Janet Sheridan: Memories of Christmases gone by

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Janet Sheridan

Most people — your grumpy uncle, eccentric neighbor, or dental hygienist — have Christmas memories tucked away in their hearts and would share them if asked.

My oldest brother, Lawrence, tells one of my favorite stories.

Ten years before I was born, he and my parents spent Christmas with Grandpa and Grandma Hall and a bevy of aunts, uncles and cousins in a large house near Utah Lake. The early 1900s home had a central living room and several bedrooms that opened off it, each crowded with children sleeping in quilt beds on the floor.

Early Christmas morning, Grandpa Hall started a fire in the living room’s coal-burning heater, knocked on the bedroom doors, and yelled, “You kids get your lazy selves up. You won’t believe what Santa brought.”

Excited youngsters ran to their bedroom doors, grabbed the doorknobs, and pulled, then pulled again, and again, and again. Each time, the doors opened an inch or two before slamming shut.

Dismayed cries of disbelief erupted all around.

Grandpa had tied the bedroom doors together with a long rope, leaving a few inches of leeway between them: tugging on one door caused another to close with a thump.

He laughed with glee as his grandchildren howled, telling them to try again with more muscle.

Making exaggerated smacking sounds with his lips, he described the delicious candy Santa left and advised them to hurry up before it was all gone.

Doors popped open and banged shut like confused clams. Children wailed.

Finally, Grandma threatened her husband with no breakfast if he didn’t put an end to “all the noise and nonsense.”

I remember a Christmas of my childhood when Carolyn, Bob and I had become doubters, victims of the schoolyard rumor that there was no Santa Claus, just parents pretending.

That same year, Bob told us about a friend who left milk and cookies out for Santa, something we’d never done.

We quickly saw the advantage of pretending we wanted to give Santa some cookies: we could eat the leftovers.

Acting like true believers, we convinced Mom to let us bake some cookies for Santa. After all, he had to fly his sled out of the way to reach Lake Shore.

On Christmas morning, we observed the remains of Santa’s snack, met in solemn assembly, and agreed he must be real.

Dad would never, ever, ever leave cookies untouched while drinking every drop of the milk he never tasted after years of “squeezing it out of those damn cows.”

A memory from my first year in college still amuses me with its lovelorn coed, a bouncy tune that nearly drove me bonkers, and the fun of having the last laugh.

I lived in a small dorm that housed 28 girls and a formidable housemother who blinked the porch light at 9:45, inspected us as we straggled in, and double-locked the doors at 10:00.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Laverne Smith, in apartment 1-D, played a record, Christmas Bride, at full volume, non-stop, day after day.

My roommates and I typed papers, brushed our teeth, and ate tuna sandwiches to the blended voices of the Ray Connif Singers. The refrain, “Santa, make me a bride for Christmas,” bounced around our apartment and invaded our dreams.

Meanwhile, Laverne languished and yearned, dreaming of a Christmas diamond from Jimmy Simpson, her Corvette-driving boyfriend with greased-back hair.

After a week of the song’s repetitious lyrics and Laverne’s heartfelt sighs, we told her if she’d break her record, we’d sell our typewriters and give her the money.

She could buy herself a diamond.

When we left for Christmas break, she still wasn’t speaking to us.

Several years later, we each received an anonymous Christmas gift: a Ray Coniff LP with the infamous tune. Laverne had developed a sense of humor.

This year, I hope all of you store up new Christmas memories and share old favorites with those you love.

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