I've gotta say that I am pretty excited about today's post and guest poster. Guest author, Scott Hales, is a long time friend of mine and excellent writer. I have known his wife for even longer. They are fantastic people with a great sense of humor. I feel pretty excited to say that I actually really truly know him because I have this inkling that he will be published and pretty well-known one day. You may have already bumped into Scott in a few other places on the net, he can also be found at The Low-Tech World, Modern Mormon Men and Fenimore's Ghost.
A little bit about Scott:
Scott lives in a small house in a suburb of Cincinnati with his wife and three daughters. He spends a lot of his time reading Mormon fiction and trying to come up with original things to say about it. On weekday mornings, he gets up at 4:40 to teach seminary. On weekday evenings, he and his wife watch network television and wonder what it must be like to have a satellite dish and 400 channels. During the daytime, he is a graduate student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati. He doesn't like pets or home repairs. He always likes to watch superhero cartoons with his kids. Sometimes he rides a mountain bike in the woods behind his neighborhood. When he's feeling particularly nostalgic, he'll pull out his masterfully written mission journals and remember the days when he didn't sport sideburns.
Without further ado, the hilarious and thoughtful Christmas Story:
The Butt Ornament
by Scott Hales
|Photo Source: Scott Hales|
When we were kids, my brothers and sisters and I used to get Christmas ornaments every year from our grandparents. These were usually the last gifts we’d opened up. And not because we were saving the best for last. I mean, we weren’t dumb. We always went for best stuff first.
Of course, my parents tried their hardest to create an aura of reverence around the ornaments. Probably because they knew we were all hoping against hope that grandma and grandpa had—I don’t know—somehow fit a Nintendo Entertainment System into a box the size of a matchbox car. So, whenever we’d tear away the wrapping paper and find a toy soldier or a Santa Claus lifting weights, my mom would put on her church voice and say, “Oh, Scott, look at that! It’s beautiful!”
And I’d think, “Seriously? It’s a two-inch Santa lifting weights.”
Every year was about the same. The three little pigs in a stocking. Charlie Brown playing a bass drum. A bear in a sailor suit. Mrs. Claus in an unflattering red moo moo. We’d dutifully put on smiles and hang these new ornaments on the tree. Then we’d go back to playing with our Ghostbusters action figures or Tiger Handheld Games.
One Christmas was a game-changer, though. I don’t remember when it was exactly, but I couldn’t have been more than eleven. If I had to guess, I would say it was the Christmas of ’89, which would put me at nine years old. It definitely wasn’t the Christmas of ’90, the Christmas of the “Grandma’s Closet” incident, which has become a part of Hales family lore. That’s a story for another time.
Anyway. There we were. All five of us kids—still without a Nintendo—unwrapping the same old tiny boxes and wishing we could play with our new toys stacked just out of reach. Nearby was our mom readying her church voice and our dad wishing we’d open the ornaments already so he could read his new book. I don’t remember if we had a dog at this time or not. If we did, she was probably off somewhere taking a leak on the carpet.
So the paper came off and the church voice came out. “Ooh!” my mom said automatically. “Look at that, Christopher!...It’s beautiful, Scott!...And look at that one, Amanda!...How nice, Rebecca!...And look at yours, Jason!!…It’s a…”
“IT’S A BUTT!!!”
The room went silence and all eyes turned to my older brother, who was gazing upon his ornament with the exultant look of a shepherd boy on that first Christmas morning. If the Herald Angels had shown up then and there his face could not have glowed with more sacred and holy jubilation. Tears were practically in his eyes.
At first I didn’t get it. His ornament was the same as mine: a little wooden boy on a sled decorated like a Christmas present. Then I took a closer look at mine and saw it.
Sure enough, it was a butt. Two unmistakably pink cheeks poking out of a wreath on the little guy’s red rear-end.
It was, in a word, awesome.
After that, the Butt Ornaments occupied a special place on the Hales family Christmas tree. Every year, my brother and I would place them at eye-level on the tree, their tiny butts facing outward, two glorious moons to herald in the Holiday Season. Early on, for propriety’s sake, my mom would turn them around while we were at school or outside in the snow. So we learned to conduct routine Butt Ornament checks and post guards when necessary. Sometime in the mid-nineties she quit trying.
The Christmas after I got married, my mom gave me a plastic container full of all of the Christmas ornaments my grandparents had sent me over the years. My wife and I were dirt poor at the time and didn’t really have the cash to trick the Christmas tree out right. So the old ornaments meant a lot to us. Especially since my grandpa had died six years earlier and my grandma was then in a nursing home and fading fast. It’s funny, but those tiny presents—those lame last gifts to open—have lasted much longer than the stacks of toys we’d play with for three months then outgrow and toss away. Some of them, I imagine, will hang on my tree till I die.
One of them, of course, will be the Butt Ornament. It’s hanging on my tree as I type, hung there—wreathed butt still facing outward—by Emily, my four-year-old daughter. Already I’ve promised to pass it along to her. Of my three daughters, she the one who’s most partial to butt jokes and potty humor, so I figure she’s the likeliest one to carry on the Butt Ornament tradition. As long as it holds together and doesn’t fall apart, it should be mooning family Christmases for another century or so.
I don’t know if that’s a testament to Christmas or lame gifts from grandparents or family traditions or love. My guess is that it’s a little butt of everything.