Ah, Christmas! The time of year when families gather together for fun, fellowship, food, and--fights. Just kidding. Although in our home, as in many others, the holidays can bring about their own unique brand of anxiety and tension.

When the desire for a Norman Rockwell-style Christmas hits the wall with restrictions of time, money, energy and patience, not-so-good things can happen. And they quite often did in our home. How three little girls in such a dysfunctional environment survived with their love of Christmas intact, I'll never know.

Speaking of my siblings, I love them dearly, but I do remember one Christmas in particular when we were little, that sibling rivalry took a very ugly, yet legendarily funny turn!

We were living in Anaconda, Montana. I was seven years old, my sister Carmela was nine and younger sister Carolyn was five.

Carmela is a highly intelligent and extremely emotional perfectionist, which always makes life difficult for her, and at times, for others. She is also a snoop, and whether it is Christmas or Easter, a birthday or planned surprise, she simply cannot reign in her desire to know and take control.

Carolyn and I were mere pawns in her Machiavellian plans to take over the world when we were kids. At least as far as that Christmas went.

We came into the living room Christmas morning; the sun was streaming in the picture window illuminating all kinds of wonderful gifts from Santa. An Italian Puppetrina doll, a Chatty Brother doll, (Chatty Cathy’s sibling), and a beautiful teddy bear with slippers on his feet that would fit his new owner were among the wondrous items.

Just as my younger sister and I were getting excited about which gifts would be ours, Carmela announced that she had it on good authority that all of them were for her!

Imagine the surprise and devastation that Carolyn and I suffered through for almost an hour. What infractions had we committed? What laws of society might we have broken to receive absolutely nothing from Santa? Who could we appeal this verdict to?

Finally, Mom arose from her long winter's nap, no doubt awakened by the sound of crying from the living room. Unbelievably, Mom knew exactly what Santa had brought for each of us! She was smart like that. Apparently, her intel was more accurate than my sister. Thank goodness.

Christmas crisis averted. That year, anyhow.