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Memories of a Certain Christmas Eve

Memories of a Certain Christmas Eve
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Welcome to the December 2010 edition of
“Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather
curious monthly musings of Judson Hale,
editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine,
published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Memories of a Certain Christmas Eve

How could I ever forget what I saw out the window that night?

When I was growing up on our farm in Vanceboro, Maine, during the 1930s and ’40s, my mother always put on a Nativity play for the townspeople on Christmas Eve, using mostly members of the family.

I first participated at about age 5 or 6, and my job that year was to sing four verses of “We Three Kings” all by myself. I did it with no problem during what I assumed would be the one and only evening performance. Then I learned there would be a second performance for the people who’d been left outside, unable to find seats. I commenced to cry when I was so informed, and, in fact, I cried from the beginning of the second performance right through to the very end. Yes, I bravely sang the four verses of “We Three Kings” again, but this time it was more of a wailing than a musical rendition, and the tears were streaming down my face throughout.

No one could comfort me that night, not even my mother backstage, and, for some reason, I refused to explain my problem to her. For years she told everyone that I’d cried during the second performance because I didn’t think we’d done it right the first time.

Wrong. That wasn’t my problem at all. The reason I cried was because the second performance would go past my normal bedtime. So when Santa Claus came, I wouldn’t be there in bed like I was supposed to be. So he’d assume that either I didn’t live there anymore or that I’d been a naughty boy and had snuck off somewhere. Either way, there’d be no presents.

It was a tremendous relief, therefore, after my sister and I were finally tucked into our beds much later that evening, to hear our dogs begin to bark at Santa’s sleigh flying in from the North and, with an ever-increasing sound of bells, land on the roof above us with a great clatter of reindeer hooves. Thank goodness we were there in bed in time for him after all.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” Santa bellowed in a deep voice, amid much foot-stomping. Then there was a loud thump, followed by a veritable stream of rapid-fire curse words in a voice suddenly familiar. My sister and I popped out from the bottom of our beds, where we’d been huddling under the covers in exquisite terror, and peered out the window that overlooked part of the roof. There was my father. He had a broomstick in one hand (to make the sound of reindeer hooves) and a string of bells in the other. He was lying prone on the roof, but was twisting the upper part of his body to look at his backside and the new rip in his best — and brand-new — riding pants.

It was one of those eye-opening moments in life when you feel that all of a sudden you pretty much know everything there is to know.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Memories of a Certain Christmas Eve

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