Reflections on Christmas Past

The Truth Hurts

My roommate in college had a great story from the holidays. He’d gotten a gift, a large box, not too heavy, but there was definitely some weight to it. He was young (probably 8 to 10 years old I believe), so while his spidey sense was there in regards to what the shape of the box might contain, this one didn’t trip any alarms. Finally, it was time, and he dove into this gift, tearing the wrapping paper asunder, he popped his fingers under the gaps in the box and ripped the tape… only to reveal clothes. Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. So he turned to the person the gift was from, and spoke (in a voice as loud as he could make it given his youth):

“Clothes AREN’T gifts!”


A Cruel Trick

Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness meant that a part of my family didn’t celebrate Christmas, but, because my parents were divorced, I still got gifts from my Aunt, Uncle, and grandparents. Which meant, I was making my own list of all the items I could never afford. And for much of my youth, that meant Transformers figures. You see, back in the day, they had two different-sized figures. The smaller ones (like Bubblebee) were around $5 or $6 (if I’m remembering correctly). They were just the right amount that maybe, just maybe, if your parents were in a good enough mood on your visit to Wal-Mart, you could convince them to spring for a new one. The other group was the larger ones. This would have been the Megatrons and the Optimus Prime sized figures and I have no idea how much they cost, but it seemed like they were in the $30s.

Something that expensive was definitely out of my reach.

So I would make out a list (after scanning through the Sears Catalogue) of all the Transformers I wanted so that when I was asked by my dad, I would have them ready to pass along to my relatives. And I was very reasonable, normally only asking for one or two of the more expensive figures (OK, maybe like five or six of them, but still), knowing that if I put a few different names on there, the better the chance they would have to find them in Albany. And then I waited until the promised day. The packages were ready to get opened, and I could only imagine which toys I’d actually gotten. I opened that first one and saw a smaller package… hey, no big deal. A Transformer is a Transformer.

Except, it didn’t have a Transformer label. It had a Go-Bot label. For those not in the know, the Go-Bots were like knock-offs of Transformers. They were a little cheaper in price and generally all the same size. And they “transformed” which I’m assuming a bunch of out-of-the-loop adults took to mean they were Transformers.

A cruel trick from the rival toy companies.

Image by Pawel Grzegorz from Pixabay

You’ll Never Guess

As I said above, my mother’s side of the family were Witnesses, which meant Christmas wasn’t observed (nor were birthdays, ugh), but we did do a sort of “Gift Day” over the years where we exchanged presents, but we didn’t do any of the other stuff. There were no stockings or trees or decorations or any of that stuff. Sometimes Gift Day occurred in January, other times it was more convenient to have it on December 25th.

After I went off to college, it was the longest time I was away from home. I flew up for Thanksgiving, and then come December, it was time for Winter Break. Maybe a week or so before it was time to drive up to Richmond, I get a call from my sister.

“You’ll never guess what is sitting in our living room right now.”

After playing 20 questions, I still didn’t have a clue, so my sister blurted it out.

“A Christmas Tree.”

I thought for sure that she was making a joke. Figured that she’d have a good laugh once I walked in the front door and saw nothing out the of the ordinary. But when I arrived at the house, I walked into the Living Room and sure enough, a huge tree, covered in ornaments and decorations and anything else you could think of. Even with the foreknowledge, I was floored by this.

(And there has been one up every year since.)


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at


About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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