The Education of Tyler Prescott

Chapter 8 - Christmas

Christmas vacation arrived. Mom took me Christmas shopping in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which has a very cool shopping area. Of course, at one point I had to ask Mom to leave me, so I could buy her present. I also bought a present for Dad, and she and I together looked for a present for Cole. I finally settled on a collection of CDs which I knew he didn’t yet have, and I thought he would like.

That evening at the end of dinner, my dad said to me, “Tyler, your uncle Kyle is coming to visit the day after Christmas.” I was pleased. I liked my uncle Kyle. He lived in California and I hadn’t seen him since I was six or seven, but he always sent me gifts for my birthday and for Christmas. He was a high school English teacher and he always sent a book. It was he who got me reading The Chronicles of Narnia, Treasure Island, The Hobbit, and of course, Harry Potter.

Dad went on, “There’s something you should know about your uncle Kyle before he comes. He’s married.”

“Great!” I exclaimed. “What’s her name?”

“Well,” he said, “your uncle Kyle is gay, and he’s married to a man named Steve. Steve is coming with him, and they’ll both arrive the day after Christmas.”

“Okaaay,” I said slowly. “How do you guys feel about that?”

“Of course, we’ve known about Kyle for years, but we never thought until now that it was necessary for you to know,” my mother chimed in. “I’ve been fine with the gay thing. I’m really not sure how I feel about gay marriage, but they’re legally married so of course I’ll accept that, and I hope you will too.”

“I’m fine with gay marriage,” Dad added. “I know this is sudden, but how do you feel about it?”

After thinking for a moment, I said, “I’m cool with it. I’ve never met a married gay couple, but I’ve got no problem with it. I’m really happy that Uncle Kyle is coming, and I’m looking forward to meeting Steve.”

            That night in bed, I again wondered if I was gay, praying that I wasn’t.  I decided to ask Uncle Kyle about it.

On Christmas Eve, Cole and his parents came to our house for a Christmas Eve dinner. It was a happy affair. It turned out that both Cole and I still hung our stockings by our fireplaces, even though, of course, we had long since stopped believing in Santa Claus.

We both went to bed eagerly, anticipating the next day.

My family’s Christmas morning tradition was for Dad to go downstairs to the living room first, so he could light the Christmas tree. Then Mom and I went down. According to the tradition, we had not yet dressed but were in our nightclothes. Since I usually slept naked now, I had to dig out a pair of pajamas the night before. They were small for me. My arms and legs were sticking way out of them.  As we waited at the top of the stairs for Dad to call us, Mom asked, “Tyler, why didn’t you tell me you needed new PJs?” I mumbled some excuse and fortunately Dad called us down.

This part of the tradition was so I could open my stocking, which, as usual, contained a new handkerchief, chocolate kisses, a pair of socks, a little hand-held game, more chocolates, pencils and pens, and, way down in the toe, a fresh orange. As usual, we all chuckled about the Christmas when Dad had lighted a fire in the fireplace and all the chocolate had melted. Still according to tradition, when I finished, we all went upstairs, got dressed, and returned to the dining room for breakfast.

The new part of the tradition was that the two families had agreed that Cole’s family and mine would open our gifts together at Cole’s house. Neither Cole nor I realized at the time the reason for this, but we thought it would be fun, so after breakfast and cleaning up, we went over to Cole’s house, where Cole opened the door shouting, “Merry Christmas!” We all wished him and all his family a Merry Christmas before settling down in their living room. Cole’s sister, Elizabeth, was home from college. As the gift opening began, I could see that she was trying to decide whether she was one of the kids or one of the adults. For the most part, she opted to be one of the adults.

All the parents exchanged gifts for each other, and there were several new ski sweaters being put on. The parents all exclaimed over the gifts from their children, and then I handed Cole’s present to him. He unwrapped it eagerly and exclaimed over the CDs, saying that the ones he had heard of he had hoped to get for Christmas and the others he was sure he would like. At that point all the gifts under the tree had been passed out. Cole and I looked at each other wondering what was going on.

Cole’s Mom laughed and said to the other parents, “Don’t you think it’s time we told the boys about their gifts?” They all agreed, so she went on, “We all got together this Christmas and pooled our resources to buy your presents together.”

Cole’s dad had gone into his study and emerged with a box for Cole. Cole eagerly unwrapped it, revealing a new Xbox complete with a console and new games. Xboxes were the latest thing that year, and I felt a little pang of envy. Cole got up and went around to each of the adults, hugging them happily, and saying, “Thank you so much!”

Then Cole’s dad said, “Cole, I guess it’s time for you to give Tyler his gift from you.” Tyler stood up and ran to his room, returning with a package. Handing it to me, he said, “I wasn’t allowed to give this to you before because we didn’t want to spoil your surprise.”

He handed me a rather awkwardly wrapped package. I thanked him and removed the wrappings, revealing a pair of heavy socks and a pair of tinted goggles. I had no real idea what they were for, but I thanked him anyway.

Cole’s dad got up once again, went into his office, and returned with a package, which he suggested I unwrap. I did. Inside was a box containing new ski boots. I thanked him very much but said, “But I can’t ski.”

He laughed, went again to his office, and returned with a pair of skis. “Now you can learn,” he said smiling. Like Cole, I went around to all the adults, hugging and thanking them.

Cole’s mom said to me, “Now you can go skiing with us. Would tomorrow do?”

“Oh yes,” I exclaimed! “I can’t wait!” Turning to my parents I asked, “Is that okay with you? Or should I be at the house when Uncle Kyle arrives?”

“Well,” said Dad, “he won’t be arriving until the middle of the evening. I doubt very much that you’ll be skiing from midmorning until late at night.” We all laughed.

After all the wrappings had been picked up and the two mothers had put Christmas dinner on the table, we adjourned to a delicious meal with wonderful friends.

The next morning, Cole arrived at my mud room door just before 10 and said that they were ready to go. I had left my skis and poles at his house the night before, so I put on my ski boots over heavy socks, my parka, and my ski hat, stuffing my gloves and goggles into my pockets.  The Greenes’ car was already backed out into the road. Cole and I clambered into the backseat and we were off to the farm.

In the open fields, the reflection of the sun on the fresh, white snow was blinding, and I quickly understood the need for snow goggles.

When we arrived, Grandma Greene came out to welcome us. Cole’s father told her the route we would be taking as we put on our skis, our gloves, and our goggles. Turning to me he said, “Never go off skiing without a partner and your cell phone and without telling somebody where you’re going.”

With that we headed off with Cole’s dad first followed by me and Cole, side by side, his mother coming behind us. It was bitterly cold, and the snow crunched beneath our skis. Even with my goggles on, the snow was dazzling.

As we went, Cole gave me a few tips about cross-country skiing. I saw that there was a special binding on Cole’s left ski to accommodate his lift. He seemed to get along very well with it. We came to a little hill and Cole showed me how to go up it without sliding back and then from the top how to go back down. I managed to go up fairly easily, but I fell on the way down. We all laughed, and Cole’s dad said, “That’s pretty usual for your first time on skis.”

Soon we entered some woods, which had almost no undergrowth, so the skiing was quite easy. I took the next hill more easily, but the hill after that was a challenge because it turned to the right as it went down. Again, I fell, laughing. Cole and I went back up the hill while his parents waited, and then he showed me how to turn as I went down. I tried it again, and I fell again, but I clambered up the hill once more, and this time I got successfully to the bottom.

As we went on, I rather lost track of where we were. Occasionally we crossed tracks where people, presumably the Greenes, had skied before. On and on we skied, finally turning more towards our right and eventually emerging from the woods at the top of the Greenes’ farm. From there it was almost all a slow downhill slope to the farmhouse. Cole’s dad went first, and I watched as he zigzagged on the way down. Then his mom went. Cole followed her doing the same thing. I started down trying to stay in their tracks and actually made it to the farmhouse without falling and with my arms raised. It was then that I realized that nobody had taught me how to stop, so I skied straight into Cole’s dad! Laughing, he stopped me before I did any real damage.

We skied around to the back door of the farmhouse. Removing our skis and standing them upright in the snow, we walked into the mud room, where we took off our gloves, goggles, boots, and jackets. Cole’s mother said it was fine for us to go into the kitchen in our stocking feet, so we did.

Grandma Greene had hot cocoa waiting for us, which we drank as we thawed out. My face felt frozen below where my goggles had been. It was as though somebody had drawn a line across my face and below the line I froze. But I quickly warmed up and was soon comfortable again as we sat down to a lunch of hot onion soup, hamburgers, and hotdogs. For dessert we had hot pumpkin pie with optional vanilla ice cream. Even though we’d been cold, both Cole and I added the ice cream to our pies.

After our lunch settled a bit, we again donned our skiing clothes and skis, and, led by Cole’s dad, we set off in the opposite direction from the one we had taken in the morning. This route proved to be hillier, and I did fall a couple of times, but I also learned how to stop when I wanted to.          

Finally, around 3:30, as it was beginning to grow dark, we arrived back at the farmhouse, where we were again greeted with hot cocoa supplemented this time by newly baked chocolate chip cookies. By the time we left, we had all consumed at least two mugs of cocoa and the cookies had vanished.

On the way back to our houses, I told them all what a great time I had had, and I hoped we could go again soon. Cole’s dad replied that that would depend partly on his work and partly on the weather, but he was sure we could do it again soon.

Back at home, I thanked them again, took my skis and poles, and went into our mud room, where I stood the skis and the poles in the corner, hung up my goggles, placed my gloves on a bench to dry, hung up my jacket, and removed my ski boots. I went into the kitchen, where mother was baking something for dinner.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“Great! I had so much fun! I can’t wait to do it again! And I think I’m even beginning to get used to the cold.”

“Good,” she said and suggested that I go upstairs and take a nice hot shower. I removed my clothes on the second floor because I had no shower on the third floor. I climbed into the old tub and under the warm spray from the shower, luxuriating in the hot water for a long time before turning the water off, climbing out, and drying off.  Then I picked up my clothes and went upstairs naked. I had no problems with having my parents see me naked. After all we had established that years ago, and I knew that they had often seen me naked when I was born and in the first few years of my life. I dressed quickly, emailed Cole, telling him again what a wonderful time I had had and thanking him. Then I went downstairs to wait until Uncle Kyle and Steve arrived.