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American Happy Sad

That smell.

As my wife and I entered our neighbor’s house the smell of gingerbread, ever greens and cinnamon penetrated my nostril cavity.

The house was decorated with Christmas green and red everywhere. Tinsel was hung on almost every surface, a manger sat at the foot of the 6-foot tree.

Candles burned and the walls were adorned with various festive banners and signs.

I flashed back to my childhood where every Christmas was celebrated and wonderful.

Mom would be baking her famous gingerbread cookies with her secret ingredient which she told nobody what it was.

Dad along with my brother, sister and I were busy decorating the tree.

Hanging lights, garland, and ornaments while blasting Perry Como’s Christmas album on Dad’s old record player.

This was one of the only times my siblings and I weren’t fighting and/or arguing about something.

Family gatherings were always taking place at our house, especially during Christmas time. Grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins all gathered for Christmas dinner.

It was like our family Super Bowl.

I remember one particular joyous Christmas night when snow began falling on the trees outside making it a white Christmas for the first time in years.

Dad was just carving up the turkey and ham while the rest of us were patiently waiting to be fed.

Everyone was sitting at the dinner table waiting for dinner to be served.

Listening to Uncle Stu tell stories about his childhood and how this gathering brought back memories of his big family Christmas dinners.

He was so thrilled for us to be continuing with the tradition.

It was the only tradition our family had, and I didn’t want to see it disappear.

After dinner we would bundle up in our winter coats and go caroling to our neighbors’ houses.

There were at least 13 of us standing on folks’ front doorstep.

We rang the bell and when the door opened, we belted out On the Fist Day of Christmas.

We sang other songs and mixed up the order and the songs we performed.

I mean we couldn’t sing as well as Perry, but nobody seemed to care. They were all just enjoying our singing.

We just wanted to spread our family Christmas joy with the rest of the neighborhood. 

When we were done spreading joy to our neighbors it was time for our annual 2-man sled race down Old Creek hill.

The teams were always the same and the competition was fierce.

This event brought out our competitive juices to a normally reserved quiet family.

Dad and my brother, Uncle Pete and me, Mom and my sister, and my cousin Brian and his sister.

Brian and his sister have been the reigning champs for the last 3 years running.

And they took every opportunity to rub our noses in it when this time of year came around.

So, we were all determined to dethrone them.

Family bragging rights were on the line.

We lined up at the top of the hill and death stared each other as if this was the Olympic finals or something.

Grandpa stood in between us as he yelled, “On your mark, get set, go!”

Brain and his sister got off to a great head start which they always do.

Personally, I think they are in cahoots with Grandpa and leaving right before he said go but I can’t prove it.

Mom and my sister couldn’t balance themselves on the sled and quickly fell off.

Uncle Pete and I were gaining ground quickly.

Halfway down the hill I could see we were gaining on cousin Brian.

We were in striking distance as we approached the last quarter mile.

We caught up to them as we bore down toward the finish line.

I leaned my head forward to give us that extra uummpphh in case it was a photo finish like a horse race.

As we crossed the finish, I saw our sled beat them by the slightest of margins. I’d like to take credit for my quick thinking of leaning forward did the trick.

I threw my hands up in the air and jumped off the sled. I pumped my fist in the air and hugged Uncle Pete with all my might.

Felt like I won an Olympic gold medal or something.

This was the most thrilled I ever was in my 11 years on Earth.

I couldn’t help but be boastful to my cousin Brian who for the last few years rubbed my nose in it.

After the race completed the whole family went back to my house for dessert.

Mom made her delicious homemade ice cream while my Aunt Deb brought over her delicious three-layer chocolate cake.

We sat at the dining room table munching down on the scrumptious sweets having the best time.

Little did I know that would be the last time we would get together at Christmas with all the family.

That was the last Christmas before my parents divorced.

My parents divorced 7 months after that night and my world was never the same again.

“Tim are you ok?” I heard someone said.

My wife nudged me slightly as I snapped back out of my trance.

“Yes, yes I am ok.” I said.

The host of the party greeted us at the door and started small talk about how nice it was we were all able to get together like this for the holidays.

I heard the majority of what he said and responded by nodding my head and agreeing.

My mind was still on that last Christmas night. The pain still hurts but not as much as it once did.

I did my best to chat with the other folks at the party, but it was no use.

Pretended to be chatty and friendly like my usual self and it seemed to fool almost everyone there.

I headed over to grab a drink lost in thought as a tear rolled down my cheek.

My wife and I exchanged looks and she said, “I know.”

October 07, 2023 02:22

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1 comment

Tanya Humphreys
01:11 Oct 25, 2023

Reedsy critiquer here... This reads like a memoir, which I hate. I dig stories of adventure, fantasy, excitement...this is not my cup of tea. So I really can't offer a fair assessment.

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