The Curse Of Stank-Eye SantaMost families have longstanding traditions that surround the holiday season; they are warm, sometimes even solemn rituals, such as decorating the tree, baking cookies, lighting the candles, enjoying a communal feast, etc. At the insistence of my Destined-To-Be-Sainted Mother, my family has several traditions of this sort, and they are all faithfully observed each Christmas. But some customs arise without forethought or design, instead springing forth unbidden, proof of the capriciousness of the universe.
Such was the birth of a decades-long tradition among my siblings known as “The Curse of Stank-Eye Santa.” It began innocently enough, and I was the accidental mid-wife who delivered it into the otherwise joyful season of Christmas.
When I was around ten years old, I had managed to accumulate almost $7.00 of my own money, and I had decided to use it to purchase presents for my family, including brother and sisters. Though this sum may seem paltry today, for a ten-year-old in the early 70’s, this was a king’s ransom, and I hoped that by piously spending it on others, I could encourage the jolly gift-giver (yes, I still wasn’t 100% convinced that he wasn’t real) to overlook a few of my transgressions from the previous year.
I prowled through every garage sale, dime store, and thrift shop within bike-riding range, parceling out my hard-earned reserves in nickels, dimes, and quarters, accompanied by the occasional bit of folding money. For my older brother, I procured a scratched but serviceable copy of BTO’s “II” album, for my younger sister, a doll that would cry when you moved her arm (which probably explained why the other arm was missing), and for my older sister, in an inadvertent nod to the Fates, a hollow plastic Santa with an electric candle inside.
Once my sack of goodies had been filled, the next challenge became where to stash them until the appointed day. The album fit nicely between my mattress and box spring, the unfortunately wounded doll spent a few weeks buried in the back of my closet, and Santa was relegated to a dark corner of the ba
When it was time to retrieve my buried treasures, all were no worse for the wear… except for Santa. While he was still structurally sound, the heat from the water heater had (how shall I put this) transfigured one side of his previously jolly face. The effected cheek had a noticeable droop that pulled one side of his smile down into what now resembled a twisted grimace. But that wasn’t the worst, no the worst was his eye. It wasn’t merely deformed, it was nothing short of grotesque. The heat had swelled it into a bulging, bubbled thing, almost like a bulbous appendage protruding from the socket that heretofore had been filled with a twinkling eye. It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve and my options were few, so I made my decision quickly. I wrapped him gingerly in bright paper, scribbled my sister’s name under the bow, and deposited him unceremoniously under the tree.
Christmas morning. With four kids, two dogs, and one mentally deranged cat (that’s yet another story), Christmas morning in our house was nothing short of barely contained chaos. Despite my near pants-wetting-glee at opening the bounty before me, I managed to keep one eye out to see when someone would open one the presents I had so painstakingly acquired. Each was appropriately appreciative, and to my delight, acknowledged the thoughtfulness of the offering.
I wasn’t looking when it happened; my mind was focused intently on the bag of little green army men I’d just discovered in a box with my name on it. That focus was shattered by the blood curdling scream of my older sister. To this day, I can still see what came next in slow motion… the look of disgust mixed with horror on my sister’s face. My saintly mother turning towards the commotion. The sad, misshapen Santa flying as my sister threw it, anxious to have his evil visage out of her hands. And then finally, plastic Santa smacking my mother in the side of her beatific head as my sister pointed a tremulous finger and screamed over and over “Santa gave me the stank-eye! Santa gave me the stank-eye!”
Things finally settled, though it did take some doing and explaining on my part. My sister’s hysterics quieted to mere sniffling, my mother was uninjured save a slightly red spot on her cheek, and Santa-of-the-bulging-eye was whisked away, destined for the garbage heap. But Fate intervened again, once more proving that the universe mocks us all, and Santa found his way not into the garbage, but somehow back into the ba
Now, every year on Christmas morning, the current caretaker of the plastic imp must pass him along to his new custodian. With that certain knowledge, the bright joy of Christmas is tinged with a drop of dark trepidation, and we all open our presents a bit gingerly, wondering who will spend the next year suffering under the dark, ominous cloud of… “The Curse of Stank-Eye Santa.”
Ho, ho, ho.