Joy Sheldon shares a story from her anthology for Christmas. (Submitted)

Joy Sheldon shares a story from her anthology for Christmas. (Submitted)

Christmas Chaos revisited: the attic

The dreaded trip to the attic.

This is a follow-up to Joy Sheldon’s story ‘Christmas Chaos’ which was published last December. It is also included in her humor anthology entitled Whoopee, I’m A GRG*! (GRG: grandparent raising grandchildren) published at amazonbooks last year. She has published others including: Santa and Bumble, the Bumbling Elf and her early memoir, Cowichan Kid-Hijinks at Stratfords Crossing, near Duncan, …in the 50’s. Her books are available online at amazonbooks or Salamander Books, Ladysmith and Volume One Bookstore, Duncan.

Xmas — oh yeah, that time of year when the word ‘chaos’ is an understatement. The dreaded trip to the attic. Getting the kids’ Xmas hats and other paraphernalia for the annual Light Up Festival in Ladysmith….(Note: This story was written a few years ago before the dreaded COVID epidemic caused such events as Ladysmith Festival of Lights to be cancelled.)

Early November:

Little Voice #1: (tries pleading) “Gwampa, it’s time to go into the attic and get down our Cwistmas stuff. Puh-leee-eeese! (doesn’t work)”

Little Voice #2: “G’pa if you get my Cwistmas stuff, I’ll eat all my broccoli!” (still doesn’t work)


Little Voice #1 again: (tries blackmail) “Grampa, we need our Xmas junk out of the attic! If you don’t, Santa won’t bring you any Xmas gifts.” (nice try, anyway…)


In chorus — (try suicide) “Grandpa, if you don’t get our Xmas boxes down from the attic, we’re gonna hold our breath until ya do!” (finally wears him down)

“Awright, awready, I’ll do it!”

The Dreaded Annual Attic Ritual begins:

“Joy, go get that old quilt to put down over the carpet in the walk-in and I’ll get the stepladder.”

He hauls in our old, battered and usually paint-smeared, wooden step-ladder. He places it strategically in the bedroom closet. Above, is the nasty attic hatch. Grandpa climbs the ladder and lifts the heavy cover. Insulation rains down like dandruff. Now starts the worst of our Annual Xmas Rituals. (Except for the year the kids plugged up our one-and-only toilet on Xmas Day. I wrote about that one in the first “Christmas Chaos.”) Christmas with the Kranks can’t top ours!

He lifts the makeshift attic hatch cover. Weighs a ton! I think it’s a combo of leftover plywood and drywall. Bits of insulation continue to reign down. As usual my hair will be frosted with a film of long-dried white drywall mud. Oh why, oh why, did I let him put such large storage bins up there last year? This year, I swear I’m putting all into those small kitchen bags. Oh, heck that won’t work. The way my hubby usually stacks things, some of the bags will tinkle ominously when we take them down next year!

I remind him to take most of the clothes out of the closet below or they, too, will be covered with insulation. He grabs a couple of armfuls and unceremoniously throws them on the bed, some sans hangers. (Oh well, I can always rehang them later! I won’t even bother chastising; I just wanna get this over with.)

Voices from the peanut gallery: “Don’t forget My Xmas twain set, Gwpa. And my Talkin’ Sanna….and that big red St. Nicholas doll and….”

“Awright, awright; I’ll get everything!”

He crouches on the top step and swings, monkey-like up into the dark recesses above. (I didn’t think that, at his age, he was still fit enough to do that! What happened to our vow to buy a new ladder that is actually tall enough?)

“Joy, how many boxes are there?”

I dunno, but they should be numbered. Then there are three or four garbage bags holding the large, single items.

“Hon, climb up that ladder a few steps and reach this one down. It’s pretty heavy!”

Whuummppphh! Right in the face, but I manage to carefully heft most of the weight onto my shoulder and ease it down. Here comes a light one. The black garbage bag with the actual St. Nicholas stand-up doll I got at Reitman’s for over twenty bucks. That decoration was so expensive, in its day, that I’ve gotta recycle it for about twenty years to get my money’s worth!

“No, baby you can’t carry that out to the living room; it’s too heavy.” Too late. It’s already dragged, half torn open and contents streaming along the floor, T.G. there are no liquids-I hope!

To Grandkid #2: “Here, I’ll carry this smaller box out and you can open it, but don’t unpack it just yet. (famous last words) We’ll all unpack them together. And you kids get right back in here and sit on the carpet till we’re done.”

Too late.

“G’pa, is my old sled up there? You know the wooden one that weally steers if we tie a wope on it.”

“No, Bailey, I already told you; it’s out in the loft of the garden shed. But you don’t need it just yet; there isn’t even any snow!”

He streaks for the door. I grab him by the back of his shirt. (Luckily, I played catcher and shortstop on our school baseball team back in the Stone Ages.) “Wait a minute, wait a minute, we’ll go get your sled after I get this stuff down.”

“And Gpa, where are the pwetty lights we always put in the big hedge? And the wooden Santa you got from the dump and fixed up with goop?”

“They’re under the house; I’ll get them later, too.”

I check the first two boxes. T.G. I labelled them 1 of 4 or 2 of 4 so I know how many I packed (I hope!) Box # 3 comes barreling down. I’m starting to sweat.

“Hon, is there one more box? Yep, here it is. Crash, bump!”

“Any more garbage bags or ANYTHING marked Xmas?”

“Nope-just a bunch of big old framed prints. Remember that velvet one of the bullfighter your girlfriend, the budding artist, painted way back in the Seventies? Or was it the Sixties? It’s still here. And you’ve got about a zillion boxes of old income tax files up here. Do ya want any of them?”

“No-just the Xmas stuff.” (Yes, I blush to confess, being a little OC, I’ve kept all my tax returns from when I started teaching ‘way back in ’67!)

“Well, here’s one more suspicious-looking garbage bag, but nothing else labelled Xmas. I’m comin’ down…”

I grab the side of the rickety old ladder as it tips ominously from his weight.

“Come on down then and I’ll run out to the living room and do a quick check to see if we’ve got it all.”

The kids have already retreated to their rooms with their favorite contraband. Bailey is trying to hook up his plastic train set. Bobie is yelling at the talking Santa and giving him a frustrated shake: “Santa , yer supposed to be answewing my question; that’s the wong ansuh”.

Kurt, who never listens to me anyway, has closed the hatch and is taking the heavy towel out the front door to shake it. When my back is turned, he hauls out the ladder; I can hear his heavy breathing with the exertion.

I take a quick survey of the four boxes labelled and now dragged out to the couch and loveseat. Yay, my box labelled Table Linens. I’ll be able to put on my special green tartan cloth for Xmas day. Tree Decorations, yeah. Quick peek. My mother’s old tinkle bells from the 40’s — what’s left of them — the colored metal ones that actually tinkle. A box of gift wrap, Zowie! And one labelled Misc. Wall Decorations, Etc. I peek inside two of the black bags. Door wreaths-the blue one with the feathers and fake birds given to us by Karl’s mother — ‘Gweat Gwamma’ to the kids. It’s pretty awful, but we have to place it prominently on the front door or her feelings will be hurt.

Oh boy, five boxes of unused Xmas cards. I won’t have to buy any this year. Must have gone a bit crazy on half/price Boxing Day at the drugstore. And maybe I can give a couple of boxes away as ‘early’ Xmas gifts….And…

Uh, oh! Where’s the tinsel? And the angel hair? Angel hair’s impossible to buy nowadays; I think they banned it. Maybe little kids were eating it and it was poison! And the Santa and his Sleigh window clings Bobie and I always put on front windows. But, where oh where has the tinsel gone? It was that good old, fat kind; not this pathetic skinny stuff of Dollar Store ilk. And the silver and gold garlands. I usually put them in with the tinsel.

“Honey, we’ve got a problem. I think I might have mislabeled the boxes. There’s one missing. I hate to do this to you but…we’re gonna hafta go back into the attic.”

(I won’t repeat to you the words I next heard in reply….)