This is the story of a family left behind when their Airman deployed to Vietnam and a little girl who still believed in Santa Claus. A little girl not so very different from the military brats of this generation.
For family members who have a better memory of this than me, don't rain on my parade! I was little, memories are faulty.
We were stationed at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base when my dad received orders to deploy. It was my dad, my mom, me, and my infant brother. So my mom, my brother, and I left the warm sunny climes of South Carolina to go live with my maternal grandparents in West Virginia. I remember the day my dad left. Being in avionics maintenance, my father was stationed in Thailand during his time in South East Asia.
Skip ahead to the Christmas season. For the school Christmas pageant, my class did a dance to "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree." I still remember the darn thing and if you see me when that song comes on the radio, you'll see my spastic feet moving. But really, I'm just dancing the routine. And spastic is in the eye of the beholder.
It's Christmas Eve at my grandparents and the tree is in the front window. I think there's snow on the ground. Like most kids, I didn't want to go to sleep, but knew I had to so Santa Claus could come. I have no idea how long I was asleep, but something woke me up. Wide awake. It was still dark out, so I didn't think it was Christmas morning. Plus, I could hear talking downstairs. Definitely not morning. Being the nosy person I still am, I went exploring.
I don't remember who all was downstairs, but I remember that my Aunt Jeannie (my mom's youngest sister) was missing. When I asked my mom where she was, my mom told me that she'd gone outside to check out Santa on the roof! Now we know what woke me up!
Of course I wanted to go check, but my mom tried to hustle me off to bed. But I KNOW I heard sleigh bells as I went up the stairs. Try going back to sleep after that bit of excitement!
Cut to Christmas morning and the celebratory gift giving. I only remember one gift I got that Christmas. It was wrapped under the tree and it said "From Daddy."
From Daddy??? All the way from Thailand? Inside that beautifully wrapped box was a yellow nightgown. It had a thicker bodice made of a looped material and a soft skirt. I wore that nightgown until I outgrew it and the loops stretched out. I wore that nightgown long after my father came home.
I kept that nightgown long after I outgrew it. It had a place of honor in my dresser drawer, surviving the purge that accompanied every move - from West Virginia to Louisiana, to North Carolina to Pennsylvania. I couldn't get rid of it. My father gave it to me.
Fast forward to high school. I was putting away clothes and my mother walked in my room. Probably to make sure I was actually putting them away and not just piling them around the room. She noticed the nightgown in my drawer.
"Why do you still have that?"
"Because Daddy gave it to me for Christmas when he was in Thailand."
"You do realize that he didn't actually send that to you from Thailand, don't you?'
"Ha! The next thing you'll be telling me is that Santa Claus isn't real."
Whatever you celebrate this holiday season and however you celebrate it, I wish you joyful memories that last a lifetime.
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The Class of '93 Trilogy:
Trail of Desire
Call of Duty