Friday, December 16, 2011

Uncle Jim's Christmas Stocking




Grand Uncle Jim

First things first: This is a story about an Irish family. While my name is Jim, and I’m an uncle, I also have an Uncle Jim of my own. There is an Uncle Jim mentioned in this story, but he’s not that Uncle Jim, although that Uncle Jim is the one who told me this tale of the other Uncle Jim. Actually, he’s Uncle Jim’s Uncle Jim, making him my Grand Uncle Jim (and some folks prefer the title 'Great Uncle', but let’s not open that can of worms.) It’s very confusing to the uninitiated, I suppose, so if it will keep you from getting a headache, feel free to think of the main character herein as Uncle Aloysius.

Anyway, when my father was very young – five or six - his Uncle Jim taught him a very valuable lesson.

My father had hung his stocking on Christmas Eve, as did all of the family. This included the older relatives, and that group included his Uncle Jim. Come Christmas morning, everybody took down their stockings and looked inside to see what Santa Claus had brought them.

The usual things were found inside the stockings - little toys, tasty candies, and other such trifles. Nice, of course, but nothing unusual. That is, until Uncle Jim inspected the contents of his stocking. He turned it upside down, and out rolled a lump of coal and an onion.

While good little boys and girls receive toys and candies, a lump of coal and an onion are, by tradition, what bad boys and girls receive. Seeing those things come from Uncle Jim’s stocking, my father laughed and laughed. Uncle Jim was a bad boy! He got a lump of coal and an onion!

While my father was laughing, Uncle Jim said, "Oh! This is wonderful! A lump of coal and an onion? These are just what I needed!"

My father thought his Uncle Jim had gone round the bend. How could someone be happy to have received a lump of coal and an onion in his Christmas stocking?

Uncle Jim picked up the lump of coal, then took my father’s hand and led him to the basement. They stopped at the furnace. Uncle Jim said, "It’s so cold today, this lump of coal is the perfect gift. I can put it in the furnace and we’ll be nice and warm all day!"

Uncle Jim then led my amazed father back upstairs. They returned to the family parlor, where Uncle Jim now picked up his Christmas onion. He led my father into the kitchen. While my father sat and watched, Uncle Jim chopped up the onion, and then mixed it with celery, bread, and spices. During all of this, he went on rapturously about how his stuffing for the turkey would have been no good whatsoever without an onion.

Later on, as my father sat in a warm house eating delicious stuffing with his Christmas dinner, the lesson was permanently burned into his memory: It doesn’t matter what you’re given. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Soon, with more better stuff.



32 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

More better stuff is coming? This story was pretty darn good.

lime said...

uncle jim was a wise man!

Uncle Skip, said...

There are a few Uncle Jims in my family, too. I can't remember any good stories about any of them, though... darn!

Craig said...

I remeber this one; what a great story. Thanks.

My mom's brother is Jim, and her sister's husband is also named Jim, so we have two Uncle Jims.

(In fact, Mom's first husband was named Jim, so until she divorced him and married my dad, ALL the uncles on that side of the family were named Jim. . .)

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Love this. It's an absolute life-lesson. And not nearly as cliche as the old "when life gives you lemons" tripe.

Hmm. What do you do when life gives you tripe, anyway?

Karen said...

So true.

Uncle Skip, said...

@ Knucklehead - you make menudo

Hilary said...

Love this.. the first time I read and again now. It's a great story.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Onion soup's pretty good, too!
...or onion rings.

Buck said...

One of your better pieces, Jim.

And Skip beat me to the menudo. I like to eat it but I cannot BEAR the smell of it when it's cooking.

CiCi said...

Great story. What we do with everything we are given in life makes us who we are. I for one want to be a positive person. I hope you are enjoying the holiday season as it moves along this month to Christmas celebration.

silly rabbit said...

I love this story! What a beautiful lesson in appreciation and being creative with what life hands you.

The Broad said...

I had a Great-Aunt -- and she was so wonderful that the word 'great' was the right one. And she called me her Grand-Niece! In the meantime, back to your post -- It's a great/grand fable for all generations!

Thimbelle said...

I love this story.

Thank you. I needed this reminder today. :)

Jackie said...

Aloysius is a wise man.
Merry Christmas, Jim.
Love,
J.

messymimi said...

My friend used to say that poor children probably wished for coal for the fire in the old days.

Great story, thank you.

From the Mind of a Madman said...

Heres an alternate ending.....
He told his dad "These are just what I needed!".... and then he left the coal and onion in his stocking...... and then beat him with it!

SarcasticTestGuy said...

Nice when a lesson is actually *learned*. My family is littered with Johns...my dad was John, and I have a brother John. My Dad's father was also John. I also have an uncle John. My brother-in-law is John, and so was his father (his name was John, but he was not my brother-in-law...that'd be weird: to have your father-in-law also be your brother-in-law? Ewwww.)

Tabor said...

So wise men run in your family this holiday season. Nice.

Clare Dunn said...

Perfect! I love your Uncle Jim!

Being Italian, we are inundated by 'Uncle Anthony's, so I get it.

Sharing this with my buds...

xoxoxo, cd

Shrinky said...

Now that's what I call a real, true optimist, and probably one who was never lonely - he sounds like someone most folk must've loved being around (smile). Ahh, Jim, the more you tell me of your family, the more I understand how you turned out this good.

You must stop promising "better stuff", or you'll have raised the bar far too high to follow through!

SueAnn said...

This is pretty good stuff Jim!!! Well said!
Hugs
SueAnn

Joan said...

I love this story. Your Grand Uncle was a great teacher.

Maggie May said...

He sounded a remarkable child. I can imagine what todays children would think. They'd kick up no end!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Daryl Edelstein said...

I seem to recall another wonderful Christmas story about your Aunt Barbara ... the Sullivans are quite the clan .. and guess what arrived in the mail yesterday????

Shammickite said...

My dad always got a lump of coal in the toe of his christmas stocking. I laughed and laughed to think that Father Christmas thought my dad was a naughty boy.

missing moments said...

Great post and isn't it so true ... "it's what you do with it that matters..."

Michelle H. said...

Love your Christmas story!

notactuallygod said...

I liked this Christmas version of "when life gives you lemons..." but I suspect it's more about having the last laught

Barbara Shallue said...

I love it! Thanks for sharing your family's wisdom with us, Jim!

Joanna Jenkins said...

My DAd was Jim, my brother is Jim and his son is Jim... This is a perfect story for Christmas and I'm passing it on to them. Thanks,

Merry Christmas,
jj

supplements that lower cholesterol said...

I just had a good time reading this amazing post. I guess I'm going to name my descendants Jim.