A Christmas Story

Mom came in the living room carrying an old, makeup-sized black bag. “Tom, Merie… come here, this is important…” She looked so somber. Reverent even, perhaps. I wasn’t sure what was coming next, but I knew it was a big deal to my Mom. Maybe it was about to be a big deal to me too. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this… I think it’s time…”

What is this? Am I adopted? She’s holding something… Oh she must be going to pass down some sweet family heirloom!

She sat on the blue armchair as I turned my music off (Oohs and Aahs, by Needtobreathe). Dad came and stood behind her. She took a breath and began: “In 19… no – 2004… We went back to Germany…”

Ok, maybe not a family heirloom… but maybe she bought a keepsake and has been waiting to pass it down to the next generation? That’s so random, but kind of cool…

“… And we got stuck there an extra day and stayed overnight in a hotel and rented a car…”

I chimed in, “Yeah, I remember that!”

“You do?”


“Oh. Well, there we were, in the airport. And I thought to myself, I want to remember this forever… So…” She was really taking her time (which she usually does) but even more so than usual. I was bracing myself for something big and… important.

“I was in the bathroom, and I think Merie was there… So…….. I took some toilet paper.. Clean toilet paper.. and kept it.” My mouth fell open. Dad started to put his head in his hand. I started to chuckle.

“No… Mom…..”

She pulled out of that little black bag a tattered, really – really – old piece of brown toilet paper. Dad and I lost it.

“Dad! Did you know about this??” Dad was laughing so hard he could barely answer. When he took a deep enough breath to respond, his answer came out as a squeak, “No!” We laughed so hard we cried! When I explained that I thought she was going to pass down some important family heirloom we laughed even harder. Dad forced Mom to go back and reenact the whole entire thing because he wanted to film it! It was so unreal… yet it was so real. Mom did great, it was an Academy Award winning performance. I could barely hold myself together.

I asked Mom afterwards, “Mom… I just want to know… Were you trying to be funny? Or were you serious? Like completely serious??” Mom just looked at Dad, “Was I? You tell her. You know me.” Dad was still recovering from laughing. He pauses for a moment… laughs some more… then says (while laughing), “She knew it was funny….. but the moment was real….”

And that was it. It was beautiful.

Merry Christmas from the McCowns 🙂



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