Memorable and Infamous Christmases

I just came inside from having my ass whooped by a 15- foot pine tree that overlooks our big sculpture field.  Pam and I spent about an hour driving around the property looking for the perfect place to create our first Southern Christmas tree and I had high hopes.

As an aside, I have never, ever claimed to be even marginally adept at putting lights on Christmas trees.  I don’t just merely stink at it, I’m downright awful.  Adding the ornaments isn’t much better.  Last Christmas, I suggested over Christmas dinner that we should come up with Velcro ornaments that are set up so you can just stand back and pitch them into the tree.  Wherever they stick…they stick.  Nobody liked the idea.  And to share a little secret, I’m one of the guilty ones who really can’t understand decorating the side of the tree that’s against the wall.  WHY do this???

A Truly Awful Job of Illuminating a Christmas Tree

I was hoping when the sun went down that this would look less awful. I was wrong!

Unfortunately, the tree I just decorated truly seemed to have an attitude problem.  In my entire life, I’ve never seen or encountered an evergreen which when you merely touch it, deposits tiny painful little needles into your skin.  By the time I finished getting all 700 lights on the tree, I felt like I needed to go to the emergency room.  Truly annoying.  But what was worse, was the reaction I got from Pam.  She usually puts a kindly spin on the lousy job of decorating I do.  Not this time.  I got the 700th light onto the tree, looked back and said, “What do you think?”  She stared at it and then began shaking in laughter, her eyes wet from laughter.  Finally she said,  “Well, we have some options.  You could just NOT plug it in, or…you can come up with some explanation about it being an abstract statement about Christmas.”

Heading back up to the house in defeat, I tried to think of a worse job of decorating I might have done over the years.  Couldn’t do it.

aaaaa gay x mas treeObservations:  There are several gay couples we know and…there must be something in the gene pool, because whenever we go to a Christmas party hosted by a gay friend, the trees are just immaculate…perfect.  I asked Curt one time how he does it and he confessed that most of the time is used up measuring the distance each new ball is from the last two balls. He confessed further that he likes to keep them all to a standard of deviation of half an inch.  My eyes glazed over.  My mind whispered, You use a ruler?

Inside just now, still licking my psychic wounds, Pam and I discussed best and worst Christmases we’ve endured…and why.  We discovered that 95% of them are wonderful, but not terribly memorable.  I’d be curious to hear your input…and if you care to, share your most notable one.


Ahhhh, this was probably the last of my kid toys. Soon after it was rifles and skis and more expensive stuff.

Mine break down fairly simply:  From toddler to early teenager, they were all like something out of a Hallmark special…with one exception:  Way back when, there was a toy made by the REMCO Corporation.  Remember them?  This was called the Remco Radar Rocket Cannon.  It had a radio built in, a dashboard with a view screen and as you rotated two large wheels you aimed where the cannon was going to shoot and it showed on the screen.  Somewhere after the main festivities I aimed  the Radar Rocket Cannon at a Christmas ball at the top of the tree. Score!!!  Which challenged me to get two for two.  Once again, SCORE!!!  This went on for some time until Mom wandered in the room and said, “Good Lord!”  The cannon didn’t last very long after that………..but I remember it!

Old Fashioned Christmas Ideas Christmas Moment

This was the Christmas I grew up with. Magical for a little kid

A while back I mentioned how OTS managed to make for the most awful Thanksgiving in the history of Thanksgivings.  Well, when Christmas rolled around I began to get that sense of impending doom and disappointment.  In the barracks, there was zero decorating, zero mention of Christmas and it looked very much like the whole thing would just slide away, unnoticed.  Worse still: On Christmas Eve Day, the Wedge Inspection Team came through the barracks looking for anything they could to “gig a cadet in for the weekend.” Up till then, I thought I’d kept a pretty tight ship and had never been gigged in for the weekend.  This time they came in and just raped the room:  bed wasn’t tight enough, socks weren’t lined up perfectly, and on and on.  Then they really ripped into me.  How could I be this sloppy and expect to be an officer?  I was feeling pretty low, gigged in for Christmas.  And then… the whole upper class who does the gigging-in started laughing like hell.  “I want to kill them all.”  But then one upperclassman slapped me on the back and said,  “There some people you might want to see out in the hall.”  My mom and my then girlfriend, Pamela, had flown down as a surprise.  I just about lost it, tears rolling down my cheeks and Pamela was DECKED, chromium-yellow jump suit and a full length black rabbit coat.  The gigging-in had been trumped up.  My Christmas tree that year?  A three- foot sprig of pine with some Christmas balls on it.  Best Christmas I ever had.

aaaaaa go go

Rare shot. This appears to be one of my sculptures, but it must have been one of the early ones. Ahhhh the early years.

Later at the OTS Club, keep in mind this was the Vietnam + Disco Era.  Emotions running high, I took Pamela and my mom to the club.  Two Go-Go Dancers were in twin cages, shakin’ it and we went out to dance.  Keep in mind, Pam was a ballet dancer then and had unimaginable moves on the dance floor.  When the music stopped, the disco dancers clapped for her and brought her up to make a threesome.  Yup, not a bad Christmas.

Another weird Christmas:  This one was also military related:  I was just finishing up pilot training down in Columbus Mississippi.  Pam had sent me a copy of Love Story, which I read in one sitting and then…  I collected all the quarters, dimes and nickels in my BOQ (bachelor officer’s quarters) and went out in the hall to the pay phone.  Pam and I had been dating four years and never ever once mentioned the M word. (Really).  I sat down at in the telephone booth, stuffed every coin I had into the machine and dialed Pamela, not really sure what was going to happen.  When she answered I said, “This is a magic telephone.  For this one call, you can ask anything in the universe and you will get the complete truth.”  God knows where that came from.  There was a moment and then Pamela said, “What would the Magic Telephone like me to ask?”  God, this gal was tricky.  I didn’t know what to say.  So I said, “Will you marry me?”  Pamela said, “Yes.”

wedding dance

Married right in the middle of the Viet Nam War

But then, with pilot training, they were allowing essentially zero time off, I managed to wangle December 24-28 to fly up for the wedding.  We were married Dec. 26 and drove back down to Mississippi after two days at the Plaza in New York.  The actual ceremony?  It boggled my mind.  Pam’s dad really went all out, Pamela looked scrumptious, and I was in my mess-dress, what they call the military formal attire in the Air Force.  Yup, that’s about as good a Christmas as you can get!

Christmas in the South?   It’s still a question mark down here.  As many of you know, Pam’s just recuping from hip surgery and we’re in therapy-mode now hobbling around together.  The people are great down here, and we’re grateful for the success of Pam’s surgery.  I think it’s time to just count our blessings.   We’ll be communicating more before the big day, but here’s my first greeting for the year.  MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy Holidays!

A rare shot of us togetherPlaza EscondidaHenry and Pamela


10 Responses to "Memorable and Infamous Christmases"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    I’m in the barn cleaning and needed a break. Yes, it is 11:49pm . Last stall done, just need to do the hay, feed and water.
    So I read your email and a Christmas came to mind.
    Every year since Wade and I were married, we did the split thing.
    Christmas Eve midnight mass with my mom; remember Wade is a Southern Baptist. We’d go back to mom’s, have breakfast and drive to our home. Quick pack and drive 9 and 1/2 hrs to my mother in law’s in time for Christmas dinner. Every year. It’s what you do when your husband is an only child.

    One year Wade’s mom flew up North for Christmas. A reprieve from driving. Wade’s son came also. Double fun.
    I was managing an independent pharmacy at a time when it was okay to give your rph a gift and not have it seen as a bribe .
    A delightful box of homemade rum balls came my way with the warning not to eat while on duty.
    I graciously accepted and put out on the coffee table in the formal living room when I got home.
    We all went out to see the area lights and upon arriving home, I found the dish empty.
    After accusing Wade, asking my mother in law and gently asking my step son if he liked the cookies and him denying having had any, I looked around. Noting there was a bow off my meticulously wrapped present for the dog, I turned my efforts into looking for the dog that we noted was not at the door to greet us as usual. It couldn’t have been her, because she is not allowed in the living room and never has in the past.
    There in the laundry room in her bed, she was sound asleep. Bending down to kiss her and to see she was still with me, the pleasant smell of rum eminated from her sweet lips.

    We all had a good laugh and Tar Bear had sweet dreams till later that night.
    The best part, we were all together.
    The story comes up almost every Christmas and brings tears of joy as we remember fondly those no longer with us, but very much a part of who we are.

    Well, back to work.
    Have a Merry Southern Christmas

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Pam!  Hi Wade!
    First off, we’re keeping fingers and toes crossed that we’ll see you at The Fork in the Road this spring.   FWIW, when Cam and his family drove down, we had a great time, but Cam decided he wanted to take a different way on our property and took the Fork the wrong way.  Well… he managed to knock that plate steel fork off the tree.  But plate steel won the encounter and Cam has a tiny memento on his bumper.
    Your Christmas sounds great!  Thanks for sharing.  Big hug to you and Wade!

    Henry and Pamela

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    For the most part my Christmas celebrations have been great.
    A happy, loving childhood with 8 siblings, lots of love laughter & dinner with Mom’s siblings & a whole pile of cousins. Gram did the cooking & we all watched as the lights were turned off and Gram came in with the Christmas pudding ablaze.
    The worse was when my ex was a volunteer fireman & on a VERY cold Christmas morning (middle of the night early) they had to respond to a condo fire. It was hard for our kids to wait to open gifts but I insisted they wait for their father to get home. I made it very clear to them that a number of families had no home full of presents for Christmas and they could wait.
    I love the season. I decorate, we have an open house AKA the cookie party. I bake anywhere from 15 to 20 different kinds of cookies. My kids & grandkids have joined in since they were tiny in a high chair. Even at this very young age they got dough & cookie cutters but those cookies were never baked or served. When my kids went off on their own I still had nieces, nephews & friends kids to join in the baking. This is better than Christmas Day now as Christmas is just myself & my husband then dinner with my 96 & 97 year old parents and maybe a brother or 2. It is nice but so quiet. But as a family, including some cousins and neighbors we grew up with, (usually about 50-60 people make it) we will get together for a weekend for pot luck, games, laughter and 4 generations crammed into my parents small ranch home. This is Christmas to me.
    Happy Holidays to you what every you celebrate. Wishes for good health, love & peace to all.
    Carol Pilis

    • henry harvey says:

      Hi Carol and Merry Christmas!
      Thank you so much for sharing your recollections! If you have a picture of those 20 different kinds of cookies, I’d love to see them (and see a recipe for one or two that you really really like!)

      Very poignant with the fireman anecdote. We all should take our hats off for the men who put it all on the line every time the siren goes off.
      Have a Merry Christmas!

      Henry and Pamela

  4. henry harvey says:

    I really really enjoyed your Christmas memories Henry! Funny, joy filled and made me start thinking about what was my most memorable Christmas. The one that stand out was when my youngest child was 5 and eldest 11, with three more between them. My husband was working on a ranch in New Mexico, out in the middle of nowhere. They furnished us a house located on the ranch as part of his salary. We didn’t have enough money to buy the kids any gifts, so I made them. For the two youngest, I tool wax coated apple crates and made cradles, with ruffles, mattresses, blankets and pillows. Then made them each a rag doll. For the older three, I made Karate Gees (spelling?) Their dad was taking Karate lessons and would come home and teach me and the kids. We mad all home made ornaments that we put on a scraggly little pine (think Charley Brown) Strung popcorn and paper chains, etc. I felt badly that we couldn’t do more for them. But do you know all five of them when they were grown told me that was their best Christmas ever! The youngest is now 50 and eldest 56 and they still say the same thing.
    Kenn and I have gone to Texas to be with my daughters, grands and great grands the last 3 years and will be heading there again on the 15th. I’m blessed to have him care enough and him know how much it means to me that he is willing to do this special thing for me.
    I’m glad to hear that Pam is on the mend. It does take time for sure but she has a good nurse in you! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. By the way I laughed too when I saw your decorated tree! So pitiful it’s endearing.
    See you in the New Year! give Pam my best, Lorelle

  5. henry harvey says:

    Hi Lorelle!

    Thanks for sharing you most poignant Christmas of all! I think anyone who has had a rough or challenging Christmas will agree that those are the ones that are most special and stay with you forever.
    Yeah, I was really really hoping that when the sun went down that the darkness would be kind to those 700 lights. Nope. It’s just as awful. I’m just hunkering down for the comments from our postman, friends and neighbors on Catawba River Road.
    I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and stay well away from any talk of politics. It’s not the time.

    Big hug!
    Henry and Pamela

  6. Phil says:

    Best Christmas ever!  Pat was 7 1/2 months pregnant for the first time.  Our first Christmas as a married couple….Living in a tiny ground floor apartment in Philly.  It had just stopped snowing and left 12″-15″ on the ground.  Nothing was moving. We dressed warmly and walked in this fresh snow a few blocks to a place that was selling Christmas trees.  I shouldered our pick and we happily returned home. What was this Jewish boy thinking?  But he had a happy wife.  When we opened the tree up, we reveled in the fresh pine scent. We looked inside and there was a beautiful little bird’s nest….a sign, something special.  We still put this little nearly gone Charlie Brown nest in our tree every year for the last 53 years.  Special.  Each year I put up a nice fresh Frazier fir tree…not because I want to but because it makes Pat happy. Special!
    Merry Christmas to you and Pam and hope her recovery is going well.

    • henry harvey says:

      Sounds like heaven! There’s nothing like that scent of a fresh tree around Christmas time. One rut that I’d gotten into: We’d gotten the decorating down to a science, and one year, I’m putting up a fresh garland over the mantel, using the same nail holes I’ve use 30 times. It just took something away, although that was my own fault. You get more “efficient” as you get older. Down here in the mountains, everything is a fresh start and everything is new. Change is good. The Jewish thing: One year I had an old friend over who happened to be Jewish and put him and his wife to work, decorating the tree. They took it VERY seriously and did a much better job than I do. He kept glancing over at me though… Afterwards, I asked, “Soooo, what kind of pain in the ass was it?” He said, “I gotta confess, this was a lot of fun!” I think the egg nog helped.

  7. mo says:

    Hello Dear Henry
    I have to say loudly that my most notable CHRISTMAS was the Xmas of 1970 which was coincident with your marriage ceremony. That was the best Xmas I ever had, thank you both, and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS. My best wishes for good health to pam and you, and wishing you a very successful new year in advance.
    long live sincerely yours Mo.

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Hello Mo!

      Well that was my best, too, dear friend. 2016 has been a very strange year in many ways, and I am hoping that 2017 will be good for us….and the entire world. Scary times, if you know what I mean. But Pam and I are coming close to being married for half a century. I’m glad of that!
      My very very very best to you and your family.
      Big hug to all of you.

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