The Best and Worst Christmas Stories

Last year The Root's contributors shared their best and worst holiday experiences. In some cases, the best and worst are indistinguishable.

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Needless to say, there was no 2-foot-tall talking doll under the tree that year (yeah, kinda creepy in retrospect).

What ensued was a combination of foot stomping, door slamming and general havoc wreaking (along with my dad's yelling and my brother's sniggering).

In the midst of it was my grandmother, bemused by her first American Christmas. I knew she was disappointed that as children, we looked forward to Christmas more than to Diwali. So when she came into my room that morning, I braced myself for a lecture about Diwali, about poor children in India, about cutting my mom some slack.

But instead she just smiled and said, "Your brother put you up to this, didn't he ... you just weren't ready to stop believing yet." My Indian grandmother, who might have dressed and talked differently, wasn't quite as foreign as I thought. It's one of my earliest memories of her, the holidays and the house we live in -- the first in a series of memories from the 17 years she was with us.

By Mary C. Curtis

The best Christmas memory is often the simplest. Mine is the search for the perfect tree -- just me and my Dad -- every Christmas Eve. This late start on holiday decor might seem strange for those who are finished shopping and trimming by Thanksgiving, but remember, the 12 days of Christmas begin on Dec. 25. My family was old school that way.

By the 24th, the stage in our Baltimore row house was set: the platform with the trains that ringed the base where the tree would stand, the ornaments -- each with its own memory -- unearthed from the back of the closet. That left only the star of the show.

As the youngest of five children in a big, busy household, for me the best part was enjoying alone time with my father. Yes, I was a daddy's girl. We would drive from lot to lot in the cold, looking for a tree that would be a perfect fit alongside the staircase. It had to be full -- no gaps -- before one strand of tinsel or colored bulb would adorn it.

My dad and I were perfectionists. He always said that I was the only one he could trust to tell him the brutal truth about each tree we considered; I would never settle for good enough. He would hold the candidate in question and slowly twirl it. If a vendor tried to explain away a bare spot by saying we could turn that side to the wall, we would be out of there. No matter how late it got, we would persevere -- and we were never late for midnight Mass.

My father died years ago. He never got to meet my son, who has his grandfather's sense of humor, style and same wanting everything just so. Never settling is a lesson that's stayed with me. And though striving for perfection might mean a few disappointments, I wouldn't have it any other way.