Here’s a (sort of) Christmas story I’ve never posted before. I wrote it for a writers’ group holiday party a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it.
On Heffalumps, Hookers, and Humor
The winter when I was four, I wasn’t supposed to know how to read, but I did. When Mommy read me stories and had to stop in the middle, I read ahead. Sometimes I forgot to turn the page back and lost our place.
One day in December, just before Christmas, I sat on the floor playing by Daddy’s bookcase. Daddy was getting a P-H-D. His books were boring. They had lots of numbers and squiggly lines that weren’t letters, and were called “Metal-lurgy” and “Ther-mo-dy-nam-ics.”
That day I saw a new book on Daddy’s shelf called Winnie the Pooh.
My grandma’s name was “Winnie.” Her real name was “Winifred Hooker,” but everyone —even Daddy—called her “Nanny Winnie.” Except for Mommy—my mommy called Nanny Winnie “Mother.”
Mommy often told her friends she used to be a “Hooker.” The grown-ups always laughed at that, but I didn’t know why. “Hooker” had been Mommy’s name until she married Daddy, so I didn’t see why that name was funny.
Sometimes Nanny Winnie called herself “Mrs. Claus.” She wrote on all her Christmas presents “from Santa and Mrs. Claus.” I could tell it was Nanny’s writing, because it was very messy. That’s how I knew the presents weren’t really from Santa—they were just from Nanny Winnie. (Besides, Santa didn’t wrap his presents.)
Now I’d found a book about “Winnie.” And about “Pooh,” which made me giggle.
I pulled the book off the shelf and opened it. It had pictures. But they weren’t boring pictures like in Daddy’s books. These pictures were of a bear, and a boy, and other animals. This book looked like one of my books.
I took the book to Mommy. “See what Daddy has,” I said. “Is it for me?”
She didn’t want to tell me, but finally she said, “Yes, it’s one of your Christmas presents. Since you found it, you can have it now.” Even though it wasn’t Christmas yet.
Daddy started reading it to me that night. Mommy had read the book when she was little, but Daddy never had.
Winnie the Pooh wasn’t like my Nanny Winnie at all. He was a boy, not a girl. And he was a bear. And he had a friend named Piglet.
And he was dumb. The book even said Pooh was a “bear of little brain.”
In one story, Pooh went round and round a clump of bushes in the snow with Piglet. They were tracking heffalumps. Every time they went around the bushes, more tracks appeared. Daddy laughed so hard he couldn’t read.
Why did Daddy think the story was funny? I didn’t think it was funny—I thought it was stupid. The pictures showed Pooh and Piglet following their own footprints in the snow. There weren’t any heffalumps. Heffalumps was a made-up word.
I decided Winnie the Pooh was a silly book. I couldn’t understand why my very smart Daddy thought it was funny.
It’s taken me sixty years’ experience with some people of little brain to understand why Daddy laughed.
And why Nanny Winnie signed her presents “from Santa and Mrs. Claus.” Because Christmas is a time when everyone is Santa.
This story raises lots of questions: When have you found a present that was hidden? Or when have you played Santa for someone else? And when have you had to deal with people of llittle brain?