Every family has their little holiday traditions. We certainly had plenty—Dad would read A Christmas Carol aloud to us kids, as a result of which I had big chunks of it memorized by the time I was in high school. We all worked together under his direction to make platters of egg rolls to give as gifts—no Chinese restaurant can ever come close to my dad’s egg rolls. My mother made sausage rolls. We usually cut the tree ourselves, often at the last minute. We kids made a stocking for Mom and Dad, and when we woke up before dawn on Christmas, there would be a bulging kneesock by each of our beds, filled with chocolate coins and assorted little items and—always—a tangerine and a quarter in the toe.
According to the note on the flyleaf, this little book made its first appearance in our family on Christmas 1978. My mother undoubtedly found it either at a yard sale or at our favorite store, the St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Shop, which means she probably paid 19 cents for it.
Each of the stories in this book starts out as your standard, heart-warming Christmas story of magic and good deeds, then takes a sharp U-turn at the end, winding up with exploding lightbulbs, adulterous elves, and Rudolph’s flabby laurels. Unlike almost every other book put out by a greeting card company, it actually is hilarious, and we quickly formed the custom of reading the stories aloud as a family. In later years, we took to ordering Chinese food on Christmas Eve for a hassle-free dinner. After dinner we would open the fortune cookies and read the fortunes aloud, adding the words “in bed” after each one. Then we would repair to the living room for tea and cookies and the oral reading of Topsy-Turvy Tales. Needless to say, this was always a big hit with guests.
My mother died in November 2003, after a short, sharp illness. I stayed with my father for a few weeks after she died, and we kids decided that we would have one last Christmas in the old house. Because Mom went so quickly, we didn’t know where she stashed things, and despite frantic searches all over the house, we couldn’t locate the book in time.
Over the next year, my sister combed the internet looking for a copy of this book. Her search was hampered by the fact that no one could remember the exact title; we had always simply referred to it as “Ed the Light Bulb,” after the protagonist of one of the stories. Eventually she did find our physical copy, in a box of wrapping paper under the bed in the spare room, and the Christmas tradition was restored, although now that we all celebrate the holiday at our own houses, the group reading aspect is gone.
Before writing this post, I went online and did searches on the full title and the author’s name. You can’t find this book for love nor money; it’s simply not for sale anywhere on the internet. And that’s a shame, because it really is a great little book. That Ted Bick, he’s a genius. Enjoy!