I promised a peek into my family’s holiday traditions and here it is. This is from last year’s Christmas.
Christmas is a wild time for the Johnson clan. We all try to outdo each other in decorating and gift giving, while pulling off our annual Christmas pranks and waiting for Uncle Frank’s super Christmas party. It is always on a random date that would be revealed to the family through coded greeting cards.
The ﬁrst thing I had to do to get ready for the holidays was decorate. And I don’t mean the watered down decorations that the rest of the town put up. We Johnsons always like to mix it up. Why have a Christmas tree when you could have a Christmas cactus or a tree made out of old yogurt containers? And why use wreathes, when laminated pickles glue together so nicely? This year, I was going to go all out. So, I searched high and low for a tree-like item, eventually settling on a ten foot scratching post from a local pet store. It took some maneuvering to get it into my living room, but Candy managed just ﬁne. Aﬅerward, we strung it up with beer shaped Christmas lights and strings of onion and garlic, which gave the house a unique and non-boring scent for the holidays.
Then we hung mothballs from the ceiling with tinsel and painted the windows with drunken Santas. The ﬁnal touch was the scene on my front lawn. It was a winter wonderland with neon pink snow and a solider Santa and his well-armed elves battling it out with a zombie Frosty and his undead horde of miniature snowmen. Right smack in the middle was a nativity scene with cardboard cutouts of characters from the Terminator movies, with a tiny Arnold as the baby Jesus. Now that we had the decorating done, it was time shop for presents.
We didn’t bother with ties or sweaters in our family. The more unique the better. This year I was doing most of my shopping at a junkyard. Junkyards are the perfect place to ﬁnd gifts that no one expects, or haven’t gotten a million times before. Candy came along and we set out to ﬁnd the perfect gifts. My mother was the easiest to get a present for, since she loved gun racks and lots of junkyard items could be turned into one. I found a lovely Ford fender that ﬁt the bill perfectly. My father was a little more difficult to shop for, since he mostly liked booze. And liquor was a little hard to come by in a pile of old junk. But I found enough parts to make a still, which was a gift that would keep on giving. My sister got a pile of broken forks that looked like abstract art and I found a bat skeleton that would be perfect for Uncle Frank’s collection. The rest of my family got old stuffed animals I painted to look like vampires (I got these from a trash dump), except for Grandma Mavis, who got an old motorcycle she could rebuild. And when Candy wasn’t looking, I managed to grab a bunch of old hats from a wrecked Ford Focus for her chicken fetus jars to wear.
Finally, it was time for the annual Johnson family prank off. Everyone placed their name in a hat during Uncle Frank’s Christmas party and the one who ended up picked was the person who would get pranked by the whole family the following year. And so the prankee didn’t feel left out, they also pulled a prank on themselves. This year, it was my father’s turn. And he wouldn’t know what hit him.
I’d spent years doing small jokes, all while planning the perfect prank and waiting for the year it would be complete. That year was now. No one had ever attempted a prank of this magnitude before. First, I replaced my father’s card from Uncle Frank with one I’d written, with a code that told him the party had been moved to a warehouse on the other end of town. Boy was I lucky to know Candy, so I didn’t have to go searching for a warehouse to buy (there were never any for sale,) which was the reason I couldn’t do the prank the previous years. We set her warehouse up like an abandoned amusement park, complete with broken down rides and a freaky looking funhouse facade.
As soon as my father walked into the warehouse, some clowns I hired chased him through the funhouse door, which led to a small white enclosure ﬁlled with alien technology props I borrowed from a ﬁlm student. The enclosure’s door shut and the whole room started to shake and move, which was really some of my friends pulling onto a ﬂatbed truck, but the recorded UFO takeoff sounds made my father think otherwise. They drove the enclosure (which was actually a refurbished porta-potty) to Uncle Frank’s place, where the real party was underway, and pulled it into a room I had paid Uncle Frank to decorate like an alien lab. Everyone gathered around in the alien costumes I had passed out and waited as Candy opened the door to the enclosure to let my father out. Then we all rushed towards him, making clicking sounds, and laughed as he ran screaming out of the room and straight into the party. He stared at the festive decorations, then back at us and our now unmasked faces. After a few seconds, he started to clap. “That was the best prank ever!”
Christmas was good this year.