The word “nude” doesn’t often accompany Christmas, but it does here with my craziest Christmas memory!
This is an excerpt from Mixed Shrink: Ridiculous Real Life Stories from Shrinks.
The following story you are about to read is 100% true, because even if you tried to make up a story in my family, it wouldn’t be nearly as shocking as the truth.
My Parents’ Divorce Changed Christmas Forever!
After my parents divorced in the 3rd grade, I remember celebrating Christmas with my father and brother only once more in my life; in the 6th grade. It’s difficult for me to fathom why I didn’t celebrate Christmas with them in the 4th or 5th grade. It was no more than a 10 minute drive. But it wasn’t until they moved to Eugene, Oregon before my 6th grade year that I decided it was about time I celebrated Christmas with my dad, my brother, and my dad’s girlfriend, Nancy (the infamous Nancy), and her daughter Heather. Accompanying me on this grand journey were my two sisters, Nicole and Jacquie (I’ve changed their names from Jacquie and Nicole).
Up to that point, Christmases had been a mixed bag. Sure, we had our traditions and they were fine and all, but at some point the highlight of Christmases was the anticipation. The actual payoff was often a letdown. Most of my Christmas memories were created at my grandparents home. We lived in the town of Bellingham, WA, the last major coastal city before you hit the Canadian border. My grandparents lived in a small farming community called Emerson (or Everson), about 15 minutes away. We always ventured out there after our Christmas morning to bask in the family tradition of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and the occasional vasectomy performed on my uncles by another uncle. But that is for another chapter at a different time. There was also the other time that one of my cousins stabbed my brother with a lead pencil and a huge uproar ensued. My brother, Vincent, never forgave our cousin Paul. In Vincent’s defense, Paul was sometimes douchebag growing up. In Paul’s defense, Vincent probably deserved to be stabbed by someone.
My Favorite Christmas … The Last Christmas We Were All Together
Growing up, I can only recall one especially positive Christmas. It was the Christmas of my third grade year, the last Christmas we spent as a family, meaning it was the last Christmas we spent in the house that both sides of my family built just for us. I remember going downstairs to the basement on Christmas morning in my tighty-whitie underpants. Not sure why I didn’t put on some pants. Even more unsure why no one thought to object to my dressing down (or dressing less) for the occasion. As I walked down to the basement, it was like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, all stars and glitter and hopes and dreams. I lost it when I saw the arcade size pinball machine, plugged in and going crazy with lights and sounds and started jumping up and down with excitement. Then I walked further around the corner and saw the only bicycle I have ever owned my entire life, childhood and adulthood combined – my Huffy 3000. You should have seen a little Asian dude going berserk and shaking with euphoria in my tightie-whities. Christmas in 1985, I remember that one for all the right reasons.
The Infamous Nude Christmas
So my mother must have drove us down to Eugene, Oregon to spend a Christmas with my father and brother. That was the driving force; to see and spend time with my dad and my brother. Nancy was the necessary evil. She was like the annoying drunk uncle you had to put up with. My sisters did not like Nancy. It’s difficult to know how they felt about my dad at the time. I remember being the primary sibling that spent time with my dad and brother after the divorce. I can’t recall the house that my father and family lived in while in Eugene. I only visited it two times. They lived in another part of Oregon that I visited one summer during my middle school years. After that, my brother and dad moved to Florida.
My happiest Christmas morning involved me shaking uncontrollably with excitement in my tightie whities. The Christmas morning with my dad, my brother, Nancy and her daughter, was anything but exciting. I recall having to wait until 8 or 9 in the morning. In retrospect, it was nothing earth shattering or unreasonable. But try to convince a 6th grade boy that knows the day has arrived that he gets to open his presents. Utter torture. The morning was going to be orderly – uber controlled and lacking the ability to express unbridled joy. And I was wearing pajama pants.
Ralphie Parker from A Christmas Story Has Nothing on the Hetterlys
We were ushered into the living room and instructed to sit in a circle. Someone passed out the presents, one at a time. Let’s say it was Nancy. Nancy would grab one present and hand it to the person who’s name appeared on the tag. And then we’d all wait and watch that person open the present. One at a time. We’d wait while Nicole opened a present from Alan (my father). And then, the present would be passed around the circle for everyone to see and hold. Every kid’s dream – your older sister gets a sweater and you get to hold it and admire it close up. It’s like Nancy and my dad could read my mind. Only when the present had been returned to the recipient and the wrapping paper and boxes had been neatly taken care of, only then would Nancy go and get the next present for someone to continue to present-opening chain. And this is how the morning went, for close to three hours. Oh look, socks – feel how soft they are. Wonderful, someone got a book. Yes, it is actually heavier than it looks. I couldn’t stand it.
I also do not remember any of the gifts that were given that Christmas. I only remember the agony of spending 3 hours to pass out and open probably around a total of 35 presents, roughly 5 presents per person. That should not take three hours. Perhaps my irritability would have been tempered if I had received something extraordinary that morning. Something that perhaps my mother and her family couldn’t afford. I know there really wasn’t anything that Nancy could have done to buy my love — but I wouldn’t have been opposed to it if she had tried. The last Christmas I celebrated while my parents were still together was lavish and over-the-top. After the divorce, everything in my life, including Christmases, were sparse and minimal, no doubt due to the financial consequences that splitting up a family will cause. But no, Nancy and my dad didn’t try to buy my affection or regard. There was nothing noteworthy about the presents I received that morning. The only memories I had were a slow, dreary Mass and a three hour present ceremony. Could Christmas get any more boring?
Christmas Couldn’t Get Any Worse … Right?
But wait, it turns out that we weren’t going to hang out at the house. We were going out. But where? Neither my dad nor Nancy had any family in the area. So we weren’t going to meet up with more family. Where were we going? And why was it so important or imperative that we go on Christmas day? Why not go tomorrow? The adults seemed to be a bit elusive about our destination. Was it a surprise? Where were we going? Would the second half of Christmas day redeem the first half? Could my dad and Nancy actually deliver the goods and provide a joyous, fun, and memorable Christmas day? Well, the day turned out to be memorable … I’ll give them that.
We drove further and further away from the city and into the countryside. At least, that’s what it felt like. And then, we pulled into a campground. It was in the middle of nowhere. It looked rustic, the parking lot that is, because there was no other identifying landmarks. No buildings visible. No signs of civilization. Just a parking lot with some cars in some of the spots. But no other signs of what was there or why were we were there.
As we got out of the car we started to walk toward a rustic pathway with wooden guard rails. We continued to walk over a couple of hills and toward the sound of running water. The air didn’t carry the scent of cold, mountain fresh springs. It was muggy and musky. The air was about as refreshing as the inside of a port-a-john on a hot summer day. I could see over the hills the rising smoke which soon revealed itself to be not smoke, but steam. We were at a hot springs.
The Holidays Are For Family Bonding … in the Nude!
My dad and Nancy had taken us to a hot springs for Christmas day. That was how they planned to cap off an unforgettable (in all the wrong ways) “Jesus is born” morning; take us to a hot springs. That should give you a bit of an idea of how alternative or unorthodox of a lifestyle my dad and Nancy lived.
So my siblings and I went back to the car and proceeded to take turns changing into our swimwear. We were all miserable, but we were going to be miserable together. Soon, we were all ready to put on a happy face and hang out in a hot spring until my dad and Nancy had gotten their granola lifestyle refill. We figured we were probably going to be stuck for a least 2 hours there; it didn’t make sense to spend more time driving to and from a location than the time spent at the actual location.
As we all walked the pathways toward the sound of water and human interaction, we all stopped dead in our tracks and froze with disbelief, awe, and whatever words in the English dictionary are used as synonyms for “disgust”. There was my dad and Nancy, in a hot spring together – completely naked. And there were other people spread throughout all the individual hot springs; all naked. Completely naked. Butt naked. Acting like nothing was different. You would have thought they were hanging out at a coffee shop, chit chatting away with friends, family, and complete strangers, except that instead of drinking hot coffee, they were partially submerged in hot spring water, oh yeah, and completely naked.
Now before you start to Hollywoodize this life event and translate it into a 80’s sex comedy in the vein of Porky’s or Last American Virgin, let me first educate you about my experience. First off, who goes to hot springs on Christmas day? Let me just cut you off and tell you, not the type of people a 6th grade boy is aching to see in their birthday suit, on Jesus’ birthday. We’re not talking about sex symbols, pin-up models, teenage fantasies, cougars, milfs, or whatever term is associated with sexual urges, expressions, or interactions. The folks I saw were older, not particularly fit or attractive, the type of people who were not self-conscious about their bodies or self-conscious about exposing it to others. I wish they had been more self-conscious about their bodies. That would have been a lot more considerate to my adolescent eyes.
Well, good for you. I’m happy that you have high esteem and acceptance of your body and figure. Way to go. Now put some damn clothes on your wrinkly, pruney, middle aged body. There are kids here. There weren’t other kids or teens there, just my family. At least these other retired hippies had the self-awareness to live out their past glory days apart from the impressionable eyes and minds of the younglings. My dad and Nancy … nope. Bring them with you. And stay for about six hours!!!! Six hours!!!
What is there to do at a nudist hot springs as a 6th grader surrounded by middle-aged prunes? After you spend that much time in water, middle-aged nudies start to resemble albino California Raisins. How to navigate that awkward moment when a complete stranger ranging in the 40-70 age range wades up near you and chit chats you up? “Oh, I don’t mean to be rude … but I only talk to strangers that aren’t exposing their penis to me … just a rule of thumb”. We adolescents mostly hung around each other, semi huddled to ourselves in a private, fully clothed hot spring. We waited and waited until it was time to go. I don’t remember much conversation. What was there really to say?
That was the last Christmas I ever spent with my father or brother. I later amended my opinion about my tightie whitey Christmas in the third grade. Man, did I ever overdress for that occasion.
Want more? Check out, I’d Rather Pee Myself: A Story About When You Really Can’t Hold It