Christmas Funny Happy

TAP, smack, smack! TAP, smack, smack! TAP, smack, smack!


I make my way from the bottom of the wide staircase to the living room. The room is dark except for the soft, orange hue from the dying embers in the fireplace. Taking my time, I carefully navigate across the thick, multi-color, braided rug on the floor. At the fireplace, I lean my cane against the hearth and grab the two of the remaining logs, and feed them, one after the other to the fireplace. I stoop to grab some old newspaper that I crumple up and tuck here and there between the unlit wood. I grab the poker and try to stir and will the whole confused jumble into existence.

I watch as the edges of the paper touch the red-hot embers and begin to darken, curl, and crisp. A thin wisp of smoke rises, its grey tendrils dancing lazily at first before quickening as flames engulf the paper in a mesmerizing display of brilliant orange and red. They consume every inked word and image in their path and then flicker to a stop. Annoyed, I add more paper.


"Come on!" I whisper, prodding, the embers, urging them to ignite the paper and newly introduced wood. I stoop and blow a strong, slow, steady breath at it. "Fire needs oxygen to burn!" I mutter. It smokes and smells dreadful but not much else. Cold, I stand back up and cinch my new mint green robe around my waist and tie it shut with the satin belt. I shiver and wrinkle my nose at the obstinate fireplace; my fire-making abilities are a running joke in our family.


I sigh, exasperated, and grab my metallic cane, adorned with beautiful, vividly colored butterflies, as my granddaughter had insisted, and work my way to the tall window to open the white shutters. The acrid smoke has stopped, for now, but still hangs around like a guest that got too far into the Christmas Spirit and overstayed their welcome.


I unlock and open a window the tiniest amount in hopes of navigating the pungent smoke outside. I shiver as the cold reaches in and caresses me, even through the fabric of my robe. I stare with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. No matter how many times I've seen it, freshly fallen snow enthralls me. I love to watch as the white veil covering the world grows impenetrable.

I watch transfixed as the wind-whipped snow creates deeper and deeper drifts along the north side of the house and the sprawling front patio. The trees lining the driveway, the driveway itself, and the vehicles are obscured by the swirling snowflakes as if it were a bride’s hopeful face, swathed in thin fabric before the moment of reveal. The world beyond the window seems to dissolve into something featureless and blindingly white. Briefly, I wonder if this is what it feels like inside a snow globe.


My toes grow numb and painful as the cold slithers around them like a serpent.  I close the window and flick the lights to the Christmas tree on, chasing away shadows and creating new ones in the wake of the light. As the smoke continues to dissipate, other scents begin to emerge.


The aroma of pine mingles with the other scents of Christmas.  The savory, sweet, and bright, zesty tang of fresh oranges and clove still creates an ambrosia of scents that can only be Christmas. My daughter and I spent several hours making Orange & Spice tea to hand out as stocking stuffers and small presents that evening. She is so domesticated! I barely recognize the teenager who thought cooking was cracking open a can of The Chef’s pale and congealed ravioli!


The white lights from the tree illuminate most of the room. It is an enchanting show of warmth that creates a feeling of nostalgic ambiance and evokes all of those warm and fuzzy Holiday feelings. A sharp whistle of wind redirects my attention back to the window. I’ve always been astounded by how absolutely silent snow hitting the ground is, even when this much of it is falling… It’s not at all like the icy winters in Texas. Thank God!


"Bammy?" my five-year-old granddaughter calls out, "Whatcha starin' at out there? Is he here?" My heart puddles a bit at the old reference: Bammy... I quietly pray she holds on to this sweet innocence a bit longer. Although, one day (probably sooner than later) she’s not going to believe in the magic that is Christmas anymore.


When her language skills were beginning to expand, I often referred to her as, “Babe.” As in, “No, I’m sorry, Babe, not today; we are running errands, we’ll go to the park tomorrow.” Other times, when I was trying to be as stern as possible for a doting and indulgent Grandmother, I would say, " Yes, Ma'am." As in, “Yes, Ma’am, we are having naptime today, end of discussion!”


I don't know when, I don't know how, but at some moment, those words morphed into "Bam." Out of all of the names I thought I might possibly be called when I learned I was to become a grandmother: Grammy, Grandma, Nana, Mimi, or even Oma- my own beloved Grandmother’s name when I was a child- Bam was never even a blip on the radar of possibilities!


I believe her saying, "Bammy," is her way of saying, "Grammy." Whatever it is, it’s endearing and just perfect. It melts my heart faster than embers from a dying fire would melt the driving snow. I don’t believe sugar would melt on Ellie’s tongue!


"Yes, Ellie Belly?" I respond. She definitely was not supposed to be out of bed but my indulgent and doting grandmother’s mind asked, "What if she needs something to drink or to eat? I’m still up, I don’t mind. This is what Bam’s are for, are they not?"


Her enormous blue eyes dart from my face to the fireplace and she says, "I don’t think that’s how you do it… I think maybe you’re doing it wrong.”


"I'm pretty sure I am but I'll either figure it out or your Gramps will wonder where I went and he'll show up and get it going."




"I think Gramps likes to feel like he's helping Bam out by fixing things, even if she can fix them herself."




"Hey, Ellie, are you thirsty?" I ask cheerfully, trying to circumvent an endless loop of The Why's. She shakes her head, “If I drink too much before bed I might pee and my plastic sheet is at home with my husband.” She sighs, her little shoulders going up and then rounding out low, on the exhale, she looks like she carries the weight of the world on her tiny shoulders.


I gingerly tap my way over to the deliciously soft, over-stuffed set of chairs near the fireside and drop into one. I lean my cane against the nearest end table and pat my lap, "Come here Ellie Dear!"


She practically glides over to me, her petite feet seeming to never actually touch the ground; her long Elsa jammies billow out behind her, and then climbs into my lap. She leans back and rests the side of her face on my chest. Her tiny arms try to wrap around me and I wrap mine around her.


“Can I have some of your warm, Bam?”


"Of course you can, Kiddo but what has you all twisted up inside? Are you nervous about Santa not making it in the storm?” I feel her shake her head.


"No, he has magic. He doesn't even need the people who live in the speakers to tell him how to get anywhere! He just knows…" she says with so much conviction, I almost nod in agreement. I kiss the top of her head. It smells like strawberries and I inhale deeply. There is something about the way the top of a baby's head smells, I don't care how old they are!


"Well, do I have to guess? Is it top secret?" I ask in mock exasperation and gently tickle her. She giggles hysterically and then covers her mouth. "I don't want to wake up Mommy or Daddy because grown-ups are grouches if you wake them up," she says, equally as loud as her laughter.


I grin and grab the knitted blanket from behind my head and throw it over both of us. I frown at the dark fireplace. Both logs and the second round of paper are exactly as they were. I got kicked out of the Girl Scouts…long ago, I detest making fires!


“No, it's Slothy…and the kids,” she admits. Slothy is a larger-than-life, light-blue, stuffed sloth that someone, somewhere along the way gave her. He somehow became her confidant and then… the love of her life. She regales us all with the tales of Ellie, Slothy, and the kids. She has a self-reported fifty-one kids that: never have names and their ages and genders are questionable from moment to moment.


The best I can tell: Slothy and Ellie met at a rollercoaster. For some reason, they had to walk to the top of the thing, and by the time they reached the crest, she was expecting her first child. (“I mean… That must have been some walk!” I told her at the time. Then I had to excuse myself as keeping any semblance of a straight face was impossible.) They got married but for some unknown reason, her mother refused to come to the wedding. Apparently, I was definitely at the wedding but I must have been in a fugue state because I don’t recall the blessed event. They have been in and out of therapy. She gets really upset with him because she works all the time and he lost his job for being way too slow. Then he stayed home with the kids but again, he’s too slow with the housework which is a major source of conflict... I mean, this has been and continues to be quite the melodrama!


Where in the world she comes up with this stuff is beyond any of us! We don’t speak this way around her or her little brother, Wesley. She isn’t allowed to watch just anything on TV or the internet. So, we are all confused. We are also admittedly curious to see how it all works out. Personally, I think he needs to get another job or maybe look into some Zoloft or something…


“Oh? What is up with the family? I thought things were good?” I ask, feigning appropriate concern. She gives me a serious look.


“I had to divorce the kids!” she exclaims, looking genuinely crestfallen.


“I didn’t realize that was an option…” I muse.


“Yeah, it is. They were hitting and kicking and I just- Well, that’s mean!”


“How does Slothy feel about all of this? I mean, they are his kids, too.” I ask. I understand that she frequently uses these scenarios to work things out about life in her own mind. She just recently got “grounded” to her bedroom for hitting and kicking. You should have heard it! You would have thought her Mom had filled her bedroom floor with fiery hot coals!


“Slothy agrees with me. His Mom’s Uncle’s Sister is watching them but I don’t know… I miss them!”


“I think that's probably a very normal reaction to being away from your children, but you know what?”


“What?” she asks, her angelic, trusting face turned up toward mine. I kiss the tip of her nose.


“I think when the snow passes, you and Slothy should go get them and… re—Family them! It’s Christmas!” I say jubilantly.


“Yeah!” she says, looking determined to do just that.


“Hitting and kicking isn’t very nice. Maybe you all just needed a little time out?”


“Probably but I’m driving, not Slothy!”


“Is he a bad driver?” I inquire. She glances again at the fireplace, “No, he’s not, but last time he got a ticket.” she intones. “Bam, it really isn’t a very good fire…” she says as she slides off of my lap and stands up. I look at it, too.


“No, it’s not, Baby Girl. I bet I see Gramps down here pretty soon. Give

Bam-ma a big kiss and hug and hurry up to bed or Santa will never get down that chimney!” I tell her, leaning over for more goodnight hugs and kisses. I sniff the top of her head again and store the memory of her scent for when she is grown up and married with children of her own.


I grab my cane and with some wriggling and rocking back and forth, manage to find my way upright. She grabs my left hand in an attempt to help me.


“There you go, Bammy, it's alright.” she coos, encouragingly, patting my hand. This kid and her indescribably enormous heart… I pat her bottom gently and turn her toward the stairs,” Quick, quick, Ellie Belly!  All of the magic happens whenever you’re asleep! Go potty before you go back to bed!”


I watch her hop, skip, and twirl out of the room, a warmth bigger than any fire could produce spreading throughout every fiber of my body.


TAP, smack, smack! TAP, smack, smack! TAP, smack, smack!


I make my way back over to the fireplace to give it another try. I do want a roaring fire and a cup of tea. I can already feel the warmth of the mug in my cold hands. A fire is something you can zone out on and just… Be.


I grab the poker and try to stir the contents around again. Briefly, I consider the lighter fluid out by the barbecue pit. Then I remember the last time… “Hey! My eyebrows grew back! They needed to be done anyway!” I tell myself.


Suddenly, I feel two hands snake their way around my waist and I close my eyes and lean back, resting my body against my husband’s. He kisses the top of my head.


“What exactly are we going for in here?” he inquires, peering into the mouth of the fireplace. I laugh and blush.


I turn to face him, staring up into his dark blue eyes. I smirk and bury my face against his chest, “I was going for a fire and a cup of tea.” We part and he leans toward the jumble of logs and wood.


“Well, if I had to guess, I’d say an attempted murder transpired here. You’ve damn near suffocated all of the embers, Babe.” He replies, wryly. I laugh and wave my hand at him in a, “go on,” kind of way.


He motions for me to sit down. I curl my feet up into the chair and burrow under the blanket. Bent at the waist, he twiddles with a few things and then disappears into the kitchen. I watch, transfixed as the paper catches almost immediately igniting the smaller sticks and chunks of bark. Within one minute, I am watching flickering flames dance and hop about, casting subtle shadows around the room. Like miniature explosions, the logs pop and hiss.


When he returns, he presses a mug of piping hot tea into my right hand. The steam from the mug emits the piquant, sweet smell of oranges and the earthy, robust smell of freshly ground cloves and cinnamon. They marry to create aromatic bliss. The warmth of the cup seeps through to my palms further warming me as I clasp the mug. I thank him as he sips from his own mug and sits down in the chair beside me. I sip the tea and gingerly set it down on a coaster on the end table. He reaches out and grabs my hand.


We sit like that for a while, thinking or maybe not, enjoying a companionable silence. We don’t need to speak to have a conversation anymore.


“How are Slothy and the kids?” he inquires, raising an eyebrow as he blows on the tea.


“She divorced them… the kids, anyway… but I think they’re working toward reconciliation,” I tell him. He laughs. The Tales of Slothy and Ellie are legendary.

“At least he’s out of jail. He was gone for, how long… thirty-one days?”


“Yes.  Thirty-one days, exactly.” I answer, with a giggle, “I wonder what he went away for. I’ve never thought to ask. Now, I’m genuinely curious! I’ll ask her tomorrow at breakfast.” He takes a sip out of his mug and shakes his head.


“Nah, too heavy a topic for Christmas morning, you know?”


“Yeah, you’re right. Honestly, I don’t even think she knows. It’s a whole deep, dark secret type deal…” I trail off, captivated by the roaring fire. There’s another loud POP from one of the logs. Another silence fills the gap in the conversation.


“How long did you think about bundling up and running outside for the lighter fluid? I’m guessing the storm is the only reason you still have eyebrows and it doesn’t smell like burnt hair down here.” he chuckles. I start to protest but then laugh, too.


“Yeah,” I respond sheepishly and go back to sipping my tea, perfectly warm and content in front of the blazing fire, still crazy in love with him after twenty years of good times and bad. The fire is now as warm and as fully alive as my heart feels.

August 16, 2023 18:05

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Mary Bendickson
01:36 Aug 17, 2023

Now this is cozy!


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Marie Samuels
23:50 Aug 23, 2023

This is definitely the embodiment of the theme ‘cozy’. Enjoyed the grandmother or should I say ‘Bammy’ and Ellie relationship dynamic, it felt genuine and believable. I also enjoyed in particular the description of the fire in the second paragraph, it was transfixing. “ They consume every inked word” - I loved this, it snapshots an image that everyone has seen exactly. “ The world beyond the window seems to dissolve into something featureless and blindingly white. Briefly, I wonder if this is what it feels like inside a snow globe.” - p...


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12:53 Aug 21, 2023

This is the definition of a “cozy” story. It had the perfect elements of peace, humour and family. It truly transported me to December time when I read this story, even though it’s currently a lovely August afternoon. I lovedddd the storyline of Ellie and Slothy. When she first mentioned her “husband”, I was so confused, but delighted to understand that it was her own ‘tumultuous’ relationship with a stuffed animal. I think you perfectly captured just how crazy kids’ imaginations can be. I also loved how you switched the tone from Bammy b...


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Karen McDermott
15:53 Aug 19, 2023

So heartwarming. Loved Slothy, even with his lazy ways!


Kay Smith
18:09 Aug 20, 2023

The tales of Ellie and Slothy really provide endless hours of hysteria for us sometimes...! Thank you for the feedback - and for loving Slothy! The reunification went fine and they are one big happy family, yet again!


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20:55 Sep 06, 2023

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