Between the Lines: How The Grinch Stole The Night Before Christmas

Tim Kelly
Tim Kelly

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…

What? Yes, son, I am reading that book. Why? Is that a problem? Huh? Yes, I know the grandkids have heard it read aloud before. So what? You also put up a Christmas tree every year, doncha? And the kids have watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” before, haven’t they?

Hold on a second, kids. Your dad seems determined to interrupt this time-honored family Christmas tradition…

What? Who said it’s a time-honored family tradition? Oh, I dunno, me and tens of millions of other grandfathers over close to two centuries. Yes, I remember, you never liked the book, which baffles me to this day.

How could anyone…? Ok, Ok, you just didn’t. You made that abundantly clear during your snotty little bastard phase.

I’m sorry, Honey! Yes, Papa did say a bad word and I should say sorry to your daddy.

I apologize, you snotty little bastard.

Uh, I was just telling your daddy I shouldn’t have said that word. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! No need to tell Nana!

If it’s OK with you, son, I’d like to get back to the book before your kids go to bed. Of course they’re all buzzed. How easy was it for you to fall asleep on Christmas Eve? You think nobody noticed you guzzling Coke and stuffing your little freckled face with chocolate at your grandma’s house?

Now, where was I? Right, the first flippin line. No, Sweetheart, that’s not a bad word.

“A Visit from St. Nicholas” take two.

Yes, son, that is the correct name. I know the cover of this book says, “The Night Before Christmas,” but that’s just for marketing purposes, since many people, like you, don’t know better.

Uh, yes, Honey? Sure you can go to the bathroom. Maybe your daddy can go with you. You don’t need him. I know! You’re a very big girl! Yes, Papa will stay right here.

So, son-o-mine, why are you whizzing all over my – relax, she’s still in the bathroom and your boy seems totally fascinated by his feet – my Christmas Eve granddad performance? Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to read these to them?

Seriously? You’re trying to save me from having my feelings hurt? By my own grandkids? On Christmas Eve? How many shots of whatever it is you’re drinking have you been, um, drinking?

You’re gonna hafta say that again. Your kids have no interest in this? C’mon, really? Then why did they happily squeeze together in the recliner as soon as I pulled out the book? To be polite? Wow, they really do take after their mom, don’t they?

Of course I thought that was funny. Look, it’s not that long a read and… Huh? Fine, I’ve been warned, whatever that means.

Hi, Honey! Say again? You didn’t have to go to bathroom after all. That’s fine.

What is that look supposed to be, son?

Anyway, where were we? Right.

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Was the mouse cooking? I don’t understand, Sweetheart.

I see. No, stirring here means moving around, not stirring like in making soup, Ok?

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

No, not like mommy’s stockings. It means socks. So why doesn’t it say socks? Aren’t you a bright little girl! Well, this is a very old story, and when it was written people said stockings when they meant socks.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Who’s St. Nicholas? Hoo boy. Well, for now let’s just say that’s another name for Santa Claus. Right! Like Chris Cringle! Very Good! You know, in England he’s known as Father Christmas, and in France…

Yes, son, I see her yawning. I know its past their bedtime. Didn’t you just say they were both buzzed? Or are you the one buzzed? You know, you and your appletinis. Or is it cosmos?

Girly drinks? Now I didn’t say that, did I? I’m sure Clint Eastwood and John Wayne guzzled ‘em by the gallon.

No, I would not like “a nice Hawaiian Punch.” Wait, how do you know about that? Those commercials aired long before you were…

What? No, Sweetie, daddy and I are not fighting, are we, son?

The book? Yes, of course.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

And Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap…

Sugarplums? Um, that’s a good question. But Papa doesn’t really know.

How about we ask your daddy to look it up on his phone while we continue with the book? Waddaya mean you’ve got no service here? Just a little while ago you checked the Rangers’ score and had plenty of… I get it. Real funny. I’m trying to establish a family holiday tradition and you’re…

No, Honey, daddy and I are still not fighting. Are we, daddy?

You’re still a snotty little bastard.

Your dad says I need to speed it up a bit. Fine. Ah, long winter’s nap. Arose such a clatter. Away to the window. Moon on the snow. What should appear. Ah, here we go.

… a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew it a moment it must be St. Nick.

You don’t have to put your hand up, Honey. Nick is short for Nicholas.

That’s not it? You have to go to the bathroom. Are you sure? Ok, go ahead.

Wait, son, I’m not going to agree that your kids aren’t interested in this little slice of Christmas lore. Your daughter is just too bright and inquisitive, is all. And your son…

Yes, Sweetie? You want another book. That’s Ok. Got one right here. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Ready?

Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot.

But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now please…

Hey, where are you two going?

“Rudolph” is on? For real? Save me a seat on the couch, Ok?

What? No, son, I’m not conceding anything. These books are holiday classics beloved by children everywhere, even those born into a digital world. However, nothing can compete with “Rudolph” on TV, especially on a high def screen the size of a barn door.

Now, let me ask you a question. Can you still whip up some appletinis? Yeah, I know what I said, but, well, when in Rome… Or in this case, the North Pole.

And could you bring them in the…? Hey! Who took my seat? I guest the Abominable Snow Grandfather will just have to force his way in! ARRRRRRRRR!

Yes, Sweetie, I’m a nice monster. Right, son?

RIGHT, SON?

No, Honey, we’re not fighting. Not until Papa gets his drink.


Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.

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