Christmas can be intense: Rife with familial undercurrents and financial strain, the yuletide can bring a time of crushing disappointment, dissolving relationships, mounting tension and exploding tempers -- but if we open our hearts and we wish hard enough, it just might also be a time of redemption. As it turns out, those hoary themes have been Christmas realities for many of us here at Westword, and so today we bring you those stories, the stories of our weird, dumb, touching and strangely familiar Christmas.
Guiding a Santa If you can just make it through middle school, everything will be OK. It's true for most people I know, but me especially. That's because I have an incredibly high sensitivity for allergens floating in the air. The tiniest amount of dust or pollen or airborne pollutants sends me into hysterical sneezing fits. And when I was in seventh grade, it reached the point where I had to leave school all the time and get take-home assignments to do in my hermetically sealed bedroom. When I was actually in school, no one picked me in gym class and no one would play tetherball with me at recess. I was just that weird kid who sneezed all the time.
In time, I've come to adapt. I'm a freelance writer, so I can work from home in an environment I control. Sometimes, I'll get through entire weeks without a single incident. Christmas is never one of those weeks. You can't stay in this time of year, not with all the family visiting and parties to attend. So I load up on Claritin and surgical masks and brave the world.
This year, everyone from both sides of my family came to town. It's a big crew: 23 aunts and uncles, and most of them have kids. Most of us grew up here, so the out-of-towners had busy schedules for their holiday vacations: lots of people to see and catch up with. Everyone wanted to go to Zoo Lights, so we decided to use the rare opportunity with all the young kids in one place to give them all one of their Christmas presents. My uncle Bob snuck out while the tykes were occupied marveling at the ice sculptures to dress up like Santa (he looks the part) and bring a big bag we'd filled with the toys when he came back. In retrospect, not our best idea.
Because, as you probably are aware, Zoo Lights is a total clusterfuck of people. The kids were getting bored and we couldn't keep them in front of the ice sculptures, and as we moved through the displays, time passed and Bob was no where to be seen. It was getting late, we were almost to the end of the loop and our planned special Christmas was in jeopardy. We went back to the elephant house to distract the kids, one of the elephants farted, another one kicked up a bunch of hay, and I guess I hadn't tightened my mask enough because my allergies started going crazy.
I thought my head would explode. People were backing away from me, family included (thanks for the help, assholes) and pretty soon I was leaning against a railing. It was hard to see because my eyes were so watery, but I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, something red, coming closer. My aunt Ruth (who is a bodybuilder) was carrying me out toward the car when I realized Santa Bob had found us. The last thing I heard before I passed out was the delighted screams of my young cousins, opening their presents. --Kiernan Maletsky
One magical sack Christmas just ain't the same when you live in Florida. It's usually still hot as hell and sunny and the chances of having a white Christmas are about as good as me making TV commercials with Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.
But it's still always been just about my favorite time of year. Ever since I was a little kid, I always felt like it was my own personal holiday. Heck, I even remembered the names of reindeers like, Donder and Blister.
That's what I was telling this dude with a big white beard sitting in the back of my cab on Christmas Eve. He was saying he was Santa Claus and that he was in town to find someone to replace him. He was supposed to meet the guy that was at the Children's Museum, where I dropped him off. When the old guy offered to pay me (with money with his face on it), I refused. Heck, I was just trying to get in the Christmas spirit.
My boss wasn't too happy with letting some old guy ride for free, so I got fired. But the crazy thing was that while my boss was telling me to get lost he threw a red bag at me that was left in trunk.
Turns out it was Santa's big red sack. And there's one person authorized to carry that sack, and it's his big, red, oneness: The Claus. So it became my mission to get it back to him. I guess in the meantime, Santa had been trying to pawn off his gig on the other guy, but he wasn't buying it. He thought the old guy kept saying his name was "Santos." That would scare me since the only guy I know named Santos Santos wanted to kill this dude who talked like Elvis and went by the name Sailor.
But that's a whole ball of wax. So me and this chick that I'd picked up earlier named Harmony were looking for Santa to give him his sack back. And we'd also realized that Santa's big red sack, well, it had magical powers. Sure, I've had a few gals say that my red sack had magical powers too. Wait, did you hear that?
Anyway, we finally did get Santa's sack back to him. And I think we kind of... saved Christmas. And for some crazy reason it started snowing too. That sack really did have magical powers! --Jon Solomon
Sleeping in, slapstick ensues This Christmas, my family decided to go to Paris for a vacation. I stayed at my parents' house the night before our flight, sleeping in their spare attic bedroom. But in the middle of the night., the house lost power. Long story short, everyone slept past their alarms -- especially me. By the time I woke up, my family had left for the airport without me.
I tried to make the best of it. I ate some candy. I ordered pizza. I watched movies on cable.
But before long, I started to get a creepy feeling. Like someone was watching me. It turns out that two burglars had been casing my parents' house for a while, waiting until they left on vacation. A robbery at Christmastime? This, I decided, would not do.
So I warded them off the best way I knew how: with a pet tarantula, a hot iron and some Matchbox cars. I shot one of them in the nuts with a BB gun. I made the other one step on a nail. I poured water all over the front steps, turning them into an icy staircase of doom.
Unfortunately, the burglars found their way inside. But I was ready. I tied a rope to a paint can and as they were making their way upstairs and I let go of it. The paint can swung and hit the first burglar in the face. Score! Then I did it again to the second burglar. He never saw it coming!
Eventually, the burglars gave up. I was happy, but I was also sad. The prospect of spending Christmas by myself was bumming me out. I went to bed on Christmas Eve feeling kinda crappy.
But then a miracle happened! I woke up on Christmas morning to the sound of my family calling my name. They had come back early from Paris to spend Christmas with me! Because they really do love me, even if they don't say it all the time. --Melanie Asmar
No man's a failure, my ass My worst Christmas ever came on the heels of the subprime meltdown of '08. I'd been doing pretty well peddling no-down, interest-only jumbos to recent Latvian immigrants. But then my Nigerian bankers stopped answering my emails, the SEC froze my trading accounts and all I could do was watch as the market dived and the balloon note on my mini-mansion burst like a bad appendix. The day they seized the Benz, I decided to get hammered before they canceled my plastic, too.
That night -- Christmas Eve -- I was crossing Speer, despondent and a little unsteady, when this fat, pungent street person pushed past me and did a header right into Cherry Creek. I fished him out, but then he started this pervy talk about how I had to help him "earn his wings" and such. I told him that wasn't how I rolled, that I'd rather never been born, but the little guy was kind of persistent. So I punched him, kicked him in the nuts, banged his head on the curb and ran all the way home.
The mini-mansion was a mess. The foreclosure bandits had taken all the furniture and stripped the copper pipe. I salvaged a few painkillers, wrapped the knuckles I'd skinned on the bum's rotten teeth, and went looking for my people.
The whole town was different. No more Lehman Brothers, no more Hummers. Formerly hard-working hustlers were wandering around like derelicts or dope fiends. I spotted my ex, Mary -- she was working at the library, of all things, and acted like she didn't know me from Bernie Madoff.
I guess I got a little unhinged after that. I remember waking up on Larimer, surrounded by these sorry-ass panhandlers, and people tossing quarters our way. I took a pull on some piss-warm jug wine. The pervy guy was there with bells on his toes. He whispered to me, "Remember, no man's a failure who has friends."
See what I mean? Suckiest Christmas ever. --Alan Prendergast
The perfect Christmas My wife's parents have never really liked me. I pretend not to know it, but I do. It's obvious that they think I'm clumsy and inept, and I know that no matter what I do, I'll never impress them. I'll just never be good enough.
So my wife was probably right when warned me against inviting both sets of parents. "The house is going to get too crowded," she said. "I just don't want to see you get disappointed." But I had it all planned out: The beautiful tree, the 250,000 Christmas lights--that's right, 250,000. Had them imported from Italy. When they saw that house all lit up like an explosion, it was going to be enough Christmas spirit to blow their fucking hats off.
It was going to be the perfect Christmas. And really, that's all I wanted.
Even when cousin Eddie showed up unexpectedly and dumped the contents of his motor home's septic tank into the storm drain in front of my house, it wasn't enough to bring me down, because the pièce de résistance was still in store. See, I'd already put a down payment on installing a pool for that summer in the backyard, and all I was waiting on was my Christmas bonus before I announced it. Things were getting a little strained at the house, sure, but when I announced that Christmas bonus, man, they were going to love me then.
What I didn't know was that evil Westword publisher Scott Tobias had planned to end Christmas bonuses this year to save money -- even though we're raking in untold thousands on pot ads -- and so when the envelope finally came with nothing in it but a letter informing me I was now enrolled in the "Jelly of the Month" club, I completely lost it. I was going to personally stuff that Jelly of the Month shit up Tobias's ass, I vowed.
That's when shit just got ridiculous. Eddie misinterpreted me and kidnapped Tobias, the police raided the house, Tobias saw the light of the true meaning of Christmas and reinstated bonuses and the sewer Eddie dumped the shit in earlier exploded and rocketed my lawn ornaments so high into the sky they resembled a shooting star. Then everybody sang "The Star Spangled Banner."
God bless America. --Jef Otte
Slapstick replay Christmas never turns out the way it's supposed to. Last year, I was meant to head to France with my family. I wasn't super stoked about it, but when I missed the trip and almost spent Christmas alone, I learned that I should appreciate those dopey idiots anyway.
This year, though, I wasn't psyched about the Florida plan, and I made it pretty clear that I'd rather be on vacation by myself. Everyone was determined that I make it to Miami, though, so we all headed to the airport together. As usual, we were running late, and we got separated as we ran to the gate.
And then the unthinkable happened: Some moron gate attendant got all flustered with my ticket and let me on the wrong plane. And when I landed? New York City, baby.
I've got relatives in New York, but I wasn't sure where they lived or where they were. Luckily, my dad had accidentally slipped me his wallet, so I used his credit card to check into a luxurious suite at a nice hotel. Then I did a little sightseeing.
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I learned some valuable lessons walking the streets of the Big Apple. A rad toy shop owner taught me about friendship after I donated some money. A crazy pigeon lady taught me to not judge a book by its cover. It was pretty heartwarming until my new friend at the toy shop was going to get robbed by some dudes I'd foiled before.
It's cool, though. I totally foiled their plan again, using cleverly engineered stunts and the old frozen bucket of water on the stairs trick.
That was pretty sweet, except that my family still wasn't around on Christmas. So I went to the Rockefeller tree, made a wish, and guess what? My mom appeared. I got to remember how much I like those guys all over again.
The best thing of all? The toy store owner sent me a bunch of free toys for helping save his business from a heist. Which made everyone pretty happy until my dad found out I spent $967 on room service. Woof. --Laura Shunk