Bearded Lady Christmas Ornament
Dad, as always, was Santa Claus. He wore his wilted Santa hat and handed out gifts to each of us as we sat on the floor in a semicircle around the Christmas tree amid piles of gifts and crumpled wrapping paper. Mom sat on a chair beside Dad, smiling, sipping coffee, and acting shocked every time it was her turn and dad handed her a present.
Dad gestured to me, and I handed him a box. He cleared his throat. "Ok," he said, "Bill!" And handed Billy the box. Billy had just grabbed the blue ribbon and was ready to yank when the doorbell rang. Mom and Dad looked at each other, puzzled and surprised.
"I'll get it," Mom said as she rose. She walked to the front door, looked through the peep hole, spun, crouched, and whispered sharply. "It's mom and dad!" She said, gesturing madly at dad and pointing toward the back of the house like she was stabbing the air with an ice pick. She straightened and composed herself, then ran to the kitchen, from which she said, "Just a minute!"
In the living room, Dad went pale and lurched up from his seat. He said, "Billy, watch Sally! Tommy, come with me!" He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me down the hall and into the master bedroom. Dad pointed to the closet. "Help me look for Granny Franny's bearded lady ornament!" Dad and I rifled through half-empty cardboard boxes of unused Christmas decorations, and I found the lady under some crumpled newspaper in a motley, worn, smelly box. I was afraid to touch it, but Dad was so frantic I just squeezed my eyes shut, grabbed the hideous thing, and dangled it at arms length between two fingers. Dad took it, dashed back to the living room, and hung it on our tree dead center. It was a third again as large as any other ornament on the tree. Sally burst into tears, and Dad quickly made faces and cooing noises to settle her.
Mom looked relieved and quickened her pace. She replaced her expression with one of mild discomfort, and affected a limp. She opened the door and seized one of Granny Franny's hands with both of hers. "Oh, I'm so sorry, mom--I tripped on one of Sally's toys on the way to the door. What a surprise! Won't you come in?"
Granny Franny shook her head and shushed my Mom. "Never mind, dear, you go get off your feet." She looked over her shoulder. "Come along, Willard," she said.
Grandpa Willy ambled through the door. "Hi Cathy," He said to Mom.
"Hi Daddy," Mom said back.
Granny was already greeting Dad, pinching Billy, and kissing Sally. She glanced at the bearded lady and began to tell its story for the hundredth time. "Did you know that my great grandmother Mildred Blatherfoam gave that very ornament to mother when she married? When your father and I married, she gave it to me." She stooped, cupped Sally's cheek. "And when Sally marries--"
"Be right back, boys, I brought you a present." Grandpa Willie said to me and Billy before he darted out the door. He returned with a hairy monster of a puppy tucked under one elbow. When the monster saw us it escaped Grandpa's grasp and charged. It jumped around, sniffed everything, jabbed it's nose into Sally's face, then careened into the tree. The bearded lady lost her perch and tumbled into the slavering puppy monster's open mouth. Granny Franny gasped and fainted. Grandpa snatched the ghastly ornament from the jaws of doom and examined it. It was barely scratched. Grandpa glanced at Granny's unconscious form, winked at mom, then proceeded to tear the ancient bearded lady Christmas ornament limb from limb. He pulled all the fuzz from it's head and its head from its body. He tossed the head back to the puppy, who ran out of the room with it.
Granny revived, saw ornament carnage all around her, and moaned. Grandpa helped her up. "Come along, Fran, lets get you a nice cup of milk."
As they walked to the kitchen, Dad sat back down in his Santa chair, and Mom in hers beside him. Sally giggled, Billy tore into his gift, and I waited my turn. This was the best Christmas ever.