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Excerpt: Maria Ruiz

Maria Ruiz is a writer living in Sacramento, CA after spending ten years traveling around the world and living in Mexico for six years. She was the moderator of the Puerto Vallarta Writer’s Group, and is currently working on a collection of short stories about the people and troubles she has encountered in her seventy years. She chaired the committee that produced an Anthology of short stories written by the members of the PVWG. Coast Lines Short Stories is available at Amazon and Amazon Kindle. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever!, is the memoir of a precocious army brat dragged from Pasadena to a war ravaged Europe, and on to the tender mercies of Junction City, Kansas by her father, a military aide to General Eisenhower.Unknown

Christmas was coming and I was trying to be as good as any four-year-old girl could be. I helped set the table, didn’t talk too much, tried to help my sister Edie and my cousins. A week before Christmas Mom, Grandpa, Edie, and I walked to the corner of Allen Avenue, turned and walked up Colorado Boulevard to the Christmas tree lot. The smell was wonderful. We walked up and down rows of lovely green trees until Mom and Grandpa found one they liked. Edie and I looked at all the trees; each seemed as good as all the others. Grandpa paid the man for the tree and gave him our address.

Early the next morning he arrived. Grandpa and Mom moved the furniture around the living room, placing the tree in the corner. We all stood back and admired it as its fresh scent filled all the rooms. Grandpa found a box of lights in the garage. Dull glass bulbs all twisted in a mess of wire. First, we had to pull the wires straight, and I helped Mom and my Aunt unwind the ball. One of the bulbs was broken and pieces of red glass lay in the bottom of the box. Mom brought out a piece of cut potato, gently pushed it down over the now broken and jagged pieces of bulb that remained in the socket, and turned; it slowly unscrewed and came out.

After replacing the bulb with a shiny new one, she plugged the wires into the wall. No lights! Aunt, Mom, and I tried to screw in each bulb tightly and still no lights. New ones were brought out and one by one, the old ones were replaced, and the wire was plugged in again. Bright Christmas lights lit up the room.

After stringing the lights on the tree, everyone helped hang the shiny ornaments. Aunt, Mom and Grandpa had to hang them on the highest part, finally adding the bright angel on top. Our Christmas tree looked like magic in the small room.

A few nights later Mom and Grandpa took Edie and me on a bus ride downtown to see the windows. We walked past store windows filled with bright and beautiful gifts. At Macy’s, Mom whispered to me that she needed to go in by herself to get something for Grandpa. She left us standing outside in front of the big store windows, Grandpa holding Edie by one hand and me by the other.

We looked in the first big window. It was filled with dolls and Teddy bears. The dolls were wearing velvet coats with white fur collars and muffs, glass eyes shiny in the light. A big Teddy bear pushed a baby carriage with a tiny Teddy bear for a baby. In the front of the window stood a little ironing board with a small iron. Next to it, a table was set with little play dishes and two dolls pretending to be having tea. Some of the dolls moved their arms a little and the baby carriage moved back and forth. “Jingle Bells” came from the window.

We moved to the next window where a group of choir dressed dolls sang “Silent Night.” Mouths moved and the group of dolls seemed to move from side to side. Snowflakes fell on their shoulders.

The third window was the best. A large Santa was stepping into his carriage and his reindeer seemed ready to fly. In the carriage was a big bag filled with toys; a football, a bat, a catcher’s mitt, a real Red Ryder BB gun, and the handlebars of a scooter sticking out. Santa himself was standing on top of a little mountain covered with snow. At the foot of the mountain was a little tiny town.

Houses, some with lights in the windows, looked out on a miniature street with little trees and cars. Down one street was a small white church with a school bus parked in front. From the back of the mountain, a train tooted and came out on a shiny set of tracks. It rode around the town, over a bridge, under a tunnel, made a loop, and climbed back up behind the mountain. We watched in wonder as the little train re-appeared again and again.

“How does it move?” I asked Grandpa

“By electricity.” He answered. “Look and you can see little people inside.”

I looked and did see little people sitting in the train. The engine tooted and smoke came out of the top. After the car with the people, there was a car with open sides that had cows and sheep inside.

“Here comes Santa Claus, Here comes Santa Claus” came from the window. The little mountain, the little town with trees, houses, and streetlights; oh it was magic. We were glued to that window and didn’t even notice Mom until she spoke to us.

At the next store we entered, there was a place to visit Santa. Boys and girls stood in line holding their Mom’s hands. We waited our turn. Finally, Santa reached out for Edie, who screamed and grabbed Mom by the leg. Santa then waved to me. I sat on his lap and noticed that his beard was hooked on by elastic. Maybe he was only Santa’s helper. He asked me what I wanted and I told him. Waving my arms around, I explained about the little mountain, the town, the lights, and the train. Santa’s helper gave me a candy cane and I walked out with Mom carrying Edie.

On the way home in the bus Mom asked us what we wanted Santa Claus to bring us on Christmas. Edie said a doll with yellow hair. I said a toy train and a little town. Grandpa and Mom smiled.

On Christmas morning, I woke up early and poked Edie until she was awake. We dressed and remembered to brush our teeth before we bounced into Mom’s room. We peeked into the living room as we waited for her to dress. Grandpa came out in his pajamas and a robe. The dish with the “Thank You cookies” was empty and the glass of milk was gone. Under the tree, boxes were piled around just waiting for us to rip into them.

We had to wait for my Aunt and cousins and while we did, I pushed the boxes back and forth looking for the names written on little white cards attached to the ribbons. There it was; a big box with my name on it.

Finally, Aunt, Michael, and Lois came in and Grandpa began to pass out the boxes. A little box for Lois, a bigger box for Mom, and another one for Edie. My heart was pounding with excitement.

“Mary” he said as he passed the big box to me.

I ripped the ribbon off and tore at the paper. I saw a doll face appear on the box.

No! Santa must have put the train set in a doll box by accident.

I pulled the rest of the paper off and ripped at the box, tearing it across the doll face, but inside there was just a big doll, dark curls lying on her white fur collar and hands in a fur muff. I looked up at Mom and started crying.

“Santa didn’t get it right.” I cried. “I asked for a train set.”

Mom just looked at me and said “Train sets are for boys. Girls get dolls.”

I jumped up and threw the doll down as I screamed, “Santa is wrong. I wanted the train, not a doll. Santa must be stupid.”

I ran to my bedroom and cried into the pillow. Mom came in with the doll and tried to get me to look at how beautiful she was. Finally, she went back to the living room where everyone was screaming with delight at their gifts.

I sat up and wiped my eyes. There was the horrid doll, lying on my bed. I never wanted to see it again. I pulled it up by the arm and marched into the bathroom. Shoving the doll down into the toilet, I tried to flush it away. It was too big and wouldn’t go down. Frustrated and angry, I shoved the now dripping doll into the trashcan and ran outside.

Climbing up the big tree next door, I finally stopped crying.

Somehow being good hadn’t worked. Maybe it was Santa’s helper. He hadn’t told Santa. I would try even harder next year. I would write to Santa myself and not ask any stupid helper.

Santa would surely bring me a train set then.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1475041748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1475041743

Book info from


One Comment on “Excerpt: Maria Ruiz”

  1. Carlene A. Walker says:

    That darned Santa! Only Maria could take herself back to childhood like that. I can almost smell that tree. I really can see how she felt as a child.

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