
In walked Uncle Bill.
He was dressed like Santa–in the same suit Santa used each year–but his hat was sideways. His face was sweaty and red and melting. His belt was twisted, and he was–let’s just say that that Aunt Irene must have made a lot of rum balls … I’d eaten a good many, but I’m sure Uncle Bill had indulged in a few.
We soon learned the entire story. Seems Santa was busy that year. He couldn’t make his yearly early stop at Aunt Irene’s. Uncle Bill had volunteered to help out Old Santa. Trouble was, he’d dressed in Santa’s suit next door at my cousin’s house, and when he’d attempted to climb the fence between the properties, Santa’s belt (somewhat loose on Uncle Bill) had been snagged by the chain link, and Uncle Bill had been unable to move. The tropical heat had taken its toll on the Santa makeup, and it had stained the underarms of the suit.
And Uncle Bill had created another memory for his many fans. At least that’s my Christmas Memory of Uncle Bill, flavored by the rum balls, but I’m sticking to it.
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No love, no pain. No God, no games.
A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing world as an upcoming tango star, and in the process destroyed her reason for living, too. She survived the pain and built a new life resembling nothing like the one she left behind, determined never to hurt again.
Nye’s emotional walls hold up perfectly until she meets a handsome lawyer and an elderly landowner. They seem harmless, but one awakens feelings she doesn’t want and the other makes her face the God she can’t forgive. Will these two men help Nye dance again?