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December 24, 2017

The Year Santa Claus Fell Hard

My mother was the oldest of four children - and she was always the responsible one. But the youngest, my Uncle John, was my favorite -- and he was a diehard prankster. One Christmas Eve night, when I had just turned five years old, he outdid himself.
My family and I were staying with Mother's family for the holidays. It was getting late, and my 8-year-old sister Bonnie and I were being threatened with bedtime. Of course we had no expectation of sleeping that night, being anxious for Christmas morning.

Before we were sent off to bed, the front door burst open and our two uncles, John and his older brother Don, came storming into the house. They were both carrying shotguns. Real ones. They promptly sat down in two wingback chairs near the fire. Uncle John looked at me and my sister and pointed to the fire.

"You see that fireplace? Were gonna sit here all night! When Santa Claus comes down that chimney, we're shootin' him!"

Of course I believed him. I can only dimly recall the uproar that followed through the filter of my own emotion. I do remember Mother being furious. But somehow, Bonnie and I got to bed and even dropped off to sleep. And Santa Claus, who survived the night after all, was good to us that year. I recall riding around the Christmas tree on a battery powered, yellow plastic bulldozer.

Uncle John must have been 16 years old when that happened. He dropped out of high school, but became a very prosperous man in the auto salvage business. He died in his early 40's of oat cell cancer, leaving behind a wife, a son, and two daughters.

I miss my Uncle John. And I can never forget that Christmas Eve night. Merry Christmas to all.

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