Too many of us fail to live directly in the moment, it seems. These days, it’s all about whipping out our overpriced smartphones and documenting every little nook and cranny of our lives, acting like as if we’re all going to sit down and watch the footage later with a public viewing instead of truly experiencing what’s going down all around us.
“Hey, how about I record or take photos of this to let it sit in my phone instead of actually enjoying what I’m seeing?”
As a result, some things in life that should be a fond memory end up becoming a question of, “Did I get that on my phone or not? I can’t remember…”
Christmas memories, on the other hand, are a surefire thing that I can safely bet all of us have stored in all of our collective minds and hearts. They’re different for every one of us in their own unique and specific ways, but I like to think the emotions that are involved tend to run the same wavelength.
My own memories of the holiday season are, as I said, unique in their own way because they’re specific to MY family in MY part of the world. Are they all happy, go-lucky ones like we’ve seen in a billion movies and TV shows? Of course not, because that’s not reality. But I think we can all look back on some of those quirkier, crazier, sometimes even darker years and smile through it because we came out of those times as better, more refined people.
I wish I had the capacity to remember my earliest Christmases as a young kid, but the closest year I can start with is 1992 when I was seven years old. My brothers and I wanted a Nintendo video game console, and lo and behold, on Christmas morning we ripped open a massive box and found a Nintendo console. I’m not sure how our parents pulled it off, but I can only surmise that Jack and Lynda were somehow able to barter a deal with St. Nick because when I look back on my childhood, there were plenty of times where the Ruttle boys were anything but ‘nice’. Maybe my dad made it crystal clear to Big Red that if his boys didn’t see a Nintendo under the tree, Santa may not see another Christmas. Jack Ruttle had the ability to instill that kind of “motivation”.
To me, that ranks as the best Christmas gift ever because it was the earliest example of us kids asking “Santa” for a very specific big-ticket item and our wish paying off in grand style. That Nintendo saw A LOT of use over the years, perhaps none more than over that very Christmas. I remember times when we even got Dad to play Duck Hunt with us, and his very clear frustration with not being able to shoot the dog whenever the virtual mutt would pop up and laugh at you for not being able to hit any said ducks.
“What do you mean I can’t shoot that damn dog? Is this thing even loaded…?”
Keeping on the topic of my dad, one of my other favorite Christmas memories was three years later in 1995. My brother Jim had come home to Conquest for the holidays and had brought gifts to put under the tree for everyone. Everyone, that is, except me. While Perry and Brendon excitedly tore into their gifts in front of everyone, Jim had to break the news to me that my gift “wasn’t quite ready yet” and it’d be coming in the mail from Calgary sometime after the holidays. Apparently, it was something very specific he was working on acquiring and the timeline just failed to sync up before he had to hit the road for Christmas. I took the news with as straight a face as I could and just said, “Yeah, that’s okay” and went back to watching wrestling in the living room.
Well, it turns out that Dad didn’t quite like the fact that his 10-year old son didn’t have anything to open from his oldest brother for Christmas. Something about it just didn’t sit right with Ole J.R., so a short time after I returned to the living room, Dad came tip-toeing in and took a knee right beside me, which is really saying something because my dad had a close relationship with bad knees due to being a man who worked every day of his life to support everyone else around him. He told me that Jim was working on getting his hands on a jersey from the Calgary Hitmen WHL team, a hockey team co-owned at the time and inspired by WWF Champion and Calgary native Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart. Dad felt the need to spoil it for me because he felt bad that I didn’t get a gift, so in this case, at least I would know exactly *what* was going to be in the mail, and he told me to act surprised.
He then informed me that this conversation never happened, and if my mother asked any questions, I was to say that Dad had simply gone to the bathroom and made no unexpected pit stops along the way.
It’s been 23 years since that Christmas and I don’t mind telling you that I almost welled up just writing about that memory with my dad. God, how I miss that man.
Follow up: A few months later in May of 1996, Bret Hart did an autograph signing at the Mall of Lawson Heights in Saskatoon. Upon seeing me arrive at his table, he smiled and remarked on my nifty new Hitmen jersey, and how I definitely stood out “in a good way” in Blades territory. Good things come to those who wait, my friends.
I think that those two ‘merry memories’ mean the most to me when I think of all the Christmases I’ve experienced in my 33 years, but if you’re looking for a couple of notable “runner ups”…
My mom coming through on getting a drum set for me in 1999. I’d been bragging to my friends for weeks that my parents were going to get me one for Christmas, and my heart nearly caved when I didn’t see a set in the living room upon waking up. Turns out that Ma had stashed it at a family friend’s house. That sneaky woman.
My mom was actually absent for Christmas Eve and Day back in 2004 because “Grandma” was summoned to Calgary to help Jim and his pregnant wife Daniela upon the arrival of my nephew Curtis. I remember doing the chores out at the barn and coming back to the house to help Dad cook supper, of which the centerpiece was going to be baked chicken using Shake n’ Bake. We both looked at each other.
“Have you ever made this before?”
“No, have you?”
“Well, if we end up getting sick, then we’re sick together.”
Supper turned out just fine.
This year, I’m eagerly looking forward to what my family has planned. We’re spending Christmas up North in a cabin at Candle Lake. It’s been on my mom’s proverbial bucket list for years and we’re happy that we can help her scratch it off. It’ll be different, but hopefully, in the best way.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.
For this week, that’s been the Christmas-ized Ruttle Report.