The Last List

by Debbie McNaughton

Once again it's time for me to bring the musty boxes, full of treasured items from Christmas past, up from the basement. As I wipe aside the cobwebs gathered upon their taped tops, I unfold the memories captured in my soul from the dream catcher of youth.

Each crinkled newspaper with headlines, sports or classified ads encase unique tree ornaments passed down to me by my parents, all telling tales over the past forty years.

As a dreamy child in the arms of my father, I had been lifted with care to place these delicate decorations on the high branches of our balsam tree. My most prized bulb had been my first baby gift, it was a deep purple, adorned with a teddy bear, clown, sailboat and a hand painted duck.

A fat glass cherub's head with ruby red lips, now missing both eyes, hangs with a bobby pin hanger. Only two fragile bells of faded blue remain from a set of eight. Tin stars of silver and gold, handcrafted in Finland, still hold a plastic jewel in their center.

Santa and Rudolph stencils, sponge-touched with glass wax to decorate our window panes, twirl me back in time to our kitchen and I can see my mother's fingers removing the tape from the paper, exposing the creative work of art upon each glass.

I uncover elves of red and green with long folded legs that kept watchful eyes upon me and told Santa every night if I had been naughty or nice.

One small box of tinsel, a treasure from 1959 remains unopened, the cost of a dime then, worth so much more to me now.

Several years ago, I found a letter I'd written to Santa, preserved by my mother in a small envelope:

"Dear Santa??

As you know I am 10 years old this is my last year with you. I don't have much to ask for:

  1. United States game
  2. Junior typewriter
  3. Jill doll clothes

P.S. Please get mom a stool
Love, Debby Freeman
Merry Merry Christmas

Looking back now, how humble I had been to request only three gifts on the final year Santa would ever bring presents to me.

On top of that, I seemed to be a considerate child, asking for a stool for my mother. What a useful gift for her to open on Christmas day! I can only imagine what Mum must have thought when Santa left this treasured gift under our tree. I was sure every mother wanted one.

Had it been one step, or three? I couldn't remember. Would she use it as a cobweb assistant or perhaps to rest her weary feet upon at the end of the day? In my mind's eye now, I believe my mother treasured this gift from Santa. It had been, without a doubt to me, the only gift she wanted.

Looking back, this one small gift must have delighted and captured her soul, igniting memories of other times for her. Maybe, on a visit to her grandmother's house, in 1920, she used a stool to climb upon Meme's Victorian bed, to stay warm while she slept overnight on a winter's evening.

Her light purple silk shoes on graduation day 1928, rested upon a stool while she rolled her stockings over her knees. In January 1936, she knelt beside her new husband and sealed their forever vows with a kiss, in front of the priest at the altar of her church.

Proud to honor her brothers in war, she hung a star banner at the top of her front window to notify the town, in 1944, of the freedom they were fighting to preserve.

On a rainy day in the middle of the afternoon, she would read love letters sent to her by her husband from a hat box stored on the top shelf of her bedroom closet.

Yes, I'm confident that my last list to Santa created memories for my mother. Just as the United States game thrilled me with adventure to travel across the country, the junior typewriter conceived visions of Debbie the writer. The Jill doll clothes, well, they were just plain fun!

So this Christmas, unfold your memories and spin the life threads forward in your thoughts and maybe you'll find the person you were then, the dreamer and creative spirit you are today. Savor each, for they will take you back in time with the slightest touch of your hand.

Happy Holidays!

Debbie McNaughton is a writer of short stories drawn from everyday life. She is a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women and a member of Cape Cod Writer's Center.

Debbie is a regular contributing writer to Cape Women Online and has also been published in Seeing the Everyday magazine.

Debbie and her daughter have lived on Cape Cod for 10 years. They collect mermaids, listen to loud rock music and dream of owning a red corvette.

Debbie welcomes emails at