Stories Podcast reading: The Year Christmas Got Cancelled

This audio file is hosted on Podbean

To get everyone into the holiday spirits for some merriment and laughter despite COVID-19 still lingering about, here is a podcast of me reading a story about mom cancelling Christmas after finding a severed Barbie doll head. I had originally written it for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017. Text of the story is re-posted below, enjoy!

The Year Christmas Got Cancelled

One year, a fake auntie (not blood related) gave my sister and I a real Barbie doll to share. We never had a real Barbie before because they cost too much. We only got the Bargain Harold’s or Woolco generic dolls. I remember not wanting to play with Barbie anyways because I would rather play with Transformers, which was more interesting. 

A few days before Christmas, a blood curdling scream went through the house. My seven year old sister and I were doing extra Kumon math exercises without any joy. We shrugged and continued our grueling work. Mom screamed a lot; she could be either yelling on the phone at someone or mad about something on tv. Our tiny bodies tensed when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, holding a severed Barbie head by its long blonde hair.

“Who did this?” Mom demanded in her loud voice in Cantonese. Her giant afro perm bobbed up and down, as she stormed into the room and flickered a severed Barbie head by it’s long blonde hair in our faces. She was a tiny woman, but had enough power to topple over any mountain or rip apart any savage animal in our eyes.

Being the wiser ten year old, I shook my head and spoke calmly. “I don’t know mommy.”

My sister was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds of silence, parroted me in a squeaky voice, “I don’t know!”

Both of us looked around for our younger brother who was five. He was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, he was the golden child and could do no wrong.

“Christmas is cancelled! No more presents! You are naughty children and presents should go to good children!” My mother was livid that no one was owning up to destroying an expensive doll. We rarely got any toys from our parents because there was no extra money in an immigrant family home in which chocolate milk was considered a luxury. 

I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. A few years ago my mother had suddenly told me that Santa didn’t exist, but my cynical seven year old self was already aware of this. I was more upset then that my shrine to Jesus had been ignored by everyone and became an atheist soon after. As the first child, I was continuously being experimented on by my parents.about:blankREPORT THIS AD

“But we don’t get presents from you anyways,” my sister smirked.

“I’m talking about all presents! Even from other people! You are all bad children!”

“No, mommy! I want presents from the uncles and aunties and Santa!” My sister started wailing and crying.

Mother looked happy that one child had reacted to her stern lecturing. “There is no Santa! Hahaha! Now who took apart this Barbie?”

“I don’t know,” I said in an exasperated tone.

My mother shot daggers in my direction as she glared at me.

“It wasn’t me!” My sister sobbed, her chubby cheeks becoming red and streaked with tears.

“No one is confessing? No more Christmas!” My mother stormed off to dispose of the doll head.

“What do we do now? What did she mean that there’s no Santa?” My sister asked me.

I shrugged. “It’s ok, she’ll calm down and change her mind. I’m sorry, the whole Santa thing was really mom and dad all along.”

“Oh,” my sister said as she wiped her tears. “No wonder Santa always gave us such crappy presents.”

As with many things, I was wrong about mom changing her mind about un-cancelling Christmas. I also never found out who tore off the doll head. In the following years, any presents given to us were never seen by us. It’s presumed that they were re-gifted to another child who deserved presents. 

Photo by Jameel Hassan on

Although we didn’t get presents at Christmas, we still got red pockets (cash) at Chinese New Year, birthdays and whenever we passed any big tests. Admittedly all the red pockets went into our bank account which we later learned was paying for household expenses. 

There is a Chinese idiom about daughters: “Daughters are water poured out of the family after they get married.”

After I started dating a Caucasian Canadian guy in university, my Christmases were spent with his family. We eventually married as well and he was relieved that there were no fights about splitting up the Christmas holidays since my family didn’t celebrate it.

My sister and I have children now and they have great Christmases compared to our childhoods. Maybe we are trying too hard to compensate for the fact that we didn’t celebrate it or have any toys and want our kids to have everything. I hope that the kids don’t end up being spoiled brats! They will sigh as I tell them this story about Christmas being cancelled and probably won’t believe me since grandma always brings them presents!


My Father's Nightmare…Is What I Am Now!

There is an excellent play at Soulpepper Theatre (in Toronto’s Distillery District) on at the moment called Kim’s Convenience, which is about a Korean family and their first generation Westernized children.  Basically, the father has high hopes for his children and he also wants one of the kids to continue running the family business, a convenience store.  This is my second time watching and the acting was just as wonderful as the first time.  I don’t want to give away the plot, but it there are a few twists and hilarious lines (“Only skinny Asian is the gay.  That’s rule.”  “Fat guy is black, brown shoes, that’s no steal.  That’s cancel out combo!”)  To my surprise, before walking out of the venue, staff were selling books of script.  I bought a copy to read as some of the dialogue was in Korean and while it was easy to imagine what the characters were saying, it is great to finally solve the mystery of what was actually being said.

Kim's Convenience Cast Picture
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee & Grace Lynn Kung. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

Anyhow, the play got me thinking about my own father and how disappointed he has been in me.  His dream was that I would be a professional of some sort, such as a doctor, lawyer or accountant and I am none of those things.  I think I have a fairly good job, but it is difficult for me to explain what I do as I don’t fit into any standard job definition of what he understands.  Wanting to write or paint or do anything creative is viewed as a luxury.  This is not surprising, as he spends a lot of time working and any arts stuff is frivolous as free time should be spent fixing the house, babysitting the grandchildren, driving relatives to multiple grocery stores, etc.  I’m also sure that immigrating to any country is difficult, as well as raising a generation of kids who are growing up in an environment the parents didn’t grow up in.  On a recent multi-family road trip with some teenagers and their parents, I remember the teenagers complaining that their parents didn’t understand them.  I told them that quite frankly, their parents will probably never understand them as we all grew up in different countries and are exposed to so many different things culturally.  Maybe I sounded like an old person, but I told them that they should think from their parent’s point of view sometimes as things are difficult for them as well and to respect the elders regardless.  My advice was ignored as they started to yell rudely at their mother to pack all the luggage and to remember the cell phone power cords.

My father once said to me that I should specialize in something and do one thing very well in my career…or else I would know a bit of everything and not be good in anything!  Over time, the latter has happened as I haven’t been focused on just doing one thing.  I think I have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or some sort of impatient person syndrome as I get bored with things over time easily and I like having the adrenaline rush of trying or doing new things.  However, I have been fortunate to also not be afraid to jump at opportunities when I see them, so I have worked on some incredible projects.  I’m sure he is thinking about job stability, etc, but I think in my generation, one doesn’t really have job stability anymore.   As I keep looking ahead all the time for new/exciting prospects, having a bit of ADD is perhaps an advantage as you can gain skills in lots of stuff and apply them to roles not necessarily in your field.  Here’s hoping that some of the selling skills I have learned in side marketing jobs will help me with this book stuff!