Christmas to The Bone, a short story by Fay L. Loomis at

Christmas to The Bone

Christmas to The Bone

written by: Fay L. Loomis


Kindergarten was full of new experiences that changed life on the farm forever. The teacher showed us how to carefully make marks on double-lined paper to shape letters of something called the alphabet. We lined up the letters to form words, and I saw my name printed for the first time. Best of all, I learned that when you put words together, you could create tales of unending variety.

Story hour was a precious part of each day. Some kids got a head start on their nap. I never did. I hugged my floor cushion, wrapped up in the fate of Peter Rabbit, the three Billy Goats Gruff, and Little Engine who thought he could.

As Christmas approached, kids began spinning stories about how Santa Claus would come down the chimney, bringing them toys from the list they had mailed to the North Pole.

I took this idea up with Mom who was ironing in the dining room when I got home from school. She stared out the bay window for the longest while, then looked hard into my eyes. “There is no Santa Claus, so he won’t be bringing any presents.” She might as well have slapped my face.

I didn’t question the flat truth of Mom’s statement. The Depression, war, and a house full of kids had likely honed her reality to the bone. I needed to mull over this piece of information. I hied to the barn and clambered into a pen where a calf was being weaned from her mother. A terse discussion with the heifer confirmed Mom’s words. For the first five years of my life, Santa had never brought me a present. Why would he start now? How other kids pulled off the Santa thing was a mystery, best left in the murky void of unanswered questions.

What I knew I could count on was one of Dad’s long stockings, ritually hung on the mantel, to be filled Christmas morning with nuts piled on top of an orange nestled in the toe. If Dad could find a tree marked down on Christmas Eve, we’d have one to decorate with fat colored bulbs and maybe shiny icicles or sparkly tinsel.

I would sit on the living room floor for what seemed like hours, opening nuts with Dad’s fancy silver nutcracker, rousting out morsels with a matching pick. The parade of once-a-year nuts, cosseted in their exotic shells, was something to behold. I knew about black walnuts—gathered in the fall, cracked open with a brick—that stained my hands for days. English walnuts, a breeze to crack by comparison, shiny pecans, tiny striped hazelnuts, pale almonds with pinprick holes, and lumpy black Brazil nuts.

I put off eating the orange as long as I could, savoring the remembrance of this Christmas treat, before tasting each perfectly formed segment, dripping with sweet juice.

Later in the morning, we grabbed our sleds, flew down the hill, and trudged up again, until we were so tired we could scarcely walk home. Mom had hot cocoa ready to warm us and revive our spirits. Soon, we’d settle down by the radio and listen to Bing Crosby sing Christmas carols, certain he would croon his new tune “White Christmas.”

I had yet to figure out how to explain to the kids at school that Santa had skipped over our house while flying through the sky. I would take that up another day.

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