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"The Ghost of Christmas Presents" by Timothy C Goodwin

My father took a picture of me with Santa Claus so he could remind me over and over again who was to blame when I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas. The beer budget didn't allow for film developing for months, but the next year his contribution to holiday decorations was that picture in a dust-dulled frame that once had his wedding picture in it. He put it on the mantle since it was heavy enough to hold up a perennially unused stocking, and after a few empty Christmas mornings of dad answering my disappointment by shrugging towards the mantle, I was cursing whenever someone mentioned the Holiday Spirit, scowling at carolers, rolling my eyes at K-Mart Christmas displays. And blaming a lot on that smiling, bearded asshole with me in that picture. Then—6th grade—Jimmy and the kids at lunch laughed at me for not knowing it was my parents. Santa Claus was supposed to be my parents, which was now just my dad, a person who existed like a door ajar since mom—in his words—wanted to have things handed to her. I immediately started buying as many toys and candies as I could with whatever allowance he remembered to give me, secretly stowing presents wrapped in pages of the Pennysaver. Christmas Eve I snuck it all into a festive pile under the tree, and in the morning smelled dad's 90-proof robe before he staggered into the living room. I waited for my apology. For him to recognize my disappointment was his responsibility. Instead he pieced together the whole scheme, slowly bubbled into laughter, and said, I did it. I did it. You ever see your mother again you tell her I did it. He walked to that picture on the mantle and pressed his finger to my younger face, causing the stocking to fall to the floor. See? See? I taught you a lesson, he said, and then wobbled back to bed, leaving me to unwrap what I had done for myself.

Timothy C Goodwin-Actor, writer, photographer (@)timothycgoodwin(.com)


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