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Funny, poignant Christmas memories

By Kay S. Pedrotti All I want for Christmas is … just to appreciate the blessings I have: family, friends, food, a good job, free country, warm house, great church, a good car — even that ridiculously complicated new Droid phone. It would take days to list everything that makes my life happy and fulfilling. Memories of past Christmases just come to mind automatically, good and not-so-good. The Vic Smith family economics dictated I never received “everything” I wanted; Vicki and I lacked for nothing, so not having been “spoiled” with big presents probably was a very good thing. When Bob and I were expecting Beth, Christmas of 1968, we were agreed that our presents to each other would be things for the baby. Our little live tree was discounted for being fatter on one side than the other, but it looked exactly like I did as a pregnant lady. I adhered to the agreement, but my wonderful husband did not. I received several lovely surprises. He did get one thing for the baby — a red-and-white sleeper “to hold our best present,” Bob said. She arrived in March 1969. As the years went by, finances were up and down, but the Christmas in Birmingham was one of the leaner ones. Beth was 4, Vic 2, we had one car and I was not working. Bob had been transferred to Alabama from Georgia by the music company he was working for, then that company went away. He tried to sell automobiles — just when the gas crisis of 1972-73 hit the country. We went to a discount store and put just about $100 in clothes and some toys for the kids on layaway, not knowing how we’d pay for it. When we went back to make another payment, the store had no record of what we owed. We could have walked out with the goods, according to the clerk, but we didn’t. We had kept the receipt, and they drew up a credit agreement for us so we could take everything home. Vic’s Lone Ranger outfit and brown-and-white plastic “bouncing pony” I particularly remember — mostly because he slept in that cowboy hat till he was four. Many years later, married to Amy and living in a small townhouse apartment in Morrow, Vic tackled his own Christmas tree for the first time. They had “overbought,” to say the least — the stand was not big enough, but the tree was big enough to pin Vic to the floor when it fell. Amy rescued him and they got a better stand. Christmas is always great for me; I especially love the church services and being able to be with my husband, children and grandchildren. However, there is one indelible Christmas memory for me — you can call it sad, funny, shocking, whatever. I thought it was funny, my mother was terminally embarrassed and my little sister early on established her take-no-prisoners personality. Here’s what happened. In 1952, a local photography company in Albany advertised a reasonable rate for “pictures with Santa Claus.” This was before everybody everywhere employed their own Santas, remember, so it was a big deal. My mother dressed her two little girls — I was 8 and Vicki 3 — in our Sunday best and took us to the appointment. In the photo, I am standing at Santa’s left shoulder, just behind Vicki. She is close to his left elbow. The child was really truly unhappy and did not want to be there — her little bottom lip kept sticking out more and more. Santa sensed her mood and laid what he thought would be a “calming hand” on her shoulder. Moments after the flash occurred, Vicki turned her little head and bit the stew out of Santa’s little finger. He was not amused. My mother tried in vain to disappear into the floor. I had a real struggle with not laughing out loud. By this time Vicki was hysterical, so we made a hasty departure. Vicki swears she does not remember this — but I have the picture. Merry Christmas, everybody.

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