The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Joey's Christmas

By Linda J. Crider © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

Well Christmas was upon us and I was kinda excited. Uncle Ed got new false teeth for Christmas after his others got broke trying to eat aunt May's special Thanksgiving dinner. He said it would have been a lot cheaper and less painful to have gone out to eat. She just sighed and said at least she was trying. Uncle Ed said she'd better just stick to opening cans that he wasn't partial to gumming his food. I think the dentist had to do a special rush job 'cause he had them new teeth two days before Christmas, but then maybe, he had some extras already made up, expecting a holiday rush. Anyway, Uncle Ed sure was smiling a lot and Aunt May was too, especially since her and Uncle Ed won the Christmas V.F.W. dance contest, said maybe she couldn't cook but at least she could sure "cut-a-rug" when she heard music.

When they left our house on Christmas Eve night, she said it was the best Christmas ever. I went to bed just knowing she was right and that maybe Christmas day was going to be just as good.

I looked around, the next morning, at all my Christmas presents and wondered who it was that said, "Christmas is for little children." I didn't get a darned thing I wanted. I think parents just kept everything they thought you needed from one Christmas to the next, then give it to you all at once and expected you to be happy. As much as I tried, I couldn't get very excited about long underwear, socks and plaid handkerchiefs.

I had hinted to Mama and Papa both, about how bad I needed that cowboy hat down in Burleson's store window and how I could help her peel potatoes if I had my own pocket knife. Mama would just smile and pat me on the head and say, "I don't think you're big enough just yet."

Heck, my friend Harland got a knife the year before, for his birthday and I was as big as him. And Jimmy, my other buddy had a big old hunting knife. "Course if was broke off about half way down the blade. But when he sharpened it on the rocks, down by the creek, you could shave the hair right off your arm.

Jimmy and his folks went to his sister's house for Christmas. He came over to visit right before he left. Said he was getting a coat with fringe all over it. His mama let him try it on to see if it fit, then she wrapped it up so he could be surprised on Christmas morning. I knew he would be all the talk when we went back to school.

Harland said he was getting Encyclopedias again. 'Course his papa worked for the company and I guessed, maybe, they gave them as bonuses or something. He said he found another present in the hall closet, with his name on it. I figured he probably opened it before Christmas, sometime when his folks weren't home. He never waited for anything. His mama always said if it took patience to get into Heaven, Harland and his pa would never cast a shadow across the Pearly Gates. I wondered what Harland got in that box. For sure, I bet, it wasn't long underwear. I decided it was probably a ball-glove or a coon-skin cap or something good like that.

Just as Mama was picking up all the wrappings, Aunt May and Uncle Ed walked in carrying two presents, wrapped in bright red paper with red candy canes on top.

"Joey," Aunt May said, "I think Santa thought you were staying with us last night, 'cause we found these two presents with your name on them under our Christmas tree this morning."

"Wow!" I screamed. "I bet it's . . ." Then I calmed down some. "It's some more long underwear or maybe some more socks."

"Well." Uncle Ed said. "Just one way to find out. Why don't you open them up and see?"

I tore those candy canes off the big present and handed them to Papa. "Hold these," I said and ripped the paper off as fast as I could. I couldn't believe it. There in that box was a pair of real, honest to goodness cowboy boots. They were so shiny. I figured it must be some kind of mistake or something.

"Try them on and see if they fit," Uncle Ed said.

"Put on a pair of your new socks, too," Papa said handing the red pair over to me.

"They fit," I whispered while I stood up. "Lordy mercy, they fit."

I tried to walk without falling. They made me lots bigger, kinda' like Mama in her high-heel Sunday shoes.

"There's another present here too, Joey," Aunt May said smiling real big.

I took it, but I really didn't care about anything else. I had real, honest to goodness, cowboy boots with real, honest to goodness high-heels.

When I opened the other box, there was that cowboy hat that had been in Burleson's store window and a shiny new pocket knife.

"Lordy mercy," I sighed. "I must have been a real good boy."

Then I got dizzy. I thought I heard Angels singing. That's when I realized Aunt May was squeezing the breath out of me. Everybody hugged and patted me and wished me a Merry Christmas and all that kind of mushy stuff.

When things kinda calmed down and I got my senses back, I put my cowboy hat on and my shiny new knife in my pocket and set in to wondering just how good I would have to be all through the next year to get that pony over at Wilson's farm for next Christmas.