1. The Craziest Christmas of My Entire Life!
When I was quite young, my father went back to college to finish his degree. With only my mother’s meager hospital salary to support us all, we found ourselves living in a little trailer outside a small mountain town in North Carolina. Though the situation may have seemed dire to my parents, I had a wonderful time exploring fields, taking forest hikes, and playing in and around the rank-smelling creek behind the trailer park. It’s amazing how oblivious children are to such trivial things as economics.
There lay a small airplane strip on the other side of the highway, and as it was Christmastime, my father decided it would be a great (and cost-effective) idea to trespass on that private piece of property and cut down our own tree. So off on our quest we marched, bow-saw in hand, rope dragging behind.
Even in my tiny youth, I wanted a tree grand enough to grace Rockefeller Center. Nearing the top of a daunting hill, I found just such a tree; one whose trunk I couldn’t hope to fully wrap my arms around. My father, being a more practical sort, pointed to a somewhat humbler cedar that would actually fit inside our single-wide. After fierce debate, he began merrily sawing away. And that’s when all the trouble began…
My father was a wonderful storyteller and surely responsible for my modern love affair with fiction. Most likely to keep me entertained on our long return journey, he crafted a yarn about wild animals that ended with the straight-faced promise that he may have actually seen a black bear in the distance. On that point, my grossly over-active imagination begged to differ. You see, I reasoned that it couldn’t possibly be a bear, though they were quite prevalent in the area, but rather the legendary Bigfoot (Note: to my knowledge, there have never been any Sasquatch sightings in North Carolina). Further, that Mr. Bigfoot had surely realized by now we’d cut down one of his beloved trees, and his long, hairy-legged strides were eating up the distance between us so he could wreak his vengeance. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the trip looking over my shoulder.
During the following week, a winter storm besieged the area, its raging winds molding giant powdery snowdrifts like static waves in an angry sea. Some of these were so high, in fact, that Dad had to carry me on his shoulders so I wouldn’t drown in icy fluff. I didn’t have to worry much about the bitter cold, however, because our highly overheated aluminum box kept us toasty warm.
On that particular Christmas Eve, I don’t remember attending church services—though I surely did, what I wore, or even what presents I’d asked for, primarily because those memories were thoroughly obliterated the following morning. Awakened by a loud crash and the sound of frenzied screams, my brother and I raced into the den, fully expecting Santa, in all his blood-red glory, to be standing in the middle of the room ho-ho-hoing. Instead, we were treated to a wildly confusing scene: the tree lying listlessly on its side, my mother batting wildly at the ceiling with a straw broom, and my father doubled over, red-faced with laughter.
Though the tree had seemed innocuous enough as it solemnly stood on that steep hillside, little did we know it had played proud host to a colony of praying mantises, and that their eggs, in that warm and cozy environment we so enjoyed, had set about the task of hatching. On the ceiling, walls, and at our feet through the scattered and broken ornaments, green creatures with beady red eyes and gangly limbs, much like the visage of The Grinch himself, crawled sluggishly in search of their first meals.
Did they steal my Christmas? No. Did they steal the show? Oh, absolutely! And to this very day, I can promise you that that was the craziest Christmas of my entire life!
I wish you all a far less eventful holiday season…well, unless you really like bugs.
Virginia Gray writes contemproary women's fction. A member of Romance Writers of America, she is known for her bestselling series The Susan Wade Saga. Please visit her on social media and sign up for her fan-appreciation newsletter.
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