by | Dec 26, 2016 | Chris Goff, The Writer's Life | 3 comments

by Chris Goff

The Bird Tree

We are now one day one post-Christmas, and one day closer to the New Year, which means resolutions are in order and post-holiday traditions are well underway. I have many fond memories of the holidays—cutting Christmas trees, ice skating on the lake, schussing down the ski hill, presents, Christmas Carols and Christmas Eve candlelight services. I remember Advent Calendars with pictures of Christmas scene, opening the final door to uncover an image of baby Jesus in the manger. But there’s one Christmas I remember the most.

When I was nine, we went to Albuquerque to spend Christmas with my Aunt Lucy and Uncle Dan. He scared me. I was a little timid, and he was a Captain in the Army and tough as nails. He ruled with an iron fist. One very strict rules was “no candy.” Which is when my cousin, Steve, hatched his plan.

To put this in perspective, I am an only child and I idolized my cousins—two boys, both older, both cute. They asked me to ride bikes into town, and gave me the money for the candy. Then, when we got home, we got caught, and Steve threw me under the bus.

My punishment? 
Chin ups on the kitchen chin up bar. Needless to say, chin ups were not my forte. So there we were, me a shamed, chin up failure, and my cousins who had come out clean. Which is when my Uncle Dan ordered me to come with him.
No parental unit in side, I did as instructed. Climbing into his van, I cowered in the front sea. Uncle Dan smiled. “No worries, Christy. I just need your help.”

The next two hours left an impression.

Our first stop was the grocery store, where he purchased a large turkey, a large bag of potatoes, large bags of flour and sugar, canned pumpkin, spices. He bought yams, marshmellows, and frozen green beans. He loaded up four grocery bags full of non-perishable food.

The next stop was a department store. Leading me into the toy department, he waved his arm. “Pick out two presents. Anything you want. One for a boy your age, and one for a seven year old girl.”

The final stop on our trip was at a large, white farmhouse outside of town. The paint on the house was peeling. Uncle Dan parked on the road above. 

“We’re delivering all of this to the people who live in that house,” he told me. Then he had me lie down in the knee-high grass at the edge of the road and told me to keep out of sight.

It took him two trips to deliver all the grocery bags and the sack with the toys to the back patio of the farmhouse, then I watched him ring the doorbell and run. Before I knew it, he was lying down in the grass beside me. Peering over the edge of the road, we watched a man, woman and two children step out the backdoor. They looked at the bags, then looked to see if someone was around.

Uncle Dan and I ducked.

Finally, they started to unpack the bags. We could hear their excitement. The mother and dad so grateful; the kids squealing with delight. On the drive home I asked Uncle Dan who they were. 

“Just a family in need.”

That evening three soldiers from the base, who had nowhere to celebrate Christmas, joined us for dinner. My cousins mixed the kids Tang cocktails while the adults drank spiked eggnog and I learned the the meaning of Christmas.

In the years that followed, my family has always given something to someone in need. One year, my mom, dad and I gave boots to every member of a family with five kids in Evergreen. Later, my husband and I found a family in Leadville in need. The mother had MS and the father had recently lost his job. They had two kids, a boy and a girl, ages nine and seven. We delivered food and toys while our children watched from the van.

Today, the 26th, I will continue to celebration this season of peace, joy and hope with family and friends, and look toward the New Year with resolutions in mind. The first one being: Lose weight and exercise more. It’s tradition.

Happy Holidays!!

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Bodman

    Oh, Chris, what a truly wonderful post about how your family observed such generous Christmas traditions of helping those in need. I loved your story about your uncle taking you on his foray into the stores to purchase gifts for that family….and how you all carried on the tradition all these years. Bravo! Thanks so much for sharing during this Holiday week! It will inspire others as we all contemplate our New Year's resolutions.

  2. Sonja Stone

    Chris, what a wonderful story! And such a great reminder to share our blessings.

  3. Chris Goff

    My Uncle Dan was interesting. He taught me a lot about writing, too. He's the only person I know who edited my letters. I would send him a letter and get back a longer letter AND an edited copy of my letter, red pen corrections of grammer, spelling and notes about better ways to phrase things. I always wrote back, hoping beyond hope that I would not have any mistakes in my next letter. I really loved that man!