Christmas Stories and Memories

Merry Christmas!  I have some bits of decoration out, enough to make me happy,  and I’m thinking of baking a little, maybe for Monday’s Story Swap at McClay Library.  In my teaching days, everything waited for the start of Christmas break — my cards were more accurately New Year’s cards.  The calendar really doesn’t matter as much as the sharing love.


“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”  ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


When we were little, my parents put up the tree after we went to bed on Christmas Eve, for a magical Christmas morning surprise.  When we got older, we helped put it up, earlier in the season, but not TOO early.  Dried out trees are dangerous, and in that little house, the tree also made things crowded, but so very festive, in the front window greeting all who went by.  My favorite ornaments were the handmade ones and the glass icicles.  I remember one made at school, a little scene inside half an eggshell, with cut-outs from Christmas cards, a twig, and sparkles.


Never underestimate creativity — and fie on those who say things like “You have too much time on your hands.”  We all have the same 24 hours per day and some use it to make beauty! . . . or at least attempt it . . .


One year the gingerbread house would NOT stay up and the great-nephews were impatient to eat, so we declared it a FEMA site, decorated the ruins, and consumed the delicious wreckage.  Tasted good, but for eye-candy how about these . . .

May all your holidays be bright!

Here are two stories from my dad and also some more from Chuck Larkin, who helped me put my dad’s stories together in little books.


Big Shot and Bingo Go Coasting

by “Daddy John” Fussner, collected by daughter Mary Garrett

One fine, cold day, Santa’s factory was running full speed.  Nothing went wrong, and the toys were coming into the packing room very fast.  The packers were working as fast as they could and were able to keep the supply wagons rolling.  Big Shot and Bingo were  pulling four or five wagons at a time behind their toy tractors.

The wagons were stacked high with bright packages for Santa’s sleigh, but before loading, they had to be stored in the big warehouse.  Every package had to placed just right so it would get put on the right load in the right place for Santa to get it when he came to  a certain boy or girl’s house.  How would you like it if your toys were put on the wrong load and ended up in some far-away land, halfway around the world?  It hasn’t happened yet, but only because Santa’s helpers know their job and try hard to do everything right.

With the toys piling up faster than they could move them, Big Shot and Bingo got a little careless.  They didn’t know that the Head Man Brownie had help coming.  Big Shot and Bingo started down the hill from the factory to the warehouse, each pulling four wagons.  Faster and faster they went, until they were going so fast that their feet flew off the pedals, and they were coasting.  When you coast down a hill with a toy tractor, and four loaded wagons are pushing you, you move fast!  The hill got steeper, and the speed got faster until Big Shot and Bingo thought they were riding jet-powered tractors.

Arriving at the warehouse, they zoomed in the open front door and zoomed out the back door just as fast.  They picked up more and more speed as they went further down the hill.  Most roads going down steep hills have a turn at the bottom.  This road had to turn to miss the big lake.  Big Shot and Bingo came to the turn in the road and went straight ahead, out across the frozen lake.  Spinning like a top, they scattered Christmas gifts far and wide over the slick ice.

About halfway across, they finally stopped.  Big Shot and Bingo looked at each other.  Without saying a word, they got off their tractors, and slipping and sliding, they started picking up the packages.  When they tried to move the tractors on the slick ice, the rear wheel turned, but the tractors didn’t move.

“Well,” said Bingo, “looks like we have to do it the hard way.”

Do it the hard way they did.  Eight wagons had to be loaded and pushed back up the long hill, one at a time.  Then the two tractors had to be pushed up the hill.  After that was done, the Head Man Brownie made Big Shot and Bingo unpack and repack all the packages without any help.  It was late, late at night when two tired but wiser brownies at last lay down to sleep.

Grumpy and his stable hands pulled the rest of the wagons with reindeer, and kept well ahead of the packers.  There was no package left in the packing room overnight.  Big Shot and Bingo learned their lesson well and are very careful at the jobs now.  Santa and the Head Man Brownie know that accidents will happen, and they are still well pleased with the work of their little tractor drivers.


Big Shot and Bingo’s Tractors

by “Daddy John” Fussner, collected by daughter Mary Garrett

One day little Bingo and Big Shot, two of Santa’s little brownie helpers, were busy driving their tractors, pulling wagons loaded with toys.  Their job was to haul toys from the packing house to the big warehouse.  Little Bingo started to grumble about how hard it was to push the pedals on his tractor.  Soon Big Shot was mumbling, too.  The trouble was that little Bingo had seen a working model of a new tractor the Head Man Brownie was thinking about building.  It had a gasoline engine for use outside and an electric motor for use inside the factory and warehouse.

Big Shot and Bingo kept complaining until the Head Man Brownie just plain got fed up with listening to them.  “That does it!” he shouted.  “I’ve had about all of this complaining I can take.  You two go up and tell old Santa what your trouble is.”

Well, Bingo and Big Shot didn’t want to do that.  It’s one thing to complain to the Head Man Brownie, but it’s lots different telling Santa you don’t like something.  That’s sorta like telling your teacher something and having her tell you to go see the principal.  Well, Bingo and Big Shot kept stallin’ around like you do when you’re told to do something you don’t want to do.  But the Head Man Brownie is a lot like your daddy, and when he tells you to do something, you’d better do it, but fast.

Bingo and Big Shot went up to Santa’s big, big desk.  Old Santa looked up, and seeing Bingo and Big Shot, he said, “Is there something I can do for you?”  Well, Bingo and Big Shot stood there, first on one foot and then on the other foot, each waiting for the other to tell Santa.  Finally, Bingo told Santa what was wrong.

Old Santa has been around a long time, and he can pretty near tell what is wrong without being told.  “Well, well,” he said, “I thought your tractors were still in pretty good shape when I saw them yesterday.  Are they broken or worn out?”

“No,”  said Bingo, “we’ve taken good care of them.  Why, they are as good as new.”

Old Santa laughed and said, “Well, if there is nothing wrong with the tractors, then perhaps the drivers are getting old and worn out.  Maybe we need a couple of new drivers.  I’ll see the Head Man Brownie and ask if he has anyone we can use.”

“No! No!” said Big Shot and Bingo.  “We’re not old and worn out!  Why I’m bigger and stronger than I ever was.”

Of course, old Santa was just teasing.  He knew that Big Shot and Bingo were doing a good job, and he wanted to keep them on it.  They always took the loaded wagons to the right spot in the warehouse and always had plenty of empty wagons in the packing room.  It takes a long time for some of the brownies to learn where everything goes, and some can never learn.

“Well,” said old Santa, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do.  If you will make your tractors do until Christmas, then after the holidays, before we start up for next year, I’ll have the Head Man Brownie make some new tractors.  You two may have the first two he makes.

“What are you going to do with the old tractors?” asked Big Shot.

“Oh,” said Santa, “I suppose we can toss them in with the rest of the junk.”

“No you don’t!” shouted Bingo and Big Shot.  “You know that we don’t have nearly enough tractors to go around.  Many little boys who want tractors this year will have to take something else.”

“Yes, I know,” said Santa.  “Every year we build more factories and warehouses, but that old bird, the stork, just won’t let us catch up.  As much as I like boys and girls, it would sure help if that stork would take a six-month vacation, but that will never be.  He works twenty-four hours every day of the year.”

“Well,” said Big Shot, “why don’t you let us pick out a little boy apiece to give our tractors to.”

“O.K.,” said Santa, “if you can find two little boys that would like a tractor that’s been used in Santa’s factory, go to it, but if you don’t, into the junk pile they go.  We can’t have them sitting around in the way.”

So that’s how it is.  Do you think Bingo and Big Shot will find their two little boys?

Christmas Party story_2

Wopila, a Give-Away

Story Musings

Wopila, a Give-Away

Dovie Thomason titled one of her storytelling tapes “Wopila, a Give-Away” but asked us not to take that literally and just take the tapes, as she did need to make a living.

Wopila is a lovely custom, and fits my preference for giving things away rather than selling them.

I have happily given away dozens of “apple” and “blueberry” baby hats, including one finished in my dentist’s waiting room for his baby boy.

(He donated a checkup to the Y auction, so he understands Wopila, too).
I always seem to finish one just as a new baby comes into view.

Once, a teaching colleague’s baby came early and had to spend a week in the neonatal unit.  I hurried to finish a hat for him by Friday’s “going home” date, and on Friday showed the finished hat to my students.  One healthy, beautiful young lady said that she had been exactly that small and fragile at birth. We sent her to deliver the hat and, even more important, the message of hope!  These are gifts of love.

Knitting lessons available as well . . .   








I was happy that my friend, who wanted to ride with her children, could use the bicycle I hadn’t ridden in years.

When a student told me that she was hoping her father would be able to afford a typewriter for her for Christmas, I remembered my own longing for a typewriter when I was her age.  I dusted my once “state of the art” electric typewriter, set aside when I learned computer word processing, and made her a very happy girl!

When I was preparing to retire from teaching I announced a Wopila to my students and fellow teachers.  Some were reluctant to take things, but not after the custom was explained.  Those items could continue to make a difference in our school, and other schools, even after I left.  Jim and Deb Wallen took books and bookshelves for their grandchildren’s school in Kansas City.  That school closed, and they gave the books to a school that had lost its library to a tornado.

Last May in Ohio for the O.O.P.S. conference, Dovie added the explanation that Wopila is not just giving away what you don’t want anymore.  Sometimes Wopila means giving away favorite things so that others can have a turn enjoying them.

I saw my friend Maria’s silver card case and realized that it matched a silver flask sitting in my curio cabinet.  I had thought before that the flask would be a good addition to Maria’s Swords and Roses pirate garb, so I presented it to her.  She will also be using it in a “Roaring 20’s” show . . . carrying my good wishes as she does so.










My great-niece Moriah loves green, and this lovely necklace, a gift from a student, suits her perfectly.  It was time to let her enjoy it.    








My young friend Hannah helped me with my move from the condo to my little eco-home.  She took home many “treasures” including the hand-made heavy leather briefcase I had used when I sold insurance (not sure how she could even carry it).  She also spotted and coveted my Shel Silverstein books, and rather than have them just stay on a shelf at my house, I happily passed them on to one who would appreciate them more.

Brendan at Borders remarked that his son has become fascinated by Turkish things.  I had an inexpensive top purchased from a young street vendor in Istanbul.  I never managed to make it work; perhaps his son can . . .

My friend Stephen Hollen wrote a wonderful story “Memories of Lone” about the ongoing trick he played with his mother’s NOEL elves.  I had a NOEL train, which I sent to my adopted cousin so he can continue making his special LONE Christmas magic.

Sometimes I give stories.   Next week  I’ll be telling to the cub scouts whose leader bid highest at the Y auction.

Last year  I told at Hannah’s class’s Christmas party.  I often give copies of my storytelling CDs to children I meet as I go on my merry way, including at rest stops on long trips, when the miles challenge the patience of even the best of children, and their parents.  The smiles and enthusiasm of young listeners is reward enough for that gift.

When we hold onto something, we lose the use of our hands, and letting go leaves room for the new to come into our lives.

I have also received, so many wonderful lovely gifts, tangible and in-
. . .  Jessica gave me a Wide Mouth Frog pin after my first public telling of that story, on an ETSU cruise.  It reminds me of the fun and friendship  each time I see it.  After my frog, Prince, moved into my home, many people gave me frog gifts in his honor, and as consolation after I let him return to the wild.









My niece Jillian made me a lovely storytelling logo.    

and Holly made a dream card, some of which has already come to pass . . .

Toni McGee Causey gave a gift card, which I used to buy copies of her books (it seemed the fair thing to do).

Better Life sent some of their wonderful cleaning products, half of which I gave to the Y auction.

Suzanne Beecher of the on-line book club just sent a vintage apron.

Comfort Suites gave us the use of their pool for our “Wet and Mild”  Aqua-aerobics!

Even the flask I gave Maria had been a gift, which I enjoyed for three decades . . . long enough, time for it to move on and be useful . . .

I had been thinking about this blog for a while, mulling it over (and procrastinating) but this seems the right season to reflect on giving . . . and receiving, which is just as important; both are part of the graceful sharing of the loveliness of our world . . .

May you give and receive in great joy!

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