Twenty years later, that Christmas is still with me

The organization I work for holds daily devotions in the morning as a way to help us focus on our Mission and enjoy a sense of fellowship.

This morning, Bill, the person offering devotions, spoke of Joseph and the various Biblical stories about Jesus’ conception and birth, and he asked us to recall a favorite Christmas memory of our fathers.

I worked backward to Christmases past, and couldn’t think of any one favorite memory.

Playing cards with my family as a child was fun; dad was always a crack-up at those times, saying things like “the person with the pencil is always the winner,” or “I’ll probably go kablooey, but I’m gonna shoot the moon!”

As everybody else thought about their own dads, I finally came up with a really specific memory.

The year I turned 13 (1995), dad got mom a new car. He got me the topaz ring I wear daily. And for “the family,” he decided we were going to take a trip to Nashville to visit the Grand Ole Opry.

This was really his present, but shared in the Christmas spirit, it became a family vacation. We’d hit up sights along the way, and on the return trip we’d swing through Texas to visit family and spend sometime in San Antonio.

We made many good memories on that trip, but the two I shared today are quite special.

We were in some big city on the way to Nashville (maybe we were in Nashville) and dad was driving the wrong way down a one-way street. He was getting all kinds of honks and birds, and all kinds of frustrated, as he looked for a way out.

Eventually, angry and probably a little scared, he rolled down his window as we passed one of the hecklers.

“Blow your nose, you’ll get more,” he shouted.

I busted out laughing—another dad-ism to add to the list—dad grumbled and got us off the street.

We laugh about it now when we think back to that trip and that time, and although it’s perhaps not the warm fuzzy sort of memory Bill was looking for, today it put me back in that moment, back in my dad’s company, and into some kind of holiday cheer.

On that same trip, as we headed back to Nebraska, we stopped at the Hard Rock Café in San Antonio.

“It’s only fair,” I implored my dad, as we walked past. “You made me to go the Grand Ole Opry, so you have to go to MY kind of music joint.”

Remember—I had just turned 13, and the significance of being at the Opry was kind of lost on me. Today I’d take the Opry over a HRC any day, but then… well, you know.

Dad refused, but mom backed me up and said we could go in and get a bite to eat.

As we stepped through the door, Dad was shocked into a stammer.


“Dad, this is gonna rule!!!”

An old Cadillac hung upside from the ceiling. Skeletons in faded, ripped metal shirts and Santa hats were bolted into the car. Garish neon lights and music so thick it shook the wooden support beams assaulted our senses.

Within a few beats, a jovial host came up and shook dad’s hand.

“Hello, sir! Welcome to the Hard Rock Café! Is this your first time here? You’re going to love it! What’s your name?”

Dad shook his head, looked down and chuckled.


“James? All right! Here you go, Hard Rock James, take this.”

The host shoved a small plastic disk into dad’s hand. This was high-tech at the time. Remember, 20 years ago.

“What is it?”

“That will vibrate and light up when it’s your turn to be seated. You come back here and we’ll get you seated.”

“Our turn?

“Yeah, we’re looking at an hour, hour and-a-half wait right now.”

Dad doesn’t do good waiting at red lights, so the long wait to sit in a bright, loud offensive place like this was going to kill him. He grumbled as we wandered around the River Walk, and when the disk lit up and we got seated, he grumbled some more.

“Thirteen dollars for a plate of chips?!”

“They’re nachos, dad! Not just chips!”

Remember, 20 years ago. Thirteen bucks for some chips and hard cheese on a plate today probably is pretty normal, eh?

Admittedly, it WAS too loud in there, the cheese was disgusting and the chips were already soggy when we got them.

But as with the rest of that trip, the visit to the Hard Rock Café during that December is one of the best “Christmas” memories I have of my dad.

I know I complained way too much on that trip, and mom repeatedly busting out the camcorder and recording dad in the car (stop it, mi amor, have to focus!”) annoyed him, but he made the best of it, accepting both the woman and child in his care.

I don’t think about that Christmas trip very often, but all day it’s been humming in the back of my mind.

What kind of memories do you have with your own father during this and other holidays?

If you’re like me, the season has become way to consumerist, and has perhaps hardened your heart into Grinchiness,. But I’d bet thirteen bucks and a Cadillac full of heavy metal skeletons that thinking of a special Christmas memory with your dad (or mom, or any family member) might bring some cheer back into your world as the big day draws near.


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