One year, we moved.
We seemed to do this for several years, somewhat sporadically. We weren’t nomads or degenerates on the run. My dad just kept getting promoted or changing jobs, and we’d find ourselves in Texas, and then Massachusetts, and then Texas, and then Massachusetts again.
We somehow managed to forget other states existed.
But the first time we moved to Houston was one of the best Christmases ever because nobody bought me anything.
That sounds terrible, but I suppose now that I have a kid, I can appreciate how really hilarious it is. “Merry Christmas! Open this box. Just open it!” as I have my iPhone camera waiting, and I’m trying not to giggle until I choke.
Some would say that’s pretty cruel. But that’s probably just because they haven’t met my daughter.
The first part of an IOU Christmas involves your mother finding your father’s fake office plant that’s wedged in the back of the U-Haul. You have to give it several good tugs, and then everyone shouts “Christmas shall commence!” as a couple of plastic leaves are shed and one annoyed spider hangs on for dear life.
This tree is then placed in the middle of your brand new and preferably very empty dining room. You don’t bother putting actual furniture in it because you just arrived the night before and you still have “car body” that makes you feel like walking spaghetti. I mean whose grand idea was it to put Arkansas so far away from the Lone Star State?
But no worries. You don’t need furniture. What you need is an imagination.
IOU Christmas is much like that scene from Hook when the lost boys teach Robyn Williams (okay, I guess they’re actually teaching Peter Pan) how to use his imagination as he’s “eating,” and suddenly real food will appear. Except instead of a five-course meal, it’s more like those jeans your best friend wears and you’ve always wanted and a poster of Hanson.
“Look! It’s the Game Boy I wanted!” And everyone oohs and aahs as you lift up a tattered sheet of paper your mother ripped from back of her People Magazine with the words IOU sharpied on it.
“Somebody’s going to get a lot of use out of that!” Your grandmother says as she sips from an invisible mug of coffee because nobody’s unpacked the dishware yet.
It really is hard to choose the best part of IOU Christmas, but mine really is the familial trek to the local Marriott where you eat a holiday buffet with roughly nine other people who either also have car body or accidentally lit their kitchen on fire.
Together, you consume some of the more traditional Christmas fare like crab legs on ice, or macaroni and cheese with way too much salt, or a lone pudding cup that you’re pretty sure is pudding. It’s best not to ask questions.
As you look around, you’re thankful to be there because you’re alive, and besides, Christmas is not about the gifts or home cooked meal. It’s about Jesus and being with the people He gave you to weather this crazy thing called life.
And for the fact that when you get home, you’ll get to watch that brand new IOU TV for hours because nobody can fight you for a remote that doesn’t exist.
© 2023 by Ericka Clay
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