A Christmas Story


Maybe it’s just a part of growing old, or having life beat me down to resignation, but I find myself with loads of patience these days.  I will wait my turn in line at the post office. In December. I have long accepted that living in L.A. means a good part of my life will be wasted sitting on the freeways (which is why the car is stocked with iPod and phone chargers, snacks and reading material.) I’ve learned not to check the mailbox after placing an online order… although Amazon Prime and those drones sure have made the wait almost non-existent. Blockbuster movies? I can wait until they get on Netflix (although that has more to do with not wanting to spend $20 on the same old predictable crap.)

A stark difference from my childhood. Which is ironic, considering that with fewer time left on earth, I am more willing to give out more time than I did when I had the rest of my life in front of me.

My impatience was especially evident at Christmas time.

See, I could never wait until December 25. I always wanted to know what I was getting ahead of time. A shopping bag stuck in the back of my mom’s closet had no chance against my expert snooping skills. Even a wrapped present was not immune; I became an expert at pulling back paper just enough to see what it covered and putting the tape back in place so that no one would suspect the present had been tampered with.

That’s how I learned there was no Santa Claus… A present earmarked for my eldest brother had found its way into his stocking, rewrapped and re-addressed from Santa. The jig was up, but I pretended to believe for a few more years, just to make sure I still got presents from the old bugger.

Sometime in the 1970s, I had just watched and fallen in love with “Ice Castles.” But there were no ice skating rinks in the Philippines back then (they finally built one at a mega-mall, and it opened just after my family had moved to America. Fate is a cruel bitch.)


So I asked for the next best thing: rollerskates.

One night, my mother had rushed home long enough to drop off presents from her shopping run. After she left to go to a party, I snuck into the planter where she had disposed of the loot. In one of the bags was a prettily wrapped box with a receipt that said “1 pair roller skates” taped to it.


Waiting out the days until Christmas was torture, but, oh, was I one happy child!

And then Christmas came. The presents were distributed one by one, and as we were nearing the end, my parents handed the box with my rollerskates to my brother. I watched in horror as my brother attacked the paper (I bit back the urge to say this must be some mistake), and then felt a wave of jealousy wash over me as I thought that my parents loved my brother more. Confusion ensued as my brother pulled a basketball out of the box.


The presents dwindled as the living room turned into a sea of paper, ribbons and toy boxes. I stomped off to sob on the stairs, upset that my parents would play such a mean joke on me.

Minutes later, my yaya came, “Your parents are wondering where you are.” They wanted me to come out to the living room, there were more presents to open.

“But I don’t want to go back,” I said quietly as I wiped the tears from my face. I didn’t want anyone to know I had cried.

I finally relented and trudged my way back to the living room where my parents handed me a shoe-sized box wrapped in pink-hued Christmas wrapper. Pouting and unappreciative, I slowly opened it, the one present that I didn’t attack with voracious excitement that day.

Lo and behold, staring up at me were the rollerskates I wanted.

Well played, parents, well played.