So, Christmas at my house when I was a child was a time when my mom pulled out all the stops - storybook-style. She was wild about it. She couldn’t serve up a hot meal or get out of bed on time, but she knew how to do Christmas. I’ll give her that.

There was a huge tree decorated with colored lights, the big fat teardrop bulbs, flocked Santa’s on gold sleds, porcelain angels with delicate silk wings, gold tinsel, traditional cloth-covered balls with “jewels” and ribbons affixed to them, and - while, traditionally, the tree-topper is the tree's crown jewel - we had one ornament that was the real showstopper. An heirloom, if you will. It was a large, green, glass Christmas Ball that weighed a lot. It was my mom's pride, and we lived in mortal fear of that thing breaking. I still do - because that glass ball is still around. My sister has it. I can still hear Mom saying Don’t drop that ball it’s handmade and belonged to my mother!  It wasn’t so much what she said but how she said it that meant if you drop that ball I can guarantee you won't survive.

Anyway, Mom's Christmases were the real deal. Totally authentic. Wreaths in every window and doorway and oranges stuck with cloves (we had to do that part and it sucked - my thumbs would be bleeding from pushing those cloves.) She’d hang the clove-oranges from red velvet ribbons. She’d put old wooden nut crackers shaped like Father Christmas and crystal candy dishes loaded up with jelly fruit wedges out on all the coffee tables. 

The whole house would be swirling with the scent of pine and butter from her green-and-red-sprinkled holiday sugar cookies. The house filling up with drop-ins and carolers. I’m not kidding, it was Christmas central over at the old barn. Everyone came by for a drink

In step with all that, Mom could wrap a present. Her painstaking efforts produced some of the most beautifully-wrapped gifts you have ever seen. Mom liked to get all of this done by December 1st or thereabouts, so Christmas seemed to go on for an eternity. When we were small, the presents were put under the tree on Christmas Eve, but as we got a little older Mom started to pile them up two weeks before, and there they sat. Calling to us and torturing us, and one year it just got to be too much. While our mother was away, my sister and I just couldn’t take it. We cracked. We decided to open just one, take a peek, and tape it back up. She’ll never know. Well one turned into the whole lot and before we knew it we had opened them all. I guess the rewrapping tape job we did was the dead giveaway, because it took about two seconds for Mom to notice what had happened. When I caught wind of what was going down I slunk off into my room and just went to sleep and left my sister to take the heat - and heat she took. Mom's punishment was that we had to open up all our presents right then, and my sister's best present, her new yellow Fuji ten speed, was chained up in the driveway, unable to be ridden, for a long long time. I don’t remember what happened to me. I was younger so I probably weaseled out of any serious "Mommy Dearest” scenario, but I do remember it was a Black Christmas that year.

Black Friday, the Hedgehouse way.