Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

A Nightmare for Christmas


Christmas in the post-War United States

There’s something that terrifies me, and I have nightmares about it every Christmas.

It stems from my childhood, back when I was tender and vulnerable. Back when things impressed me and made a big difference in my life.

I think I’ve mentioned that I have four sisters and a brother. Each Christmas, Mama turned herself inside out, doing her best to figure out what we really wanted for Christmas. (I might have said I wanted ice skates, but with not so cold weather and no place to skate, she knew I wouldn’t be happy.)

So she’d shop from can’t see to can’t see, getting just the right gifts for all of us.

On Christmas morning, we’d rush to the living room to see what we had under the tree.

This particular Christmas morning, we all looked at our gifts and were giddy with joy. All of us, except one.

Now if you know my sibs, you know we’re very individual people. Debbie’s sweet and loves to have people at her house, Jeffrey’s a caretaker/outdoorsman, Lisa’s a ton of fun, I’m weird, Omega’s a baby (well, she’s THE baby, anyway) and Cindy is quiet, plays well with others. (Well, we all play well with others, but she doesn’t a really good job of it.)

I don’t remember what I got that holiday morning or what any of the others got. I only remember Cindy’s response.

When we’d all finished and were admiring our take, Mom noticed Cindy was crying. When she asked what was wrong, Cindy answered.

Her answer is the stuff nightmares are made of . . . for me, anyway. She said, “I didn’t get anything I wanted for Christmas.”


Mama was devastated. I was devastated for her. In fact, I think the entire family nearly bawled when Cindy said those eight words. The very next day, though, Mama made up for it. She took Cindy to Tulsa and let her pick out just exactly what she wanted.

She got to keep all the gifts she’d been given that she didn’t want, and get new ones, too. (Maybe that’s when the rest of us bawled.)

So a few days before Christmas, I’ve always worried that come Christmas morning, when we’re all sitting around the tree unwrapping the presents I’ve so lovingly wrapped, I’d hear those horrible words.

I don’t think I could handle it.

Do you have a nightmare for Christmas?




Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

14 thoughts on “A Nightmare for Christmas

  1. I do…lol, But I salved it the same as your Mom did… I put money in their Christmas stockings and the weekend after Christmas as a tradition we go on a family shopping spree…
    those expensive things they “really ” those t

  2. You have such a memory! I don’t really remember this! Probably blocked it out of my memory!

  3. Ugh, that would be almost as bad as when I was handed Grant and Kyle’s Nintendo by mistake. I got something I knew I had no reason to expect but wanted so badly… then was handed a train set (which I really did, want but unlike the NES, wasn’t blocked by a crazy parent.)

  4. The only nightmare I have about Christmas is Black Friday. I learned early that no matter what my kids asked for, they were thrilled with what they got. Of course, if they ever asked for something that they would NEVER get (like a motorcycle), I told them up front that Santa wouldn’t be bringing that request.

    • Yeah, my mom always had an “in” with Santa, too. She threatened a few times to have him come back and take all the toys he’d left if we didn’t quit fighting on Christmas Day.

  5. One Christmas, one of my siblings stepped on my new doll and broke her arm off! I was devastated! Not my best Christmas!

  6. What? I would never do anything like that. I was the perfect child. Oh wait, that was Cindy. I was always trying to get attention away from Cindy! :LY!

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