Once Upon a Christmas Eve
by C.K. Thomas
Along about 1985, when my kids were 20, 18, and 16, we began a holiday tradition. Each of us wrote a story and read it to our family and friends gathered together on Christmas Eve. Every year the stories got longer, and the group who gathered to share their writing grew larger. Friends brought stories about their childhoods or presented fictional accounts that surprised and entertained us.
Insight into my kids’ inner lives became an unexpected bonus of the tradition. I believe stories reflect ramblings and longings left unvoiced until those secrets sneak into the light through the imagination of creative writing. That first year of the new tradition, my youngest daughter wrote a brief story she titled “The White Kitten” about a newly divorced woman living alone whose Christmas holiday brought her the warmth and comfort of a rescued kitten and a Christmas morning with an even greater miracle. This story spoke clearly about my daughter’s feelings of sadness at my recent divorce from her dad, but also of the knowledge that someday those feelings would be healed and replaced with joy.
My son’s story, “The Luck Review Board,” relates the story of a man in a car accident on a snowy Christmas Eve. He struggles to extract himself from his wrecked vehicle in a ditch, only to face the determined lights of a car he realizes will strike and kill him. At the moment of impact he finds himself not dead on the road, but in front of a panel of people offering him a difficult choice. This story kept us all on the edge of our seats! My son’s main character found himself answering for the lack of attention to a marriage and family that seemed doomed to failure. You do the math.
On a lighter note, my eldest daughter and her boyfriend made a fill-in-the-blanks story about an extended family arriving home for the holidays. Each one in the crowd turned out to be a character in the story. Everyone filled out a questionnaire with answers that included such things as colors, times, names of states and cars. Filling in the blanks in her reading of their story using the answers from the questionnaires produced a hilarious tale that held the rapt attention of the whole group. In the not-so-distant future, these two married, and I think their story reflects the laugher and joy they’d found in their relationship. Plus, the plot of the story showed thoughtful insight into the lives and preferences of everyone present.
Of the three kids, my eldest daughter has written a series of children’s books “The Herb Faries” in connection with her online herbal business, Learning Herbs. And my son and youngest daughter each have employed writing skills in the careers they have chosen. My son manages projects and employs technical writing for his job in engineering geology. And as an LPN in a research position for a health provider, my youngest daughter counts on her writing skills for scientific documentation.
Writing is a gift for a lifetime. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I wouldn’t trade the words of my children’s Christmas stories for a Rembrandt!
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.