We were bored, as I remember it. It was Christmas 1972 and we had traveled to Bloomington, Minnesota to spend the holiday with my mother’s sister, Auntie Gladys, and her husband, Philip. It was the first time my parents or I had ever flown, so the first part of the trip was exciting. But as the days wore on, we found ourselves getting a bit restless. After all, Auntie Gladys never had children and we had already been to downtown Minneapolis where we threw our berets in the air just like Mary Tyler Moore. And, much to our amazement, we had helped her shop for and purchase a fur coat at Dayton’s.
I have no idea why Auntie referred to Santa Clause as “Uncle Ho Ho.” But we were all anxious for his visit. The grown-ups were mostly sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee and reminiscing about the good old days they all spent together in South Dakota. Which left 16-year-old me and my sister, a then-24-year-old unmarried school teacher, with not much to do.
As I recall it now, it was my sister’s idea. She had the red coat. And a white stocking cap, as well as a red and white scarf. From somewhere, she got the wacky idea of becoming “Uncle Ho Ho.” So we went down to Auntie’s basement after scouring around to find some cotton balls and tape. And we began taping the cotton to her face to make a beard. Then she snuck back upstairs and around to the front of the house. I was positioned in the living room with the camera when the doorbell rang and “Uncle Ho Ho” made “his” grand entrance.
“Uncle Ho Ho” brought gifts for everyone.
And we all giggled uncontrollably, especially my mother.
My sister is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a wild and crazy person. So her impersonation of “Uncle Ho Ho” was a one-time performance, never repeated. It still stands out in my memory, though, as one of the funniest evenings I ever spent with her. We had a lot of other fun times, but that was an outstanding Christmas because it was one of the few years that we celebrated at someone else’s home in a manner beyond our usual customs.