A Christmas Memory

This is a story that I wrote a few years ago. I intended to post it every year, just as a bit of a keepsake. I tried to incoporate a few morals or whatever into it, so get from it what you will. So, I give you…

A Christmas Memory

Jacob Dackerson stared endlessly into the snow-covered forest that expanded just beyond his back yard. Sitting in the windowsill of his son’s bedroom, gently dipping the tea bags in and out of boiling water in his cup, his endless stare throws him back to his youthful days of Yule. He can remember the speed and the anxious feeling he got as he ran down the same stairs now as he did as a child. It all slowly drifts back to him. Sipping his tea, he relaxes and stretches out into the windowsill, the steam glided into the bitter cold. Glancing over at an old desk in the corner of the room, Jacob reminisces about days where his only care was what was under the tree…

As a child, Jacob had few worries. In the ‘50s, life was good. There was no great war to fight yet, and a quarter could go a long way. He lived in a small town - Frilling, Virginia, which consisted of only 300 or so people. All of which slaved in the coal mine that was owned by Jacob’s father, Russell. Russell made a decent share of money, and could support his family well. Their house was a two-story ranch, with a sometimes obtrusive pine forest for a back yard. His mother, Anne, worked at home while Jacob, an only child, went to school. One specific year however, the coal mine had been hit hard, several collapses farther into the tunnel had cost some production time, but none of that was any concern of Jacobs’, but was killing the overall morale of the town, as the halted production had also slowed the cash flow to the miners.

Jacob frequented the corner store in Frilling, run by Mr. Hodges, a retired coal miner who spent his winter days relaxing in front of the fireplace and sipping his hot coffee. Waltzing in free of any sort of anxiety that had plagued the small community, rattling the loose change in his pocket to show that he was interested in a purchase. Hodges peeked around his shoulder, seemingly undisturbed from his peaceful quiet. The snow had begun to fall, and Jacob dressed in his winter gear gave Hodges a sly look as they approached the counter.

“I’ll take tha uzual mester ‘odges.” Hodges gave him a grin as he pulled 3 licorice strips and a pack of bazooka bubble gum from behind the counter. “Now boy, what did I tell you about speakin’ proper? Can’ get a job in this world if you don’t speak proper like.” Jacob gave him a doubtful look. “Aww, that ain’ nuthin! Mah daddy makes plenty a money. I’m set fa life!” Hodges shook his head and Jacob was already on his way out. Hodges tossed him his spoils and collected the change that had been left for him on the counter. Hodges hummed a Christmas carol and watched Jacob dance down the snow-covered street, careless and worry free.

Jacob pranced up to his front door. Opening it, he walked into a wildly decorated entry hall, leading only to even more fantastic decorations, ultimately to the giant tree, that had been cut by Jacob and Russell only days before from their backyard. Tossing the candy into the sofa in the reading room, he takes off his coat and quickly hangs it up in the closet, not bothering to brush off the snow. His boots came off one at a time, trailing him as he made his way to the tree, which stood in front of a double staircase leading to the upper level of the house. The tree was well over 10 feet tall, and had been the center of their holiday decorating festivities. Dazzling to the eyes in lights, tinsel, ornaments and childhood playthings, it was so overwhelming that it came and went in such a rush that it left a lightheaded feeling in its wake. The Dackerson household was the center of the town holiday parties, one on the first day of December, Christmas Eve, and New Years Eve. Everybody was there, and everybody had been there for the last few years. Jacob could hardly wait until the next morning, where he would finally be able to tear apart the biggest package he had ever seen underneath the tree. He couldn’t possibly imagine what it could be; could it be the “Deluxe Lone Ranger Horse with Super Galloping Action!”, or perhaps the toy train set he had been tearing his hair out all year for. He couldn’t tell, and he couldn’t believe it was only one night away before he would finally be able to tell.

Jacob waited patiently for the next hour as party preparations were made. His mother and Mrs. Clydes cooked, while Jacob helped load things onto party platters, and helped fill drinks. This was one of those nights where he had to be on good behavior, or else things just wouldn’t be good for the next morning. As the hours trickled past, people started to arrive, and started to hand Jacob their coats. He would neatly place them on the coat racks that were placed in front of the door, and greet them. Not a hard task, but boring and mindless. After that, he would walk around and listen in on seemingly important conversations that made no sense to him. As the night continued on, it started to get late, and people had begun leaving. Russell climbed the stairs, and at the zenith of the well, he was well over the tree. He called out to the people leaving, “Please, don’t leave just yet. I will only keep you a moment longer. I must see all employees of T.C. and Co Industrial Mining in my den please. It will only be a moment.” His voice jerked between pitches, almost like a teenage boy asking a girl on a date for the first time.

His curiosity getting the better of him, Jacob stowed away within the crowd of men and eavesdropped on the conversation taking place in the den. Once everyone was inside, and was well within hearing range and mildly comfortable, Russell stood and addressed the group.

“As you all know, T.C. is in somewhat of a financial strain, however I have just gotten notice today that the problems are much worse than I think anyone in the town even dreamed. People all over the country are being laid off, and I’m afraid it’s happening here as well. I have been told that I have to lay off over half the current workforce.”

The room is silent, and Jacob doesn’t quite understand. Lay off? What does that mean? He’d ask later. The men looked at each other with tears in their eyes. They were speechless, most just looked at the floor. Jacob didn’t understand it, and didn’t care much really, so he drifted off back into the dining room, where the women were conversing amongst themselves. A few minutes later the men came out of the den, and each of them grabbed their coats and motioned for their spouses to follow. Doing so, the house emptied within the half hour. Jacob still didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Russell came out of the den with tears in his eyes, and he embraced Anne in an almost everlasting hug, and when they separated, she was consoling her husband, as he almost broke down into a shell of the men he was only 45 minutes prior. A few hours later, the family sat around a fire place remembering their own Christmas memories while sipping eggnog. Jacob ran up to bed as the clock struck 10.

The next morning, he could hardly wait. He woke up at half past nine; he couldn’t believe he slept so long! The package! What is in the package!? He leaped from his bed, grabbed his robe and his slippers and jolted down the stairs, hopping sets of two and three at a time. His parents were around the kitchen table drinking their coffee, and couldn’t help but hear their deranged son running down the stairs in a fit of Christmas rage. Finishing their coffee in a hurry, they too stepped out of the kitchen and met their son as he feverishly sorted through the boxes and bows looking for the one package that had held his interest for so long.

Finally finding it, he tore at the ribbon and wrapping, shreds flying everywhere. When he had finally found the label of what he had torn to pieces, he could hardly breathe. It was the Lone Ranger Horse. He couldn’t believe it. In one motion he jumped from his Indian style position and hugged his parents like mad. Being thoroughly satisfied with the opening of the largest gift he found, he was perplexed when he found a second, almost equally as big package. Immediately thinking to the train set, he destroys the wrapping of the box, to find a brown box on the inside. Still being rather confused, he opens the box, to find instructions on how to assemble the new desk he had just purchased? He gave a sheepish look to his parents, who were gleaming with excitement, so he just smiled back, and pushed it aside and opened his other presents. Still being confused, and somewhat disappointed, he carried on in a grateful manner.

Being startled out of his memory, Jacob’s grandson Russell ran up the stairs to find his Grandfather smiling out the window. “What are you doing paps?” he said in a squeaky voice. “I’m remembering the best Christmas I ever had. What is the best Christmas you’ve ever had Russ?” He gave a mile-wide smile and chanted, “It’s this one paps! It’s this one!”

Merry Christmas, and may all your days be bright ones.