It’s Christmas, 1982, ’83, ’84, ’85, pick a year, any year.
Santa came and went, church is finally taken care of, the celebration with my mom’s side of the family is over, and we are now at my Pop-pop’s house, anxiously awaiting presents from Aunt Mary and Uncle Mike, two notorious over-spenders when it comes to us and holidays.
“Looks like Santa left something here for Dennis,” my Pop-pop would say. “I wonder why he would leave it here.” The first year, and possibly the second, it was pretty new and exciting. After that, it became as predictable as the end of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which was another part of our annual Christmas tradition. But the first year, it was exciting to hear. I could not help but think of how envious my sisters must have been. I mean, come on, Santa had given me an extra present.
Pop-pop handed over the gift, and I looked at my parents with excitement. I tore it open and lifted the lid to find…potatoes.
“Uh oh. Looks like someone was bad this year! Santa brought you potatoes!” my grandfather said.
That first year I was confused as hell. Why would Santa bring me all those presents at home only to leave me something odd like potatoes at my grandparents’ house? And if I knew anything about Christmas from all the movies and television specials, it was that bad kids got coal, not potatoes! That was when I realized Pop-pop was laughing, and it was contagious. Everyone started laughing. And then I got it. I was the victim of one of my Pop-pop’s pranks. And I loved it.
So it became a part of Christmas. Every year, I got potatoes. And for some reason, even though we all expected it, every year we all laughed and laughed. But the thing was, I did not even get to keep the potatoes. He would say that they were his lunch for tomorrow.