Coincidentally, everything we knew came apart during the aftermath, the shame and anxiety, of Watergate. Dad, my little sister and I failed miserably in curbing events: bankruptcy, divorce, foreclosure, the loss of suburban abundance, Mom’s schizophrenia splintering Christmases. Dad, my little sister and I squeezed into a tiny apartment downtown, bare rooms, bare floors, bare cupboards. A small, snowy, black and white TV dispensed hollow, holiday specials. Someone left $30 in our mailbox. Dad bought a tree from a discount store shelf: lights, bulbs, garland, a star at the top, popped out all at once, from one, battered cardboard box. Surprise!
Mom left gifts at our door, such a jolly ol’ Saint Nick. The usual yuletide rituals suspended, the exchange of presents precarious, we opened these delicately like booby traps flown in from Nam. We considered her care in bestowing affection: horse shit thoughtfully wrapped in thin tissue paper. (These weren’t those delicious cookie balls dusted in powdered sugar like fresh, new-fallen snow. We yearned for aromas, the familiar comfort of a warm kitchen). How fitting. How festive. Perfect for any boy or girl, though not pictured in Sears and Roebuck. Mom’s Season’s Greetings were clear. Glad tidings. Good cheer. Surprise! and Happy New Year.