A Real Life Grinch Stole Christmas
ASHS Column for 12 22 05
Jerry Simmons

How many times do we think about our own
Christmases as we watched our children and
grandchildren gleefully open their gifts on
Christmas morning? Do you remember the
sleepy headed way you stirred from bed? Did
you creep to the door leading to the living
room and peek around the corner to see if
Santa had really been there?

If you were like my brother and me, the house was cold, but the anticipation ran fiercely through us, keeping us warm. We were hoping Santa Claus answered our pleas for that special gift.

Lots of children leave cookies and milk for Santa to snack on as he takes a moment from his schedule to relax after he’s carefully placed each present in its own special niche under the tree. I know that in some homes Santa had a different kind of snack: crackers, cheese and a bottle of beer!

I wonder how many children have less than perfect Christmases compared to those who are lavished with expensive and luxurious gifts. Most of the kids with the innocent offerings of cookies and milk for Santa Claus have little concept of those who often have no Christmas at all.

My children had a taste of that one year – no presents at all.

We had stored the presents in my father-in-law’s very large utility room safely hidden from little prying eyes. As Christmas Eve waned and midnight came, bringing with it another glorious Christmas day, I went to gather the presents to put them around the tree.
As I went into the room and turned on the light, to my amazement there were no presents, no ribbons or brightly colored paper, no cute little gift tags, no nothing! All had been stolen! Distraught, we all tried our best to make sense of this impossible situation! What were we going to tell the children? How would we explain this?

Let me let my son tell you in his words, purloined from a column he wrote for the Panama City News-Herald in 1996:
“The theft was not discovered until late on Christmas Eve. And, … years ago in rural Northwest Florida, there were no 24-hour discount stores where distraught parents could rush to replace purloined presents.
Instead, the parents got up very early on Christmas morning and made breakfast and waited for the kids to awaken. And when the children rushed down the hallway to see the mostly empty living room where they had expected to find scatterings of Christmas delights, the parents picked them up and held them, and told them what had happened, and promised to take them shopping to pick out their very own presents.
The kids didn't cry, not even the boy's 5-year-old little sister. Somehow, knowing that their parents had been the source of their past Christmas joys helped them to see beyond the morning's disappointments...”

As I read that, years after the fact, I was moved to tears to learn from my children how they felt. That is, until I read how Tony ended his column. He continued after the last statement above, “Somehow, knowing that their parents had been the source of their past Christmas joys helped them to see beyond the morning's disappointments. THAT, AND THE POSSIBILITIES RAISED BY THE THOUGHT OF SHOPPING WITH PARENTS RIDDLED BY GUILT.”

Oh, well.

To my children: I think I can speak for your mother as I say we still love you both dearly (anyway). May you always have the most wondrous Christmases ever.

This page last modified on Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mill pond in winter, 1940, with ice forming - A very cold winter... (Collection of Ed and Frances Spann)