A Christmas to be remembered

June 1953

The child, all of 3 days old, lay in her bassinet. A little girl, Linda, born on father’s day. A certain hit with her father and grandparents. Not so much with her mother, a child herself at 20 years. Already the mother of a 3 and 4 year old. She would need all the courage and patience a woman twice her age had.

She reached down and gently played with the child’s lower lip, trying to make her smile. Linda surrendered and mother smiled.

Then she was gone. Linda stared at the incidence of shapes and shadows that were to be her entertainment until she could maneuver her tiny hands and feet to explore.

The orb slowly moved into focus, soon there were eyes and nose, and fingers, fat and covered with the activities of the day fingernails almost black.  Another hand rising above with what Linda would soon realize to be a bottle swiftly planted itself in her mouth.  As much as Linda welcomed the nourishment, the way it was delivered, knocking against her gums made her cry out.

Gill laughed as his 3 year old hands ground the bottle into the baby’s mouth, stifling a cry.

Soon another head appeared, this one a bit taller, but not much, reached down, took the bottle with his tiny hand  and smacked Gill with the other.

“Mom” Gill cried “Glen hit me!…and he is hurting Linda” Gill accused.

Poor Glen. This was typical, but he never ceased to be surprised at his younger brother’s audacity.

Before he could counteract, mother grabbed him and his brother carrying them by there arms to their room. She all but tossed them in.

“I will be back, the two of you had better behave until then or it will be worse.”

She slammed the door closed.

Gill lackadaisically jumped up on the trundle bed, grinning, smacking his knees together and pointing at Glen.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha, you are gonna get it, you are gonna get it” he sang in a voice discernable to Glen only

Glen sat on the floor,  knees raised to his chin.

Gill continued his taunting “you are gonna get it, you are gonna get it”

Glen had tried over the last three years since this demon entered his domain, to contrive a game plan for killing him. You would think a child of 4 would not have such contemptible thoughts.  But then, you don’t know Gill.

“You are gonna get it, you are gonna get it”

Glen had enough and charged , jumping up and out like a cougar hands in a cusp ready to grab the boy’s neck just as the door opened.

“OH MY GOD” Mother cried intercepting the charge, pulling Glen away, snapping his arm.

She was afraid she broke it and that was the only thing that saved him from the belt.  Which she sported in her other hand.

“You need to listen to me and listen to me NOW!” she ordered Glen, as Gill snickered behind her back, visible only to Glen. “You are NOT going to start this with your baby sister like you have to Gill” She said turning to look at Glen’s nemesis.

Gill was the master of quick change and immediately donned the look of a child tortured and defeated.

Glen almost took that opportunity to end his brother’s existence once and for all, after all, he was going to suffer the recriminations whether he did or didn’t.

Glen, you are staying in your room until your father comes home” she turned and took Gill’s hand  “come on, you can help with your sister’

As they both left the room, Gill turned around and stuck his tongue out at Glen. Just as well, Glen thought, at least I can have some peace.

The baby cried from the other room, then screamed, Gill giggled. Glen could here Gill’s mischievous laughter and jumping, accepting defeat once again.

December 1959

Linda was a talkative child and loved the audience around her, but she was a fastidious artist, even at 6 and would spend hours alone in her room.  Her interaction with her brothers was minimal if she could help it.

She was growing into a non-descript sort of girl.  Mousy brown hair, green eyes, big nose, big butt, a lot of ammunition for her brothers to use.

Her room, her private domain, was pink, pink and then more pink.  She had many dolls, her favorite being the two life sized dolls she got when she was three.  She had been terrified when she first opened them that Christmas, running, leaping into her fathers arms causing him to howl in pain as she hit his ulcer ridden stomach.  She was crying so hysterically, he immediately pulled her close, stood up and carried her over to the doll.

“She’s very sad Linda, she has been waiting to meet you and you don’t like her” he said softly “ Would you like that?”

And from that moment, the blonde, blue-eyed doll had become her best friend and was followed by another brown haired version a year later.

Her brothers resented her having her own room.  She resented not having a sister to share hers.  Shoot, she would even have a brother share hers.  But when her baby brother was born the year before, her mother said “No, all boys stay together”

Linda felt ostracized.  She didn’t understand that mother wasn’t singling her out because she was a female.  But her whole life, she would feel somewhat inferior, unacceptable, in a man’s world.

She would never get used to the taunting and teasing inflicted by her brothers.  Gill was especially demonstrative.  Glens were confined in the acceptable arena of sibling rivalry.  But Gill’s was far more troubling.  Even to folks around their parents who would try to broach the issue, where mother would become defensive, as a mother should want to do.  But there were times Linda would beg God to put a stop to it.   At times even wishing the worse.   And she was not alone, Glen seemed to harvest the same.

Gill could care less.   Like a young sycophant, he drew strength from another person’s contempt.   Linda never thought her mother didn’t know.   Mother was not blind, but she was somewhat powerless. Mother had a sort of sympathy for Gill, he was born so quickly, one year to the day after her first child, in fact, (never trust breastfeeding) and had never had a chance to have the time infants have with their parents. And Grandmother and grandfather did not warm up to the boy, when they had an almost unreasonable affection for Glen and Linda.

Her mother and father were in bowling teams at Guttormsen’s in Kenosha.

This was to be the first and most memorable evening the boy’s would be in charge instead of a sitter. Mother sat down at the kitchen table, Linda, Gill and Glen taking there regular places, hands folded on the table. Linda gripped the sides of her chair, knowing she was not going to welcome what mother was going to say.

“Now, boys?” she said grabbing their attention “ I am going to trust you to take care of your sister”

Linda knew, no matter the outcome, she might as well get used to it.  Being the charge of the boys was ideal for mother and if she could prove it’s success it would open doors for her to be more independent.   After all, she was just 26 years old.

“And Linda has a responsibility as well”

Oh Great. Linda thought, I not only have to expend a certain amount of energy surviving this plight, but I had a “responsibility” as well.   In the future, video games would use this situation as a storyline for users to be able to survive under exasperating instances. They would call it “Tomb Raider”

“You can stay up until 11pm” mother instructed, it was a Friday night and as a rule, 10pm was the cut-off. But this was special.

“Dianne, you can stay up until 11 as well, but since you enjoy your art and reading, maybe you can spend the last hour before bedtime in your room.”

As pathetically undermining as that was, in truth, Linda would have chosen that as well.  She didn’t like being in the company of her brothers when no-one was around.  Gill incessantly taunted her, doing disgusting things like picking his nose and wiping it on her, or pouring her a drink and then spitting in it.  Hiding in places when it was dark, jumping out and scaring the bejeesus out of her.

Glen’s was more passive.  Basically not pointed at anyone in particular, but irritating none-the-less.  Like not answering her when she asked a question , or exaggerating a plight, like when she swallowed her Aspergum and he told her she was going to die, causing her to cry until her parent or parents came home to soothe her.   He also sat literally, on top of the TV changing channels constantly.   No one could bother enjoying a show when he was in charge.   They called him Charlie the channel chaser”.  You can only imagine the torment he caused after the remote controller came out. A nd if there were a side to take, he would take Gill’s over hers.

Linda, if the boys don’t go to bed at 11, then you are to tell me the next morning” mother continued “Gill, Glen, the same goes with Linda’

Mother only said that to sound fair. In reality, she knew she didn’t have to say that to them.   Linda would never have disobeyed them, the punishment would be far worse than anything mother could dish.

You can each have a glass of pop and I left a bag of chips.  Linda stared at the bag on the counter aware that would be the last she would see of them.

“I left the phone number on the counter.” she stood up and took the number from the counter, showing them.

“And Joan (mother’s best friend) is across the street, Carol next door, if you need anything”

She wound down the order phase of this event

“Do NOT call me unless it is an emergency, and fighting amongst yourselves is not an emergency”

With that she was gone.  Gill engaged his permanent “cat that ate the canary” smile.  Linda retreated to her room closing the door and hoping against hope that was going to be the last interaction with them.

“We are going to pour the pop now” Gill said with his nastiest vile tone.

She crept out her room into the kitchen, keeping a safe distance, yet ready to grab her glass before Gill added anything.

Glen carefully measured each glass pouring small amounts to be exact.   Gill immediately grabbed his glass, but then, put it back and took Linda’s, gulping down a huge amount, leaving it half full before Glen grabbed it from him, spilling on the floor.   By the time they were done Linda’s glass was almost empty.   Tears rolled down her cheek.  It wasn’t necessarily for longing of a beverage only allowed on specific occasions, but for the absolute unfairness of it all.

Glen took his glass and poured some of it into Linda’s, then taking Gill’s as he reached for it, pouring some of his into Linda’s.  Before he could finish pouring Gill shot a fist across all of them, the glasses falling like domino’s.

Glen grabbed him, the two falling to the floor and with a ruckus in action, Linda turned and left the room.

Linda sat on the floor, arranging her Barbie in her new Barbie sports car, pink like Linda’s room.  Barbie waved, happy beautiful without a care.   Linda longed to be that doll, loved by that person who took meticulous care not too have others damage anything about her.   No, Linda never allowed anyone to touch her toys.

She could hear the boys calling, crying and thump thump.   Quiet. She didn’t know if she should leave the room, maybe one of them was hurt, or dead.  But soon she could hear them laughing, so she left the room to see if there was going to be a new distribution of pop, knowing, mother only left two large glass bottles of Pepsi and they had pretty much expired it.

The boys were gone, the kitchen a sticky mess.  She picked up the glasses, retrieving them from the baseboards under the cupboards and as far as the dining area.  She returned them to the sink, then turned to go back to her hobbit hole.

“Linda, clean that up, or e will tell mom what you did”

“What I did” she squelched “I didn’t do anything!

“You did” Linda meant that for Gill, but both of them were standing there.

We did” Gill put his arm over Glen’s shoulder “Did you hear that? Linda said WE did it”

He dropped his arm flagging Glen to follow him. “Clean it up or we will tell mom how you threw it across the room causing us to not have any pop at all.”

She cried, and clean it all up. She retreated to her room.

Then a soft knock.

“Hey Linda, come out, we have something for you.”

“What?“ Linda peered out the crack she made with the door.

“”If you don’t tell mom we stayed up late, we can show you your Christmas gifts.” Gill said with a sweet almost believable voice.

Linda was a child and what child does not want to see what they are getting. A t the same time ANYTHING + Gill was trouble.  So she declined.

“Ah c’mon, you want to know, you do don’t you?”

 Yes she did, but not this way.

“No” and with that she closed the door, but not without one of Gill’s phony wails that he had been injured in some way. This time, he claimed it was the door.

Then…quiet. Peace at last. She sat on her bed and played for an hour or so, content that the worst was over and she could enjoy the solitude.

She got up pulling open the drawer of the blond Danish modern furniture, grabbing a nightgown and underwear, preparing to take a bath. Something she did not like to do without her parents standing in hypothetical sentry so as not to have her brothers intrude.  She turned to the window to close the drapes when suddenly a face popped up, someone she had never seen before

She screamed,….and screamed and screamed.  The face was smashed tight in grotesque features. Then a second…she went running crying screaming out of the bedroom to find her brothers. A she got to the back door, it crashed opened and the two horribly disfigured people came through – one grabbing for her neck.

Then a laugh and they swiped the hose, nylons, off their face.   They laughed hysterically, until Glen saw the terror they had created.   He stopped, and nudged Gill toward the family room in the basement.

Glen took Linda by the arm led her to her room, sat her down on the bed, then left closing the door without saying a thing.  No doubt, certain that this was a bad idea and the trouble they would be in would be worse than anything they had lived through before, Glen came back in the room.

“You sure you don’t want to see you stuff?” he continued “You know, you might as well, because if Gill and I get caught, staying up, than he will tell mom anyhow. You might as well enjoy it.”

He led her into the kitchen, Gill was one step ahead and had the broom closet open.

And at once, she was mesmerized and lost in the fantasies of a perfect Christmas, unlike any she knew.  It had a huge cardboard “Treasure Chest” and in it was everything “Barbie”.  Anything and everything she ever wished for was right there.

She went to sleep that night in a cloud of doll clothes, a house, shoes, a case, little hangers.  She slept well and never knew, nor cared what the brothers were up to.

The boys had fallen asleep on the couch and were awakened by mother.  Linda was almost certain of what was next.  But she hoped upon hope she was not going to suffer.

Her mother called her in the room “Linda, when did you go to bed?”

“I think around 9 or 9:30”.  Linda went to bed with a wonderful scenario for dream land and could not wait to dream it on thru”.

“You are going to tell me that you went to be at 9:00 (or 9:30 Linda thought, but said nothing) on a weekend night.” Mother was incredulous.

Glen piped in “Yes, she was , she went to bed early.” and it was settled. It seemed like the only person NOT in trouble was Linda.

The day went by quietly, the boys humbled in their room.  Linda dressed to go out and play in the snow, but her mother intercepted.

“Since you were Such a good girl last night, you are going to go shopping with your father and I and then we will pick up some Pizza at Rio’s.”

This was an unusual invitation, Linda was not going to question it, and in fact, intended on enjoying it, her brothers would seek vengeance whether she stayed home or went.  Might as well.

She sat between her parents, contented, feeling like an only child. They talked “grown-up talk”, she just enjoyed the situation for what it was. They pulled up to Ace Hardware, at that time, the only place in Kenosha to shop for gifts, toys etc. She and her mother went in the store, hand in hand, her father was to follow shortly.

She wanted to see the toys, but her mother beckoned her to the back of the store

Her father approached from behind with a familiar container.  A cardboard box that looked like a treasure chest.  The same box her gifts were hidden in.

Her father poured out the many colored packages of fashionable Barbie attire, tiny hangers, doll case, high heels, even a new “Midge “ doll.

Linda heard nothing, her tears clouded everything within view. People were stopping and staring.

“This is what happens to little girls who snoop and find their gifts.” Linda does not remember in her whole life feeling as pained, humiliated and betrayed, though Gill would spend his life with her in his view finder.

The next two weeks till Christmas were depressing, filled with thoughts of what she should have done, and all she could resolve was nothing.  She could do nothing.  Everything would have played out as it did. Gill would have made certain. At least she got to enjoy the idea of a magnificent Christmas.   He found enjoyment in what had occurred.  Linda swore that if he received nothing for Christmas, he would have been happy just watching what had happened to her.

Mother knew. She had to know. Father absolutely knew.  Christmas came.  Mother and father had retreated back to the store and had gone ahead and kept most of the purchases.

But to this day you cannot regal Linda with temptations of seeing any gift you may have for her. THAT was the year she found out there wasn’t a Santa.  Which, in some ways was even sadder than the gifts she longed for.  Her innicence was gone. 

For the remainder of her life, every time she would hear “Don’t you want to know…?”

She was certain. She did not want to know. Ever again.

 

This is a work of fiction.
©   This material is the copyright of  Dianne Schuch Lindseyand cannot be duplicated in any fashion without the express permission of the Author.    All rights reserved


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