o My funniest memory is of peeking at the presents. Parents usually get up in arms about the no-peek policy, but my dad would send my mom and brother off somewhere, then he and I would crawl beneath the tree. With a click, he would open his knife, slice the tape, ease the present out of the wrapping. Even now, if there is a present under the tree, he picks it up, gives it a shake, and starts digging in his pocket for his knife.
o My uncle Bryant came over to the house dressed as Santa one year. I immediately knew it was him by his voice. But the funniest thing was that his eyebrows were Scotch taped on. Even at 4 years old I thought it was funny.
o For years my brother had a girlfriend our Me-Maw didn’t care for. Me-Maw got her a gift: a canned ham (not black label but the Aldi brand) wrapped with a tag inscribed “To: Jason’s Girlfriend.” Me-Maw was delighted with her passive- aggressive planned jab at this young lady. But the lady’s response was even better. “A CANNED HAM,” she enthused. “This is JUST what I needed. THANK YOU SO MUCH!” This is the stuff that has been passed down in family legend for about 17 years. My cousin and I have to retell it every year in fits of laughter. Me-Maw-1, Girlfriend-1. The Duel continued. (As a side note, my brother dumped the girl the next year. If Me-Maw doesn’t like her, that’s a red flag.)
o The year my niece repeated a “private joke” I taught her when she was asked to say the blessing over our Christmas meal. Her father asked her to say grace, and she responded, “Through the teeth and over the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!” I was immediately given the Death Stare from her parents as I giggled uncontrollably.
o Daddy bought his little girl a full-size unicycle complete with two balance poles that were taller than he was. My feet couldn’t reach the pedals, but I tried to ride it anyway. I had to lean the cycle and the poles up against our blue Pontiac LeMans, climb onto the hood of the car, grab the poles — no, try to get on the unicycle first, THEN grab the poles. ... You get the idea. My father died two years ago on Dec. 11. This is my fondest Christmas memory.
o As usual at some point in time the family gatherings at my great grandmother’s house consisted of the great aunts and uncles discussing who had a religious vision or a paranormal sighting for the year. My second cousin swore he saw an unidentified object in the sky while riding in a small plane with his boss. One of the great aunts agreed he must have seen it and began telling her story of one year seeing two jets chase a UFO over the skies of Texas on Christmas Eve. While most children my age had a vision of Santa flying across the winter sky, all I could think of was a blue light playing chase with two Air Force jets.
o I got a half-eaten candy cane stuck in Santa’s (fake) beard while I was sitting on his lap, reciting my rather lengthy wish list. It didn’t land me on the naughty list, but to this day, I’ve never eaten another candy cane.
o My brother and I wanted to convince our parents that we really didn’t care about getting presents. We were maybe 12 and 10, and we were ALL TALK. So my parents decided to play along. Our stockings were empty (except for a lump of coal in the toes), and they had wrapped up dozens of empty boxes and put them under the tree. (We did wind up getting gifts, but there was certainly a moment of “Oh my God, what have we done!”)
Merry Christmas, dear readers. Light a fire and hold your beloveds close. As Hamilton Wright Mabie said, “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at www.thecrackerqueen.com.