Christmas Girlfriends

3rd grade ballerina wannabe
3rd grade ballerina wannabe

The first girlfriend after the divorce was British and blonde. Beverly went back to England soon after Christmas and I sat in the backseat of dad’s Chevy Nova and cried. I was 5 and wanted dad to marry her so that I could have a mom with an accent. Another Christmas was spent with the woman with Margaret Atwood hair and two sons. The sons ignored me and I played with Barbies in Connie’s living room. Another Christmas was spent at Mary Lou’s house. Her children liked to lie down in the street and make cars come to a screeching stop.

One Christmas my dad’s second wife took all her presents, unopened, and put them in the trash. Dad snuck outside and rescued the gold chain and jade pendant he’d gotten her. He gave it to me. “Hide this in your room,” he said. “You can have it but don’t let her know you’ve got it.”

I hid it, but she used to search my room when I was at school and I didn’t have that many good hiding places. She was very thorough.

I find it difficult to put Christmas in fiction. Holiday stories veer too close to cliche. How do you make a holiday real, not maudlin or syrup, or meaningful only to the writer and no one else?

Have you ever read a good Christmas scene in a novel? Remember it?

8 thoughts on “Christmas Girlfriends

  1. Gosh. Every single one of your Christmas episodes here would make a good story. I love the unexpected. The loss. The silliness. The craziness. The dysfunctional families and antifamilies.

    You’re right, it seems unless you add in the details of pain, the yearning of pure human spirit, whether child or adult, it seems like a hallmark story.

  2. Christmas is drama – hopes, expectations, resentment, disappointment – everything put in a big snowstorm and shaken up (I love your snow by the way). The only way to do Christmas justice is contrast – and then emerge with hope. Which I think is what it is all about.

  3. I had far too many Christmases and Holidays that borderlined horror stories…Yet…
    I find these days I’m striving to make my own memories. Not the happy, happy, joy, joy condescending expectations, rather ones that enlighten the spirit. Instead of wanting, displaying it’s more to the point of the giving aspect of the season. The feeling that comes from THOSE memories are the priceless ones. I hope your heart is light and the wonderment, childlike quality of the season got a chance to alight in your eyes dear friend. (Hugs)Indigo

  4. Well, as you can probably guess, I’m a Christmas sentimentalist. So my first reaction to Christmas scenes isn’t suspicion or skepticism but welcome.

    It’s been a long time and I’m not sure, but didn’t Catcher in the Rye take place during a Christmas break? And Joyce’s story “The Dead”? (Great movie version of that by John Huston, btw, if you’ve never seen it.) And — although probably not counting as literature, really — all the Jean Shepherd stories that the Christmas Story film came out of: wonderful. David Sedaris’s “Santaland Diaries.” Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel

    One thing those all have in common is the slightly askew POV through which they regard the holiday. They’re not straight-up warm-the-cockles-of-your-heart tales (although there are warm hearts at the center of each). I think what makes a holiday story non-stereotypical is what makes a love story so: fully rounded characters, especially.

  5. I haven’t read too many Christmas tales except for A Christmas Carol by Dickens, which I love.

    I suppose you would have to write about the holidays just as any other day you write in fiction…with your own plain truth.

  6. The Christmas scenes I remember are from Dickens’ Christmas Carol and O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi (love that story), and Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas scenes from her books. I love the story of Mr. Edwards walking for miles in the snow to deliver candy and tin cups to the Ingalls girls. When I was a kid, I wanted a tin cup like that for Christmas, but I never told anyone and never got one, of course.

    But I dislike Christmas scenes, generally, real or fiction.

    If I were to write a Christmas scene, which I have no plans to do, it would probably include a Christmas I spent with an old boyfriend. I spoke to some relative of his on the phone while at the party. The relative was in prison and the phone was passed from person to person at the party. I wished him a Merry Christmas and he said I was the only person who said that to him. Then my boyfriend’s mom got drunk and angry, and she threw the Christmas tree out the front door. My boyfriend drove me home in a snowstorm after the party, but his car would stall if he stopped, so he just slowed down in front of my place and I jumped out.

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