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Merry Christmas, Y’all

Decorations and softly glowing lights, friends and laughter, and anticipation of the magic of Christmas morning. Every December memories come flooding back. I loved slowly going through the Sears Wishbook and carefully writing down my hopes for gifts: a Slinky, Miss Piggy Baby, Monchichi, Cabbage Patch Kid, a Care Bear, a diary. 

As the holidays approached, our house transformed into something magical. Some of the decorations have long been given away and replaced, but when I think of Christmas growing up, I picture the tinsel garland my mom hung over the front hall mirror, the reindeer stuffies perched around our family room, and the red felt stockings hung on the fireplace. I remember a steady flow of visitors dropping in, the white noise of conversation, the small metal candy dishes filled to the brims. And of course, the glow of flickering flames during the Christmas Eve candlelight service, my favourite service of the year.

A week or so before Christmas every year a special package would arrive from Minnesota. We never knew for sure what the contents would be, but they always included Hershey Kisses (you couldn’t get them in Canada back then) and some fun homemade decoration with a newsy letter updating us on all things Minnesotan. You see, years before, a young couple with two small children decided to reach out to a Canadian family in need at the Mayo Clinic. The backstory is not my story to tell, but they (among others) provided support and stability to a young patient when her parents couldn’t be with her as she received treatment. A friendship that spanned years began.

Fast forward to my adulthood. Through social media I have met lovely people from all over. One Christmas not long ago a package arrived from Rochester, Minnesota from a family I had befriended (or they befriended me. Either way, we became friends). Inside was a bag of American Reece’s Peanut Butter bells and Rubik’s Cubes for our four boys. Seeing the return address made my eyes leak and my heart leap at the connection. But wait, there’s more. The sender worked for…the Mayo Clinic.

Your memories are different from mine. And the memories we create now with our children are different again, too. Our family has traditions now that weren’t possible when I was young. We send and receive cards and packages to and from all over the USA. We have received dozens of packages of Oreos and M&Ms from them, too. Each year since the “Rubik’s Cube Christmas” our list of “friends we have yet to meet in real life” grows. And it is amazing.

As we put up our tree this year I set aside some ornaments that I wanted to hang myself. They hold a special place in my heart as a representation of my internet people and a  reminder of how sad things can be turned into the fondest of memories.

Merry Christmas, friends.

*not pictured are the packages of Oreos and M&Ms because self-control is hard

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Boo

Whenever my twitter notifications start blowing up it can mean only one thing – someone is talking about scaring people. And that someone is usually me, Cindy Warren, or Jessica Buttram. Who knew that social media would let those of us with a passion for frightening friends and family celebrate this well-honed skill together? ONLINE? It’s a technological miracle, really.

There are some among us (Ricky Anderson) who feel it is cruel to hide under your child’s bed and jump out unexpectedly, or lurk around a corner as they exit the washroom unaware that you are about to pounce. To those people we say “it builds character.”

And so, in honour of Ricky and Halloween we will share our favourite frightening stories with you, kind readers.

Be afraid

Let us begin with Scream Queen, Jessica.

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There’s something so rewarding about crouching in the dark lying in wait so long your muscles start to cramp and you suddenly have to pee like SO BAD. I never have to pee as urgently as I do about ten seconds into hiding.

My son is my favorite to scare. He’s ten now, and naturally skeptical. My daughter, age four and a total wimp, just cries when I, or her brother, try to scare her. Just the other day when I picked her up from preschool, I hid in the girls’ bathroom right outside her classroom while she grabbed her stuff from her cubby, and before I could even get a good crouch going she ran out into the hallway in hysterics. I’m hopeful she’ll outgrow that reaction, but meanwhile, scaring my daughter makes me feel like the terrible parent I am for hiding in the dark peeing myself.

And my husband is virtually unscareable. He’s the worst. The one time I can remember actually successfully scaring him, he just sat up a little and said, “you scared me,” so the payoff isn’t even worth it.

But my son is a FANTASTIC mark. His reactions are emotional GOLD. He is the reason just last week I crouched behind his dirty, smelly basket of laundry for like, TEN MINUTES waiting. He’s the reason I’ve bought a pack of adult diapers. (Just kidding.)

I’ve tried to get it on video for this post, but the lighting is always pretty bad, and the video always turns out shaky from trying not to pee. So here’s just a little taste of the joy I experience.

Again, he is ten, skeptical, and alllllll prepubescent boy. Timing is EV-ER-Y-THING with his scares. It has to be in a dark or dimly lit room, and I have to space them out just right so he doesn’t expect them.

Frightened rage looks a bit like this.

Frightened rage looks a bit like this.

I realize everyone responds to fear differently. Like, I squeal and literally jump in the air. My daughter has an emotional breakdown. My husband shatters my dreams of being a professional scarer.

My son, however, screams and tenses up with a pure and unapologetic RAGE. The fury that flashes across his little face is AMAZING. I have no doubt he is more Fight than Flight, and if he were to ever TRULY believe there was a monster in his closet, I guarantee he would instinctively try to karate kick it before running away. In the split second before he realizes it’s just his sweet mother lurching out at him, I imagine his thoughts going, “I AM SO TERRIFIED AND THAT MAKES ME SO ANGRY oh wait, —it’s just you, that was hilarious, let’s do it to Dad.”

I look at it as reward for all the thankless jobs that come with parenting.

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Dear readers, Jessica is right that scaring husbands is challenging, but with commitment and stealth it can be done. Here’s my story.

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When I go for the scare, I don’t shy away from the long game. I’ve been known to fall asleep in my hiding spot on more than one occasion. Limbs going numb will not deter me. I will lie in wait with the patience of Job.

Keep looking, you'll see it in a second.

Keep looking, you’ll see it in a second.

One evening, Bearded Husband came home late from his baseball game and clearly assumed I was already in bed. I heard him unlock the front door and panicked at all the possibilities at my disposal. Do I lie on the floor and play dead? Sit on the couch and silently turn the light on? SO MANY OPTIONS. My indecisiveness forced my hand – I lurked in the living room watching him unpack his gear hoping he would glance over and then be terrified by my silent presence.

No. He was oblivious. So I did the obvious thing and just casually followed him into the kitchen and whispered, “how was your game?”

Turns out he has the same terrified range as Buttram’s son, and IT WAS AMAZING. His revenge was swift, but it was completely worth it. And rest assured, he had it coming.

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This tribute is wrapped up with perhaps the best spontaneous scaring I have heard and I tip my hat to the one and only, Cindy Warren. I wish she lived closer so I could shake her hand.

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If you can tour a church building at 9:00 PM with friends, and NOT take advantage of the opportunity to scare said friends, then we need to have a conversation about missed opportunities. My church was given a building this year, completely free of charge. One night, before it was officially ours, the pastor took several of us on a tour of the building.

Churches are not creepy after dark. Not at all.

As we walked around in the dark (why did we not have lights on- I really couldn’t tell you), I wandered off on my own and happened upon the nursery before the others did. There it was in all its glory, a terrifying room full of cribs, with the light from the moon (or maybe from street lights- who can say) coming through the window.

So I did what any good person would do. I sat in the lone rocking chair and slowly rocked while staring at the door looking like the ghost of nursery workers past. I heard the lighthearted discussion as my friends got closer.

“What’s this room? Ohhhh, it’s the nursery. That’s so creepy…I don’t wanna go in…”

*unsuspecting friends slowly push door open*

They scanned the dark room from right to left, and landed on the moving rocking chair lastly. There was screaming and genuine fear. It was glorious.

Y’all- greater joy hath no me than this: to watch my friends fight each other to get out the door the quickest.

My only regret is that I didn’t video their reactions…and that they didn’t swear. A swear is the only thing that would’ve made it better.

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We have one year, ladies – to accomplish the ultimate scare, preferably on video.