I can’t answer the prompt “Believe” without rerunning this blog from a few years ago. Go HERE to see it.
A Christmas Gift for You All!!!
I have been combing my brain trying to think of some gift I could give you all to thank you for your support over the past year and it suddenly occurred to me that I had the perfect one already made. Below, I am presenting my entire Christmas storybook, minus the pictures (except for one) in the hope that you will read it aloud to someone you love this Christmas.
The other day I got a fan letter from the uncle of a two-year-old who laughs out loud every time they mention Aunt Knox and demanded that it be read to her every night for three nights in a row. (What has happened since then, I do not know.) I also received a video of an 8-year-old reading it aloud (without faltering over one word) except, with typical 8-year-old humor, he substituted “spanking” for the word “sox” every time, in spite of the protestations of his Grandma. His younger brother thought he was hilarious, so perhaps it was a kid thing.
So, here it is, my present to you. What you do in the way of altering it to suit your own brand of humor is up to you. I am also including one illustration so you can get a mental image of Aunt Knox! The cover is pictured on my “Children’s Books” page on this blog if you crave seeing one more illustration by the talented Isidro Xilonzóchitl. There are 16 in all in the book. He did have fun with the gift-listing ones!!
I also just received his illustrations for our next book, which I hope will be out by April.
Copyright© Judy Dykstra-Brown, 2014. (please do not transmit in its entirety in any form. If you wish to reprint an excerpt, please include a pingback to the original.)
(A Christmas Story)
I’d heard the story many times
of Great Aunt Knox’s beastly crimes—
toward Mom, who, as a kid like me
was as upset as she could be
whenever she received a box
from her Aunt Knox.
For, in tinsel or in birthday wrap,
in ribbon or in mailing strap,
whatever it came wrapped up in,
whatever the gift could have been,
twice a year from her Aunt Knox,
my mom got sox.
I wished that I could have some talks
with this Aunt Knox.
“Aunt Knox,” I’d say while we were talking,
“a Christmas gift goes in a stocking,
not the other way around.
Stockings never should be found
inside a present,
’cause it’s not pleasant
to wait and wait and wait and wait
for the proper opening date
just to open up a box
Of course, these talks were all imaginary.
I was never even very
sure of whether Great Aunt Knox was still alive.
I didn’t know how long a great aunt could survive.
So when my mother got a letter
from Aunt Knox and said, “I’d better
ask her here, I haven’t seen her for so long.”
“I was wrong,”
I thought, “the dread Aunt Knox
And when Aunt Knox called up to say
she’d visit us for Christmas day,
I knew that this would be the year
I’d bend her ear.
I went to buy Aunt Knox perfume
and put fresh flowers in my room.
I’d even give Aunt Knox my bed
and sleep upon the floor instead.
But it was still hard to believe
that in our house on Christmas Eve
I’d finally have those long-planned talks
with my Aunt Knox.
I’d never met Aunt Knox before,
but when I met her at the door,
she gave my nose a playful tweak,
and ruffed my hair and kissed my cheek.
(Aunt Knox’s kiss was surely wet.)
She asked me what I hoped to get
for Christmas. Then she pulled me near
and cupped her ear.
“She’s kind of deaf,” my mother said,
So I got right up beside her head
and shouted to my Auntie Knox,
“I wouldn’t mind a bird that talks,
a sand pail or a music box,
a robot that both speaks and walks,
a diary with keys and locks,
a tumbler that can polish rocks,
some overalls or painters’ smocks,
but you know what?” I said, “Aunt Knox,
when I rip into a box,
It seems as bad as chickenpox
to just get sox.”
I asked her if she understood.
She smiled and said she surely could.
She asked what else and bent her head
closer to me, so I said,
“I’d like lots of other things:
paints, crayons, ruby rings,
a horse, a Barbie doll, some books,
a new toy oven that really cooks,
a ball, some blocks, a jigsaw puzzle,
a baby crocodile with muzzle,
bubbles, bracelets, purses, beads,
comic books, sunflower seeds,
a kid’s Mercedes just my size,
or even a Crackerjack surprise
I could accept
please,” (And here I gave her hand a squeeze,)
don’t give me sox!”
She rose and said she’d heard enough,
although she’d missed some of the stuff
I’d said because she’s hard of hearing.
She said with Christmas quickly nearing,
she’d be off to do some shopping,
and she assured me she’d be stopping
for a special gift for me.
And sure enough, beneath the tree
that night there was a package wrapped,
my name on it. I poked and tapped.
I squeezed and shook it, poked its side,
but never could I quite decide
what it was. She wouldn’t say.
She said to wait till Christmas day.
At bedtime, though, she kissed my ear
and said, “It’s on your list, my dear.”
All night I lay upon the floor
listening to Aunt Knox snore.
I didn’t mind the noise at all
’cause I was sure she’d bought the doll.
And just before I fell to sleep
I prayed the Lord Aunt Knox to keep
safe from harm
and dry and warm.
On Christmas morning, while Aunt Knox dressed,
we pushed and prodded, shook and guessed
what was tied up in each bow.
And my Aunt Knox was surely slow.
I ran upstairs three times or four
and knocked and knocked upon her door
while Aunt Knox said that she’d be there
after she had curled her hair.
I thought Aunt Knox was never coming.
My brother drove me crazy drumming.
So when Dad joined in his prum prum prumming
I accidentally elbowed Roy
to the beat of “Little Drummer Boy.”
Then mother almost made me go
upstairs to bed again and so
our Christmas started sort of slow.
Then, finally, Aunt Knox came down
attired in her morning gown
to give my nose another tweak,
to ruff my hair and kiss my cheek—
a wet one, but I didn’t care,
’cause my Aunt Knox was finally there!
I grabbed my present from the tree,
the one Aunt Knox had bought for me.
Again, her words rang in my ear.
She’d said, “It’s on your list, my dear.”
I couldn’t wait to see in it.
I wondered what could be in it.
Perhaps it was a bird that talks,
a sand pail or a music box,
a robot that both speaks and walks,
a diary with keys and locks,
a tumbler that can polish rocks,
some overalls or painters’ smocks.
But when I opened up that box,
my Aunt Knox
had bought me sox!!!!
A dozen pair were there inside—
sox long,sox short, sox thin and wide.
The clock advanced by tics and tocks
as I glared up at mean Aunt Knox,
but I couldn’t think of a word to say
appropriate to Christmas day.
“Well, try them on,” my mother said,
but I just nudged the box instead.
I’d had such fantasies of dolls
and ruby rings and bowling balls.
Then Aunt Knox came and kissed my head.
She’d meant to give a doll, she said,
till she remembered that in our talks
she was sure I’d mentioned sox
many times, while she could not recall
whether I had mentioned doll
“Why don’t you try them on, my dear?”
my Aunt Knox asked with awful cheer.
And she was grinning ear to ear
as she held out some sox with seals
emblazoned on their toes and heels.
I took them as my brother Roy
gleefully unwrapped his toy.
The robot that both speaks and walks
was what he got from Great Aunt Knox.
“Do try them on,” my mother said,
but I just stood and hung my head.
I could have gotten something great.
Instead, these sox would be my fate
forever, like a family curse.
I tried to think of something worse
but couldn’t. And I rued the day I’d had those talks
with my Aunt Knox.
Meanwhile, Mom was rifling through
sox red and yellow, pink and blue
to pull a pair of lumpy sox
from the bottom of my Christmas box.
“Why don’t you try these on?” she said.
The sox were gray with purple thread
around the legs—
the very dregs
of that whole gruesome box
So I pulled on the seal-decked sox
held out to me by Auntie Knox.
I craved the robot Roy had got,
but sox were not too bad, I thought,
and clicked my heels and did a dance
to try to give those sox a chance.
I turned three somersaults in all,
then slid my sox on down the hall.
I stuck my sox up in the air
to show old Roy I didn’t care.
But pretty soon I said, “You know
there’s something in this stocking’s toe.”
I pulled it off and felt inside—
something round and not too wide,
something empty in the middle.
I pulled in out to solve the riddle
and while I thought I’d find some “thing,”
I found instead a ruby ring
Well, then I dove into that box,
reaching into piles of sox,
shaking out sox thin and wide,
seeing what could be inside.
I found a ball, some blocks, some beads,
a Barbie doll, sunflower seeds,
a diary with keys and locks,
a puzzle and a music box.
I shook out sox both short and long.
I shook out sox all morning long.
I finally shook out so much stuff
that even I had had enough—
I was only six back then,
but now that I am nearly ten,
every year my Auntie Knox
sends Roy bowling balls or blocks
She sent my dad a cuckoo clock.
She even sent my mom a wok.
Sometimes she sends me something nice—
a robot or a music box—
but if I’m lucky, my Aunt Knox
sends me SOX!!!!!
And to all a good night!!
The Prompt: The Language of Things—You have to write a message to someone dear to you, telling that person how much he/she means to you. However — instead of words, you can only use 5-10 objects to convey your emotions. Which objects do you choose, and what do they mean?
First of all, I have to say that this is my all-time-favorite prompt, so kudos to its creator. It is original, thought-provoking and fun.
Older sisters are our teachers, our critics, our cruelest enemies and our best friends. When we were younger, my sister was no exception. With age, however, some of these roles have fallen away. The others I often take for granted even though I know they are still there.
This year I will be, as I have been for most years in my life, far away from my four-year-older sister, Patti, for Christmas. Betty, my 11-year-older sister, unfortunately started to leave us four years ago and now lives in a world we are not a part of. Both Patti and I fear the same thing happening to us and we’ve made some Thelma and Louise pacts to that end. Hopefully, we’ll never have to use them and will fade peacefully away in our dreams when we are well over 100.
If this sounds excessive, you are right. I am a glutton for life and probably part of the reason is the capacity for play taught to me by my sister, who was always my most imaginative playmate. Even when I’m sad, I love living and want for life to go on for as long as possible, so long as I remain relatively pain-free and retain my mind, my sense of humor and my girlish good figure. One of these things does not belong. You can probably guess which one.
Since I live in Mexico and my sister will be in her home near Phoenix this year, we have sent gifts early. Mine sits on top of the armoire in my beach rental in its blue wrapping bag with curly ribbon. I have added a pelican feather and gaudy ribbon streamers. Since I’ve chosen to spend this Christmas far from friends and other relatives, it is my only gift and I am hoarding its mystery until the last possible minute. Perhaps I’ll open it at 11:55 P.M. on December 25! I’m sure my sister has not opened hers, either.
A usual tradition in our family was to do Christmas stockings to which we all contributed. (Well, except for my dad, who instead donated the cash we all used to purchase our stocking stuffers.) With that in mind and feeling sentimental, I’d like to assemble an imaginary Christmas stocking for my sister to open right now—as soon as she sees this. It’s a not such a large stocking, but as in all things imaginary, anything is possible; so I’m sure all the gifts will fit.
I need to start at the top, with the lightest most crushable items, and so the first gift she will find sticking out of the top of the stocking will be something flat, rolled into a cylinder before wrapping. When she rips off the paper in her usual unceremonial fashion, she will know exactly why I have given it to her.
It is a folder of Debra Paget paper dolls with snub-nosed scissors taped to the front to encourage her to actually cut them out. I have visions of them decorating her tree for the remainder of its life this year, or even better, my sister on her stomach on the living room rug, cutting them out while she listens to “Our Miss Brooks” or “The Shadow” on the radio, then assembles the material for a paper doll house: Kleenex box beds and sofas, tuna can tables covered in tissue tablecloths. Since she taught me these imaginary games, she’ll figure out the rest. Then I want her to imagine me there playing with her. She can be Debra Paget. I’ll be anyone she wants me to be, as was the norm way back then when we constructed our first paper worlds.
The next box she pulls from the stocking will be long, narrow and flattish. It will weigh practically nothing. There will be instructions on the front to open it more carefully than usual, for it is fragile. When she folds back the paper, she’ll find a box of the old aluminum tinsel—the extra long and extra skinny type that only she knew how to put on perfectly. It was an art, this distribution of tinsel on the tree. One had to be sure to spread it out evenly in bunches of only three or four strands. For maximum beauty, it had to be hung on the ends of branches so it hung just to the top of the next branch without lapping over. In our house, it was never thrown! I am absolutely sure that now, as then, Patti and I are the only ones with patience enough to do the job right, so she will have to do it for both of us.
I’m sure that what the next gift is will be obvious. It is a Christmas tradition started by my mother, who would tuck a small box of Russell Stover Chocolates in each stocking. At times, she would succumb to temptation and all of the boxes would be empty as she generously absorbed all of their calories herself. I am making one small change in tradition and tucking in a box of See’s Chocolates in lieu of Mother’s poor taste in chocolate. Helen Grace would be even better, if I knew where to buy them.
The next box is small and may have slid a bit further down in the stocking when the others were removed, so I’ve attached a streamer that extends well out of the top of the sock. Pull the streamer and the little box will pop out. Inside is a key. Looks like the key to a car. Actually, it is the key to a little tan Scout whose top can be taken off to make it a convertible. Here are the instructions I’ve written for Patti and wrapped around the key:
—There is room for the driver (that’s you) and one more friend in front. (That’s me.) I am sitting there in honor of friends no longer able to: Patty Peck, Diane Looby, Mary Jo Kuckleberg. I think Karen Bossart is so slim that she could also squeeze in front with us. In the back, along the side benches and on the floor, if you really pack them in, there is room for at least eight others and I have written them all to be expecting your call. Billy Francis, Clarence Rea, Mick Penticoff and Bobby Brost are all must-rides. Since the male friends of your youth have outlasted most of your female friends, Billy and C.J. and Mick can bring their wives to sit in for Patty, Diane and Mary Jo. If my buddy Rita North were going to be in Arizona for Christmas (she isn’t) she could tag along as both of us always longed to do—and sometimes we were actually asked! Jim, I don’t think a Scout is your style, but be a sport and ride along in the back with the guys! You’ll discover formerly undiscovered levels of fun bumping along in this replica of Patti’s and my first wheels. And there is always room for one more in the back of a Scout!
The next gift is merely an envelope. Inside are two tickets to Africa. The accompanying note reads:
—To complete our journey that was once curtailed by a revolution and shooting that sent you off to bravely face the rest of the trip alone. It’s about time we tried it again, hopefully with happier endings. Since then, you’ve been back so many times that you can probably pick the agenda better than I could, so it’s an open ticket. You fill in the blanks.
So, we’ve finally come to the bottom of the stocking, but anyone who has plunged into the depths of a Christmas stocking knows there is always something left in the stocking’s toe. In this case it is a small but substantial box wrapped in rich gold paper with a shiny silver cord. Inside is a slide with a large diamond set in gold. Although I know that gold and diamonds are no longer my sister’s “style,” this one is a wonderful modern design with an emerald-cut stone set in a flat gold setting. It is this gift that I’ve chosen to show her worth to me and for that, nothing but the best will do!
Merry Christmas to all. Especially to that sister who has been there for me every single time and who need never worry again about being mean to me in our youth. That, too, is what older sisters are meant to do. It gets us ready for the world, which will not always be paper dolls and U’ing main in a Scout chock full of friends.
It’s Here! The first proof. It should be available on Amazon in print and Kindle versions within a week or two. This has been a looooong learning process, but two more (Sunup/Sundown Song and I Really Want A Puppy) are now formatted, awaiting illustrations. Going much more smoothly for the second and third books.