The year we moved to the suburbs after years of city apartment living was a memorable one. My mom got my sister and me a dog to go with our yard. His name was Yankee. He was an odd sort of dog; a mix of some kind of husky and a small dog breed. His fur had weird cowlicks that stuck straight out while other parts lay short and flat. He never got the hang of potty training. His eyes kind of wobbled around in his head and we couldn’t teach him any tricks, but we found out he loved the snow. We got a saucer sled because we had a hill. It snowed right before that first Christmas in the suburbs and we had a lot of fun with Yankee and the sled and the hill.
Our family had a holiday tradition. We were allowed to choose one present to open on Christmas Eve. The rest had to stay under the tree until Christmas morning. Oh, how my sister and I agonized over which present to choose each year! It was an exquisite torture for a child to stop at one gift. That year there seemed to be so many more presents than in the past. The gifts had expanded with the space. There were lots of little packages and one very big package. We chose very carefully with some coaching from Mom, and ended up playing with a new board game until bedtime. That Christmas morning we woke up as early as possible and herded into the living room. We were stopped in our tracks.
The carpet was littered with scraps of wrapping paper, mangled bows, and lots of broken pieces of wood. Christmas ornaments made a crunchy obstacle course in any empty spaces on the floor. That big present still had some shreds of wrapping, but one of the sides looked suspiciously full of teeth marks. Yankee had celebrated his first Christmas by chewing up almost every one of our presents. Most of the gifts were made of wood: furniture for a dollhouse and the dollhouse itself that now leaned precariously to one side. We salvaged the porcelain miniature claw foot bathtub and a sink.
Poor Yankee. He made it through that Christmas alive, but was ‘in the dog house’ for quite a while. He didn’t last in suburbia until the next Christmas, instead going to live in the country with my grandparents where he could chew on Grandma’s soup bones and play in the snow all he wanted. I can’t say that was the most depressing Christmas I ever had, but it was in the top five. And I subconsciously remember it every Christmas Eve when it’s time to choose a present and I get a tension headache.
Merry Christmas, Yankee.