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  • Writer's picturePenny Sterling


Yippee Santa was one of the first presents I bought my mother with my own money, going out by myself to shop, picking what I wanted to buy and wrapping it with no help. So it's at least 40 years old. Mom said she loved it but never put it on the tree. Instead, she told me to put it on the pull knob of a cabinet in the kitchen, where he stayed for the holiday, but apart from everything else. It was a position of honor, I guess, but it was also separate and alone, away from all of the fun. You may understand how this sat with me. So just about every day, as I walked into the kitchen, I would pull the little string that made its arms and legs dance, and say "yip-yip-yippee!" and other such noises. Which his how he got his name. Shortly after I got married, mom gave him to me, and he's been on my trees (where he ALWAYS should have been) ever since. When my church did its Christmas Pageant this year, I was asked to talk to the crowd before the play started (Yes, I opened for a kids show. Hey, it was stage time). I didn't write anything for it, I just went through my memories and pre-loaded six or seven, and figured I'd tell a few of them as I talked to the crowd. As we talked, I realized that one of the major roles of the holiday is as a memory storage and retrieval process. We have these special things we do--songs, stories, gatherings, rituals, even television shows and trinkets--that we bring out once a year. And as we bring them out, we have tangible connections to the people we knew before. And the people we WERE before. As we grow and change in our lives, the rituals change, and modify, and sometimes even end, but there's something there still to connect us to the past. I've been buying my kids ornaments every year so when they go off to start their own homes, they'll have a collection of memories to take with them and incorporate into their new lives, should they choose to. And every year, as they put their ornaments into their own boxes, they also get to take one or two "old" ones off, and claim them as their own. Yippee Santa, however, is hands-off. I honestly don't know who should get him. Part of me wants to keep him always, so that even when I'm in my 80's and living in a senior home, I'll hang him on a knob during the holiday and pull his string. But I know he deserves a family, so I won't do that to him. Who knows? Maybe he'll keep my kids together, even if it's only for a few days a year. (I have no illusions that my kids will be homebodies. If we survive these next few years, I'm pretty sure they will have big lives that will take them all over the place) But that's the future, and it will write itself. My kids are home. Yippee Santa's on the tree, and I am happy. Now if you'll excuse me. I have a string to go pull.

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