Christmas Among the Uptight Yankees


Any number of people have commented on the fact that my sister Stacey is the rockin’-est. And I generally respond with my favorite way to describe Stacey: My sister is like a pinata. She’s hard to get open… but there’s candy inside.

And why is she hard to get open? Well… we’re Yankees, start with that. We are from a looooong line of practical, no frills, cheap… I mean, frugal Yankees. This is our heritage: waste not, want not, thou shalt flaunt not.

But you should know that uptight Yankees have the same feelings that more effusive people do, maybe more — they just don’t fling them about willy nilly. And why? Because emotions are important, and their intensity is to be respected. Sure, I could chirp “I love you!” to everyone who crosses my path, but then how would you know you were special? It’s the difference between watery spring sap and maple sugar candy. Which is, of course, what’s inside the pinata.

Christmastime is here by golly (disapproval would be folly) so I thought I’d tell this story about one time when my sister was shakin’ down the sugar.

Once upon a time, my nephew (we’ll call him ‘PuterBoy. When he was three years old, he showed me how to set up his dad’s desktop and speakers so he could play his Lowly Worm CD=ROM. Smartypants.) Anyway, when ‘PuterBoy was about five, he became obsessed with the idea of colored lights on the Christmas tree. “Thomas has colors on his tree, the trees in the stores have colors, I want colors, I want colors, waaaaaaaah!!!”

Settling the little boy on her lap, my sister explained: “A long time ago, 1630 to be exact” (true fact!) “your ancestors sailed from England to this new land to oppress its native people, plant crops in obsessively tidy rows, wear high-necked woolens in the summertime, and generally drive themselves and everyone else crazy with their reserved natures and repressed emotions. These ancestors were called the White Anglo Saxon Protestants, and to this day we follow their customs of precise speech, reluctant hugging, and preposterously tasteful holiday displays.”

“Mommy,” said the little boy, “you talk too much.”

Stacey sighed. “Yes, I know — we do that too. But the upshot is that we have white lights on our Christmas tree because we just do, the end.”

Ah, but in her crafty little noggin, my sister started schemin’.

On Christmas morning, ‘PuterBoy awoke, ran to the tree and…

“Mommy! Mommy!”

It had all the same tasteful ornaments, but now it shone with wonderfully tacky… I mean, vivid… colored lights! Blinking, even!

“Mommy! Come see the tree!” Stacey came to look, not at the tree but at the little boy, who was positively spazzy with delight. “What happened, Mommy?”

My sister smiled. “Must be a Christmas miracle, baby.”

Little ‘PuterBoy scored any number of fantabulous presents that day… and kept running back to the tree to watch his blinking colored lights. Because he’s a Yankee boy. And he knows where Mommy keeps the candy.



22 Responses to “Christmas Among the Uptight Yankees”

  1. 1 Mike

    Deb: this blog of yours is a wonderfully fantastic thing. Like nourishment, it is. Keep it up!

  2. 2 Deborah Bancroft

    Is wonderfully fantastic sort of like magically delicious?

    Either way, eat up, man!

  3. I hope he still enjoys the lights. 🙂

  4. 4 Zed

    Even though he’s 17 now he still does like the colored lights, as does his 6 yo sister who still thinks it’s Santa’s doing.

    I feel compelled to point out that the white lights come OFF the tree before the colored lights go ON the tree. Because Santa changes the colors of the lights themselves. Also because I LIKE TO MAKE THINGS HARD ON MYSELF. Obviously.

    • 5 Deborah Bancroft

      OK! OK! Geez!

      I would like to retract my libelous statement that my sister leaves the tasteful white lights on the tree when she puts out the colored lights… I mean, when the miracle of the colored lights occurs. She does not. She wrestles the tree to the ground and rips off the tasteful white lights, crunchy little bulb by crunchy little bulb, with her teeth. She then fries them in olive oil, a little sea salt and Mrs. Dash, and serves them with wilted greens and goat cheese.

      HAPPY NOW?!!

      • 6 Zed

        Me? Happy? Dunno, let me ponder that one for a while.

        By the way, you got the olive oil and sea salt right, but I would NEVER in a million years use Mrs. Dash.

        Also, I’d like to make it known that I have never broken an ornament in the 10+ years that I’ve been doing this foolish thing. I take great pride in that!

  5. How fun, your sis is a neat lady, I love her truthful telling of the folks discovering the new world. I’m a cold yankee too til I warm up a little, it takes some doing though!

  6. I enjoyed reading this. Love the pinata simile.

  7. Magically delicious. And my favorite line of the whole thing is “pieces of string too short to use.” Now, that’s frugality!

  8. 11 Deborah Bancroft

    Thank you too! Also entirely true — you can’t make this stuff up! Well… I guess you can. But I didn’t.

  9. 12 July Siebecker

    I don’t know who I love more, the author or her sister! And I’m not just flinging that word around!

    • 13 Deborah Bancroft

      Oh, I know! Ask anybody and they’ll tell you “That July — she may fling her always-matching lacy underthings around like Mardi Gras beads, but if she says ‘I love you’, you can take it to the flippin’ bank. Where the teller will nod, smile, and back away slowly…”

  10. I thought this post was great. I read it last night, basking in the glow of the exclusively white lights on my own tree. Then when I was out and about wrapping up my Christmas shopping today, I smiled a little each time I saw colored Christmas lights on a tree, thinking of your “Christmas miracle.”

  11. 16 Karen

    I love this story!!! Just love it. What joy those colored lights brought! Merry Christmas—–

  12. 17 Della

    I just read this entry through a link from “the Girl Who”. I am impressed. A beautiful story told in beautiful writing.

  13. 18 Deborah Bancroft

    Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  14. it is wise to choice to select Light Emitting Diode christmas lights becaue they are not fire hazard “:`

  15. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  16. Found myself glued to in what you had to say. Thanks!

  17. Great web site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

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