The Season of Stories


My Writing Life LogoI am ecstatic for the holidays. Not because I love giving or receiving gifts or the parties or even the slacked-off work schedule. (Okay, maybe the latter.) I heart the silly season for the drama. I can’t wait to hear about the person who dirty-danced with their boss at the holiday party. The uncle who went MIA on Christmas, but actually just got drunk and fell asleep under his bed. The family politics revved up for yet another holiday drag race. This is entertainment. This is fodder for future stories, a time to gather material for the long winter ahead.

Here’s my contribution. Feel free to add yours in the comments area below.

When I was 15, my family spent Christmas on Cape Cod. We’d just come off a harrowing year abroad and were split it up a bit—my oldest brother at college, another brother at boarding school on account of a wild streak, me at home with my mother while my father traveled too much for work. The holiday was something of a reunion. When we arrived at the house, we discovered a newly finished home that partially blocked our view of a pond. In particular there was a tree on the new home’s property that—should it disappear—would radically improve our vista. 

After dinner on Christmas Eve, I found my oldest brother and my father in the basement oiling up a chainsaw. They were both drinking beers. When I joined them I was handed a beer, which I immediately guzzled. Then another, which I also downed. Finally, my middle brother joined us. He too had a beer in his hand, not his first. Save my dad, none of us were of legal drinking age.

Outside, it had begun to snow. We marched out from the garage, a phalanx of the family men on the way to our neighbor’s yard to cut down his tree. The area was mostly vacation homes, which meant our neighbor was not around. Most of the surrounding houses were also dark. I remember walking past the kitchen window and seeing my mother cleaning dishes. She looked up, smiled and waved approvingly. Her three sons, each with beers in hand, and her husband who had a beer and a chainsaw, were heading into the dark snowy night to cut down a massive tree on someone else’s property. And she was cool with it.
There isn’t space here to finish the story, but the highlight was that the tree almost fell on me. But the truly harrowing part was getting rid of the body, so to speak. The tree was in a ravine and we had to cut it up and roll the massive logs up a hill, which quickly got slick and muddy. When we lost control of the larger logs they’d careen back down the hill towards where my father was cutting the tree into pieces. How no one got seriously hurt that night will forever be a mystery to me. We did, however, succeed. We had our view back.
As for the neighbor, well, he was never terribly friendly towards us after that.

This week’s question: Do you find the holidays a fertile time for stories? Care to share one?

JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and, among others.

To learn more about him, visit


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  1. I’ve rescued and rehabilitated white tail deer here in Arkansas for several years, and have a large doe as a pet that I raised from 2 days old. One Christmas my mother was up in the wee hours of the morning basting a turkey. I sleep like the dead, so being woke up is always an experience in itself - but she made this particular time therapy worthy.
    She ran into the bedroom and yelled - “Angela, there’s a big buck deer hanging in the tree outside the den window! I think it fell off the roof!”
    Without thinking of how ridiculous this was, I jumped up, in full tilt rescue mode - whipped the comforter off the bed (to wrap on the deer’s horns, because bucks can kill you), and toward the door I ran. All the while I’m going over in my mind how dangerous this could be, horns, razor sharp hooves, an animal wild with panic and possibly in pain. None of this mattered however, the only thing that mattered was rescuing the animal - whatever it took! When I stopped to put on my shoes, it hit me…
    “Mother, how did the buck get up there?”
    “I don’t know, I just heard sleigh bells, then an awful noise like a car wreck, and the next thing I know, there’s a deer hanging in the tree. All I can figure is - Santa had a wreck and Rudolph fell off the roof.”
    Now you’d think this would have registered and I’d have realized I was the victim of a practical joke, huh? Nope.
    “That’s not funny! That deer’s probably hurt real bad after a fall like that, it’s gonna be in a panic too. I need you to stay back, when I get him free, there’s no telling what he’ll do!”
    I ran out the door, comforter in hand, thinking maybe I could shield the buck’s horns and eyes with it, then work on freeing him from the tree limbs. Sure enough, there he was - about 7 feet off the ground, tangled in tree branches.
    My mother was laughing so hard behind me she almost fell over. The 'deer' was a big plastic reindeer from the ornamental Christmas set she had on the roof. The wind had caused it fall. I looked at her and all she said was…
    “Well, aren’t you gonna rescue him?”

  2. Funny stuff all around ..
    When I was five or so my grandmother got stuck in a Big Wheel one Xmas morning .... She wasn't large or anything, just 65 years old with bad knees ... I remember my dad and uncle finally lifting her out after everyone had had their fill of laughing, including grandma.

  3. I hardly ever go anywhere on the Holidays anymore. My outer (if that makes sense to all of you) family causes a lot of drama that we don't really want to be around. So, I don't really have any crazy stories to tell when it comes to them.
    I don't have much to say about my inner family either, for that matter. We're quite boring.
    The funniest thing I really remember doing was getting up at four 0'clcok in the morning to open Christmas presents. My mom had gotten up to let our dogs out because they were whining, and my sister and I got up, sat down by the Christmas tree, and waited for her to come back inside.
    My mom, as she says, is the kind of person who gets excited and wants to wake us (her children) up so that we can open our presents, and my dad usually tells her to let us sleep.
    My mom had to wake my dad up, and he didn't look angry, but he was certainly looked like he wished that he was in bed.
    After we opened our presents, my parents went back to bed.
    I wish I had a better memory because I'm sure there's at least one thing that's funnier than that.


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