The Sun Journal asked readers and staffers to share some of their favorite Christmas memories and we’ll run them over the next five days. Today: Santa takes a nap, sneaking around, a little of the divine and, two words: frozen septic.

Jailhouse miracle

“No one can appreciate what God has done for me more than me. It was the year 1989, I was 20 years old, newly married and incarcerated at the Androscoggin County Jail while my wife gave birth to our first child. I can tell you from experience that spending time in jail during the holidays does not bring about a holly jolly Christmas spirit for most. However, this misfit received a miracle from his misery. In the old days the jail was always overcrowded and just days before Christmas the police busted a large number of Dominican drug dealers. The jail was in disarray and John Lebel, the jail’s administrator, sent me home for a week on a furlough (house arrest).

One minute I was serving a 7.5 month jail sentence and the next I was sitting by a Christmas tree with my wife and newborn. To this day I have a special memory of Mr. Lebel and I also carry a deep burden for those who are separated from their loved ones while being incarcerated. Sometimes good people find themselves in bad situations. Be gentle and offer hope this Christmas.”

Bro. Doug Taylor, The Jesus Party Kid’s Church, Lewiston

‘Anything is possible’

“I come from a large French Canadian family. We usually hired a hall to have our family Christmas party. Like most large families things get very hectic between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. The season was just around the corner, and due to military personnel and college students returning home for the holidays, we did not have a rental locked down. We ended up with a reservation early in January. That was the best we could do.

Once the details were coming into place, we had a discussion about Santa’s arrival. What to tell the little children about Santa’s visit after Dec. 25? One enterprising cousin thought we could pull it off by having the bearded one show up in his night gown and slippers. It went off without a hitch. The children bought the story of Santa being very busy and took some time off to nap. It’s the holidays — anything is possible if you just believe.”

Jeannine Pelletier, Auburn

Out in the cold

“When my husband Don and I decided to live year-round in our summer cabin on 15 acres in the woods, our biggest concern was water. We were pretty sure we could keep reasonably warm, but we had no way to get water, which we had been pumping from the lake.

Don came through with a unique system of old hot water heaters piped together. On above-freezing days we filled the tanks through a hole in the lake ice, then we pumped from them using an RV pump. Excessively frugal water use habits were required, but we got by.

However, we failed to devote the same attention to outgoing water. Almost immediately, the lines to the septic tank froze. Solid.

Don, a city boy, was freaked. Determined to thaw those lines, he started pouring RV antifreeze and hot water down the kitchen sink. As I headed off to my night shift at the Sun Journal on that Christmas Day, Don was still pouring.

His first call to me was joyous — the water was going through! Hours later he called back. The water was going out, he had discovered, but not to the septic. Instead the water had backed up out of the washing machine discharge, and we now had several inches of water and RV antifreeze on the floor of the laundry room shed.

Don spent the rest of that Christmas Day cleaning up the mess. But that didn’t bother him nearly as much as the knowledge that we would be spending the rest of the winter using a ‘luggable loo’ (aka, a bucket). Merry Christmas, indeed.”

Holly Rahmlow, SJ copy editor

Big birthday

“It wouldn’t be Christmas without a birthday! The birthday of Christ. No birth of Christ, no Christmas.”

Mae Donahue, Auburn

Sneaky Santas

“One of my favorite memories of Christmas from my childhood is when we would all get into the car on Christmas Eve to go to visit our grandparents on my dad’s side. My mom would say she forgot a dish or a gift and she and dad would have to go back into the house to retrieve the forgotten item. Being little kids, my sister and brother and I had no sense of time, therefore, we didn’t realize how long they were in the house to retrieve what they ‘forgot.’

Somehow, when we got home later on Christmas Eve, Santa had arrived and left us a pile of gifts! We always got to open our gifts on Christmas Eve so that we could go to our grandparents’ house on my mom’s side for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day. As we got older, we caught on but just played along rather than ruin it for my parents. Mom and Dad, you thought you were really sneaky, didn’t you!”

Tina (Cloutier) Harris, Auburn

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