A CHRISTMAS STORY

HOW I SPENT CHRISTMAS EVE, 1995
by Sam Longoria


This is a rather odd Christmas story, and I hope you don't mind reading it.
It has elements that most Christmas stories don't.  Haunted houses, and
graveyards, and running from the police, for example.

It is all true, and I have tried to keep it light.

My father died when he and I were bitter enemies.  I guess he showed me.

I was not prepared for the profound sense of loss that followed, and it
knocked me completely flat.  I guess I thought I'd be happy when he died,
since I hated him so much, yet I was devastated.

The loss I felt was for an imaginary reconciliation and apology that I didn't
even know I wanted, until it was clearly NOT going to happen.

That was sixteen years ago, and I didn't want the same thing to happen with my
mother and siblings.  (Have you ever seen anyone sible?  Neither have I, even
during the Sible War.  I guess they're sibling, but I've never caught them at it.)

So I took steps, (after driving most of the way) to avoid that.  When I
visited my mother and sister (they live alone, together), they refused to see
me.  They were incredibly angry I hadn't talked to them for fifteen years, and
I guess I can't blame them.

I was incredibly angry myself for many years, and I know how it feels.  In
fact, they were so incredibly angry when I visited, they threatened to shoot
me, and then called the Sheriff, which dampened my spirit somewhat, and ended
my visit.

That was Christmas Eve, 1995.  I took some more steps, and found myself at a
graveyard in the middle of the night.

My father died in 1979, on Mother's Day.  I guess he showed her.

He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, in Renton, almost right next to Jimi
Hendrix, whom he outlived by a scant nine years.  How odd they're both buried
there, as the one thing my father hated (more than, well, me) was Jimi's
music.

My father hated Jimi because he was black, which he wasn't, and a drug abuser,
which he was.  So of course, my anger said I had to play it loud and often.
It underscored my conflict with my father.

And now, there they are, underground together, remarkably adjacent, until
further notice.  Within spitting distance, if such were possible.  (And
believe me, 'twould be done.)

I went to my father's grave.  I walked past a line of the Hendrix vigilant,
even in pouring rain, even in the middle of the night.  "Are you going to
Jimi's grave?"  they would ask.  "No."

"Are you going to Jimi's grave?"  "No."

There were lots of them in this line.  They had brought cards, and candles,
and hippie stuff, which they'd piled in a heap on Jimi's grave.  They were
driving vans, and most were dressed in deadhead tie-dye.  I guess Jimi's fans
don't have a style of their own.

"Are you going to Jimi's grave?"  "No."
"Are you going to Jimi's grave?"  "No."
"Are you going to Jimi's grave?"  "No."
"Are you going to Jimi's grave?"  "No."
"Are you going to Jimi's grave?"  "No."

Finally, someone told me what they all were, for want of a better word,
thinking:  "Hey, man.  The end of the line is back there."

"Feels more like the end of the line, right here."  Not a great retort, but I
was pretty unhappy, er bummed, having travelled, er tripped to my old man's
final crash pad.

His gravestone said only "Samuel Longoria, Pvt US Army, 1934 - 1979"  I did
the math, and for some reason, it took my breath away to realize that he was
only 45 when he died.  That is (in functional human years) only 5 YEARS OLDER
than I am now.

I took pictures of the stone, and since it seemed like the thing to do, I
talked to him.  I told him how much I've accomplished in slightly less than
the same time as he lived his whole life, where I've gone, and who loves me,
all IN SPITE of what he taught me, and how awful he was to me, the beatings
and abuse, and so forth.  I went on and on.

Finally, I noticed I had stopped talking.  And I listened intently then, in
case there was a ghostly answer or something.  Like in "Hamlet," or "Star
Wars,"  And there wasn't.  Because he is dead.  Although I don't think I
believed it until that moment.

Then I started to cry, and did that for a while.  Until the Hendrix faithful,
next grave over, felt sorry for me and tried to reassure me that it's all
right, not to be sad, that Jimi's music will live on, and that he still has
plenty of fans.

Although that did make me feel better, I started to explain I was there for a
different grave, and they just stared at me.  I honestly don't think they
noticed other people are even buried there.  And so I left the boneyard and
the boneheaded.  I left the dead, gratefully.

Then I drove up the street, and photographed the house that held me prisoner
for my alleged childhood.  It is haunted.  I am sure.

Someone has bought part of the original lot, and has built a perfect replica
of the Addams Family house on it, next door to my childhood house.  Gables and
cupolas and everything.  (Can you name all of the original 7 Gables?  I
remember Coral and Clark, but then I'm fuzzy.)

And my family house is boarded up.  I wasn't about to pry the boards off, and
I wasn't crazy about going inside, and I was relieved that choice wasn't mine
to make.  I took pictures from several angles, and then I noticed something I
couldn't see from the street.

The front door was open.  Wide open, daring me.

I got my flashlight from the car, and a new roll of film.  I forced myself to
go into the house, flashing pictures, and fighting down waves of terror.
Every hair (not just on my head) was standing straight up.

Bums had been living in that house, it was freezing cold, piles of filth and
liquor bottles were in every room.  It was virtually the same as when I lived
there as a child, so I felt right at home.  Even the terror was familiar.

Two rooms had stuck doors.  The first was my parents' bedroom.  I forced the
door, and went in.  Completely empty, except for the severed human head in the
middle of the floor.

At least that's what I thought for an incredibly long time.  I counted to
several very large numbers, and did variations on that dream where you try to
scream and can't.  Then I did the one where you try to run, and can't.

Finally, I moved the flashlight around enough, and picked up the thing, and
realized it was a wig.  Ha ha.  How droll.  Ha ha.  How funny.  I laughed,
entirely too long.  I took a picture of the wig.

Then I gathered what shards of courage I still could find, and went to the
other bedroom.  My bedroom, and the three other children who have grown to
adult and still won't speak to me's bedroom.  The bedroom where I was beaten,
and locked in for days at a time, for many years.  I forced the door.

It was incredibly cold in there.  There was no furniture in the room, or glass
in the windows.  In the corner was my brother David's trumpet case, with his
name and address on it.  In the center of the room was an army shovel
(entrenching tool) that my father had given me when I was small.  I picked it
up.

Then the wind blew in through the broken window, and SLAMMED the door shut.
Rats ran around the floor, and over my feet.  My flashlight went out.  It was
dark, and windy, and icy cold, and full of excited rats, for an incredibly
long time.

I was deluged by every emotion you can imagine, and some new combinations that
had never occurred to me.  I counted, and I breathed, and I worked the
flashlight switch, and was incredibly frightened.

Then the light came on, and the rats ran away, and I pried the door open with
the entrenching tool.  And I went upstairs to the attic, and took pictures,
and went back downstairs, and out onto the lawn.

As you can imagine, I was somewhat startled when the neighbor from across the
street, drawn by my lights, came up quietly behind me, and yelled "HEY!" as
loud as he could.  I think he intended to surprise me, and he did.

I rose into the air, and whirled around, ready and wanting to fight or
urinate, and managed somehow not to fall into a rosebush.

"Who the hell are you?" he yelled.  "What the hell are you doing in there?"
"Why the hell are you here in the middle of the night?"

"Who the hell are YOU," I responded gamely, "And what the hell do YOU want?"

"I'm the neighbor.  I live right over there."

"How nice for you.  Perhaps you should go home and stay there, and mind your
own business." I offered, perhaps unpolitely, but in complete accordance with
the amount of adrenaline I'd recently generated.

"I'm calling the police!"  He yelled, and ran back to his house.  I believed
him.  I didn't want to spend several more hours talking with the police, and
spoil an otherwise pleasant evening.

So I got into the car, started it, and drove away at a moderate pace, until
out of sight, and then turned up a logging road that led in the opposite
direction, and beat it hell for leather, out of there.

The questions the neighbor had asked still begged an answer.  What the hell
HAD I been doing there, in the middle of the night?  I guess I was trying to
face my fears, at their source, at the scariest time possible.  And I did.

I guess I showed him.



Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sam Longoria