Haunted by the kids of Christmas past

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Since two of my daughters are now in college and one is in high school, Christmas just “hits different”– as those crazy kids (and my not-so-secret, sort-of-but-not-really guilty pleasure, Taylor Swift) say these days.

When I was up in the attic just after Thanksgiving, foraging for decorations and wondering how the ceiling hadn’t caved in yet from all of the future garage sale inventory stored up there, I accidentally opened a Rubbermaid tub full of Christmas-themed “Little People” toys we bought for the girls (and me) when they were toddlers. At that moment, a tsunami of nostalgia swept over me, and I basically played out the scene from “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold sits trapped in the attic and gets all weepy while watching some old home movies he finds. (If only I had a teal turban, a fur stole and some pink gloves.)

Mixed with that nostalgia was the bittersweet (but mostly bitter) realization that Christmas is never going to be like it was when the girls were little and I transformed into a more enthusiastic version of Buddy the Elf on about November 1 every year.

For example, we’ve been shocked at how few gifts the girls have asked for in the past couple of Christmases. I mean, I still have to resist sending my own parents my Christmas list in triplicate.

Last year, the girls asked for a trip to New York City–where we got stranded by the airlines during a Christmas polar blast and froze our big apples off. This year, instead of traditional gifts, the girls mainly have asked for money. It’s like they’ve all turned into Sally from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when she asks Santa for “tens and twenties.” I, on the other hand, am going to feel like Don Vito Corleone on Christmas morning, standing by the tree in my Christmas PJs handing over rolled-up wads of cash.

I even had to decorate the big Christmas tree in our front window by myself this year. Our older daughters were away at college, my youngest daughter was busily wasting valuable time with homework and studying, and my wife was frivolously doing laundry, paying bills, and keeping our whole household from collapsing. Since I was alone, I don’t think I even bothered putting on pants – until I was almost done and realized all the blinds were open. (My apologies to the neighbors.)

Speaking of our youngest daughter, she surprised us this year by asking when (not if) Alfie, our now elderly Elf on the Shelf, was going to come out. Now, I don’t think she still believes in the Christmas “magic” of Alfie. Instead, she is either just reveling in the childish merriment of the season, or enjoying our suffering as we feebly try to remember to help poor old lint-infested Alfie move every night. I think I’ll just tell her he’s having mobility issues in his old age.

Despite all of the changes, I’m still going to do my best to enjoy the Christmas holiday. Whether I’m forcing my daughters to ride in the car sighing and gawking at their phones while my wife and I look at Christmas lights, or I’m quoting funny movie lines from “Christmas Vacation” and “A Christmas Story” until my daughters’ eyes roll completely out of their skulls, I’m determined to have some fun.

And for their sake, I hope the ATM is open on Christmas Eve.

Copyright 2023 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

Jase Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. He is also a frequent contributor to The Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop, which named him Writer of the Month for June of 2017, and he has served as a judge in the Erma Bombeck/Anna Lefler Humorist in Residence program.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists says, "Whether he's breaking down the common types of yard sale denizens ('The Lingerer . . .she was here so long, I'll probably be able to claim her on my next tax return') or sharing cautionary tales of mattress shopping, Jason flays suburban life with a sharp wit. Shopping for his daughter's swimsuits, he wonders if he has 'strayed into the first aid section and . . .was looking at a new line of colorful ACE bandages.'"

Other than writing, his hobbies include berating the television when the Texas A&M Aggie football team is playing and sleeping as late as possible.