Tag Archive: Family


I sat down to write a story about all things Christmas… but I got bored with my dull ramblings about shopping and wrapping presents. Well, I wouldn’t say it was dull exactly, but more so than the story I’m about to tell. This story piggy-backs a bit on Tim Tebow: A Christmas Miracle, but I promise it is not repetitive…in fact, I should issue a word of caution: If you are a believer, please stop reading.

My family celebrates Christmas, so growing up I heard stories about Rudolph, Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. I watched the Claymation movies and sang the songs with the gusto of every young child intoxicated with Christmas.

Christmas to me as a child was all magic, sugar cookies and candy canes! I cut out paper snowflakes and made a green and red paper chain to count down the days until Christmas morning. I sat on Santa’s lap at the mall and left cookies, milk and carrots out for him and his reindeer Christmas Eve. I worried about how he was able to visit me when I didn’t have a fireplace and sent him letters containing both my wish list and the explanation that he would need to use the front door… It was what I imagine Christmas is for lots of children.

Until one day, it all changed.

It’s hard to remember whether or not I was in first or second grade…But our story begins sometime in December of 1991 I think. I was in art class, no doubt making some holiday inspired creation to hang on my refrigerator at home, when the topic of Santa Claus came up. See, there were four of five of us to an art table and we began discussing our various Santa encounters and prospects for the year-end event. “I popped over to the big guy’s lap just this weekend,” said Susie, “right after I finished my play date with Molly. He was really pressed for time but made an exception just for me. He said that I have been a good girl this year, so I’m expecting a bonus with my usual Christmas payout.” “Me too,” said Mike, “he said he was extra impressed with how gracefully I handled the arrival of the new kid to our family development department, despite his negative effects on my attention production.” The Santa sharing went on for quite a while, everyone getting their chance to describe their one on ones with the big guy.

Then our happy little group was joined by Lisa, a fellow elementary student.

“What are you guys talking about?” said Lisa.

“Oh, we were just comparing our various interactions with Mr. Claus and what our expectations are for this season’s payout,” I said.

“Really? That’s stupid because Santa Claus isn’t real,” said Lisa.

Immediately, a look of pure disdain crossed my face before I looked Lisa straight in the eye and said “ Nuh huh!”

“You’re wrong, he’s fake. It’s your parents that leave you all those presents every year,” Lisa countered.

“That’s impossible. My parents can’t fly all over the world in one night, how on earth could they be the ones leaving kids presents?” I retorted with confidence.

“No, your parents don’t leave presents for ALL the kids, just you. Everybody’s parents leave the gifts, I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”

“You’re ridiculous! Can you believe this Susie?” I said as I spun and looked to my art cohorts to back my argument.

“I…I don’t know,” said Susie weakly before she grabbed her glue stick and ran to find a purple crayon.

“Forget Susie, I know you are wrong Lisa and when I get home tonight, I’m going to ask my mom and she’s going to say that Santa Claus is real.”

“Ha ha ha ha, that’s fine with me, and then you’ll see that I’m right and you’re embarrassing yourself,” cackled Lisa before she walked away, leaving the group of us stunned with her bold defiance of Santa Claus.

Later that night, after my commute home on the school bus, I walked up to my Mom while she was making dinner and said “the funniest thing happened at school today Mom.”

“Really Pumpkin?”

“Ya, this girl said there isn’t a Santa Claus. It’s ok though because I told her that I was going to ask you and prove that there is a Santa Claus.”

It was then that my Mom stopped what she was microwaving and turned to look at me. The flicker of panic and sudden spike in tension confused me so I repeated my thought.

“Santa Claus is real, isn’t he Mom?” I squeaked out with slightly less confidence than before.

“Do you want me to tell you the truth?” she asked.

It was then, in that moment, my veil of childhood innocence started to drift away. With the remaining hope I was clinging to with my whole being, I began to realize that even if Santa Claus is real, there was going to be a clause to the Christmas arrangement as I knew it.

“I… I don’t know,” I replied, looking into my Mom’s eyes for a sign, a glimmer that would make everything ok.

She looked back at me with sorrow in her eyes, like she was saying goodbye to a dream or a wish that she not only had for herself, but for me as well.

“What do you believe?”

I couldn’t believe it, twice in one day someone was questioning my beliefs but it was this second time that really stung. My mom, the person who had always supported my beliefs and helped me mail the letters, pour the milk and make sure I got to Santa’s lap… she was the one questioning me the second time around. She was prompting me to stop believing with blind faith and ask the tough questions, like how does one man fly around the world in one night?

Seeing the conflict across my face, my Mom took me into my bedroom and sat down with me. We discussed the various aspects of Santa Claus and his magic. We sat and cried together; she told me stories of Saint Nicholas and prompted thought provoking questions. She was slow and delicate, allowing that veil of innocence time to linger and whisper farewells. Each tear that fell from my cheek was a piece of little girl that wouldn’t be coming back…

About an hour went by and the tears were starting to slow. My Mom said “do you want to know the truth?”

Quietly, I considered the question before uttering an almost inaudible, “yes.”

“Santa Claus isn’t real.”

The rest of the veil of innocence was ripped away and left me sitting on the floor of my bedroom crying so hard I could barely breathe.

It was over. The magic, the faith, the belief…it was all over.

After that day, and a few more questions concerning the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I realized that I now had the responsibility of the adults—to keep the secret. With a little sister, I had to still pretend to believe in Santa Claus and not ruin the magic for her. Additionally, I felt special when I found out that my two older cousins already knew about Santa Claus and how he wasn’t real; I was older and wiser now, part of the club.

The memory of that day still gets to me sometimes though. It’s a tough thing to be a kid and have something created of pure joy end. I think about Lisa and wonder whether she has kids and what she’s told them. I wonder if I have kids, what I’ll tell them…

Either way, at some point every child comes out from beneath that veil and settles into the “real” world. Most days, I’m completely content to live in the real world but for some reason, Christmas is different. It occasionally has me searching for that pure innocence again; to be able to approach the holiday with the same joy and glee… To be anxious with anticipation that something magical is about to happen… Because maybe, just maybe, there is someone else out there capable of even more miracles than Santa Claus….

Merry Christmas Everyone and God Bless,

Jammer

Advertisements

Hometown Heritage

With the holidays approaching, I have several trips planned to return home to see my family and it usually gets me thinking about the differences between where I live now and where I grew up. The differences are pretty drastic and although I don’t live in rural Northwestern PA any longer and have some different viewpoints than I may have had when I was younger, I would like to share with you a little bit about my home.

I am a Pennsylvanian at heart. The place where I grew up is basically like Cheers- Everybody knows your name. I’m from a small town somewhere in between Erie and Pittsburgh.  According to Wikipedia, in 2000 the population of my hometown was 7,212 and only ONE McDonalds services all 7,212 people. We don’t have Starbucks, Taco Bell, Target or Macy’s. In fact, we once had a Wendy’s but it went out of business… get my drift? If you’re from my town your favorite place to eat is probably Sheetz and it’s a gas station (an amazing gas station that I stop and eat at every trip home!!!). I could write a whole blog on the wonders of Sheetz and its MTO menu (Made To Order) but THAT would make me weird, right?

The people in my town are pretty rural…we’re like a good country song- we love our dogs, our trucks and our country. Life moves pretty slow and no one seems to mind. Because it only takes 20 minutes to get just about anywhere at any time in my hometown, people spend less time traveling and more time doing things they enjoy. People enjoy a laid back recreational schedule that might be something like– Wednesday night they play bingo down at the fire hall, Thursday night during the summer they see a live band perform in the park, Saturday they drive out to Pithole and go camping… and No One misses the annual rock skipping tournament.  Going to see a show at the community theatre is considered a night out on the town that requires one to dress up and eat a fancy dinner at Eat N’ Park or Long John Silvers. One of my favorite things about going home is that if I want to go out on a Friday or Saturday night to ANY of the bars (I say bars because there are NO clubs)…I can wear jeans, tennis shoes and a ball cap and be one of the best dressed in the place.

The high schools are small and so you go to school with the same people for 13 years. My graduating class was around 66 people…we all knew each other and still stalk each other on facebook. It’s a strange situation where you are limited to a small group of people to carve your niche into; post high school graduation I realized that it’s much easier to get along in life if you’re not forcing friendships with people who you really share nothing in common with other than you live in the same school district. And then life comes full circle because once you’ve branched out and moved away, your school classmates are the only ones who can truly appreciate how things were growing up in a small town. Basically, it’s similar to the relationship you have with your parents…you don’t really appreciate them until you’ve left the nest and gained some perspective.

The friendships made in high school are also a key to your recreation activities when returning home for a visit. Generally, you go out to the bar and run into someone you know and then rehash all the stupid stuff you did in high school. The night is full of “remember when” and “we used to” and you getting back to the point in that circle when you realize why you left in the first place. The best is when you drag along some new person in your life and introduce them to your place of origin. They get to sit there and listen to you talk about those nights when “Bubba”, “Spank” and “Chuck” snuck up to “Mr. History’s” house and took a shit in his yard…or whatever. OR  the night when we all drove our beat up trucks, four wheelers or Chevy Cavaliers to a field or a spot in the middle of the woods and underage drank. Usually, you consumed some sort of quality beer like Strohs or Busch… ’cause that’s what your Daddy drinks. Most of your memories will also culminate with “and then we all went to King’s.”  King’s Family Restaurant was the cool place to hang out at after something…basketball games, dances, high school choir concerts… Most of us went without money and ordered water. King’s staff must cherish those times as much as we do.

Walmart is where EVERYONE shops. I don’t remember when the one near us was built… I was probably in high school…so maybe 10 years ago? And please keep in mind that this Walmart is NOT in my town. Before that, you had to drive over a half an hour to the nearest Walmart and people did because it was a luxury place to shop!! We have a mall nearby too (again not in my town) and it houses some familiar stores like Bath and Body Works and Sears but it also boasts a department store sized Goodwill, a regional nephrology (it’s your weekly vocabulary word, look it up, I did.) center, Curves and even a business machine rental store….you know, the usual mall stores. I should also add that the parking lot behind the movie theater inside the mall is where the kids from this town hang out. Seriously. They just go park their cars and stand around and talk…I know King’s didn’t sound like much, but I think it’s better than standing around in a parking lot….

….With such amazing places to shop, my hometown is always on the brink of current fashion trends…. For the 1990s. See, what many don’t know is that stores like Sears and JC Penny send clothes from their larger locations (aka Washington, DC) that didn’t sell at retail or sale prices, to small locations (aka my hometown) to attempt to sell at retail again. Basically, our stores are full of reject clothes that other people wouldn’t wear. So, the fashion statements are mind-blowing. Women and men in my town rock the windbreaker pant suit like nobody’s business. There are also some really bitchin hair styles to accommodate the up to date fashion trends… feathered bangs are always in style, right?

We don’t just rely on the mall to tell us what’s in style; people of my hometown have a very strong sense of personal style. Camouflage print is considered a neutral and also acceptable for any occasion. We rock the hunter orange better than any other society; I think it’s due to our coloring and the climate we live in that really makes it pop for us. Additionally, steel toed boots are a fashion must and also prove themselves useful. I think that the trend of jeans with holes in them BEGAN where I’m from, because our clothes get to lookin’ like that naturally…and we also can’t justify buying jeans for $50 with holes in ‘em already! And to round out your NW PA look, pin on your hunting license to your hat or hoodie and your look is complete.

I suppose it’s worth saying that we also speak our own language. It’s quite unique and can only be found in a small region of PA. Allow me to translate some common phrases for you:

I also recently got into an argument about the pronunciation of the word “pajamas.” I’ve always said pa-jam (with a short A)- mas and I was told that it ain’t correct. Northern Virginians say pa-jaw-mas (with a long A)….my argument is that is not how it’s sung in the “Bananas in Pajamas” song. (For your reference, I did look this up and both pronunciations are correct)

While my hometown sounds like a strange and weird place to you, I want to conclude my rant with this: I will always call NW PA home and love that I grew up in a small town. Yes, people in a small town know all your business, have some strange fashion trends and are at times indiscernible…BUT these people will smile at you when they walk past you on the sidewalk, they will open doors for you and hurry after you to make sure you get back that $10 bill you just dropped. No community is perfect, but having roots in a town where people care about others,–or at least pretend to because stuff gets around and no one wants to be known as an asshole– is something I’m very proud of….  After all, our license plates used to say “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania.”

And if that doesn’t sound good enough for you, there are a multitude of famous people from my side of PA:

Louisa May Alcott (author), Mary Cassatt (painter), Gene Kelly (dancer,actor), Grace Kelly (actress, Princess of Monaco), Jim Kelly (football player), Andrew Mellon (financier), Arnold Palmer (golfer), Henry John Heinz (industrialist), Lynn Swan (football player), Fred “Mr. Rogers” Rogers (actor), Michael Keaton (actor) and Sharon Stone (actress)…..

and my personal favorite PUNCHLINE!!! Please enjoy their tribute to all that is Pennsylvania– Keystoned:

Sincerely,

Jammer

%d bloggers like this: