Little Spies

It must have been a challenge for parents to hide Christmas presents. Some things were more difficult than others–for example new bicycles, sleds.

As adults, our children confessed to finding hidden Christmas presents, unwrapping, and carefully rewrapping them. My parents several decades before, had different options.

They hid presents at grandma and grandpa’s large, two-story house. The most sneaky, was when mom hid presents at one of her teacher friend’s homes, ten miles away.

Mother’s sense of humor came through one Christmas. Our family had a tradition of letting us kids break the wishbone of turkeys or chickens. We happened to raise chickens.

Gathering eggs from setting hens could be hazardous. They guarded their eggs, at all costs, and pecked anything that came their direction.

Freshly killed frying chickens were a real treat in summer. It was crowning point of a home-grown feast, presented when the local pastor came for a visit.

Wishbone breaking rules: The participant with the shortest piece, after both sides of the wishbone bent to the breaking point, was the loser. My older brother incessantly protested his lack of participation opportunities in the contests

It must have tried mother’s patience one too many times that summer. That Christmas, carefully wrapped, box within a box, within a box was a wishbone, marked with my older brother’s name. It was all in good fun, but my brother missed the point.

More Questions, Few Answers

Tropical storms have been named for decades. Many lived on in notoriety–Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Michael–just to name a few. When did winter storms take on names? What is the purpose of christening winter storms? Is it to sensationalize winter weather events?

The effect on the public is the same as for tropical storms. There are those that panic; raid the store shelves for food, snow shovels. Disaster preparedness advice for winter storms, is, to stay home, instead of evacuation. With extreme snowfall, you’re not going to go anywhere, anyway.

I won’t dignify the latest PC shenanigans, as they’ve been applied to two traditional Christmas songs: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The PC movement spun off its axis years ago.  The Rudolph saga represented bullying–which was inappropriate? No Virginia, “Rudolph,” was a story about the triumph of an underdog.

I shudder to think what could be said about Santa.  After all, he’s described as a bearded “Jolly Fat Man” with a workshop full of loyal elves; faithful spouse, Mrs. Claus, waiting for his return on Christmas Eve; a stable with sleigh, and eight reindeer capable of an annual flight around the world.

Neighborhood 12 Days Of Christmas

One free 2019 calendar
from a local merchant
Two telephone directories
that nobody wanted
Three hungry chickadees
Four front yard holes
from the utility company
where no holes used to be
Five overflowing trash bins
Six strings of colorful lights
on an artificial tree with
genuine, life-like pine boughs
Seven, white-tailed deer
emerged from the woods
Eight deflated snowmen
Arose magically at dusk
Nine feral cats yowled
somewhere in the night
Ten neighbors scowled
taxes were way too high
Eleven empty beer cans
gleamed from the roadside
Twelve discarded cardboard boxes
rain-soaked by curbside

 

That Same Seasonal Question

It’s amazing, the subject hasn’t been brought forth before now. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Most of the family was in attendance.

What did I want for Christmas? I’m seventy years old. Most of what I need, I already have. Those pie-in-the-sky things are no longer on my radar screen. How many widgets can one person accrue in a lifetime?

Selecting something is not an easy task. I don’t wish to burden others with too-expensive items. My philosophy is, that more reasonably priced items, (especially tools) won’t bother me as much should they break.

Seeing children, grandchildren doing well, and feeling good about themselves and their futures, is worth more than any present money could buy.

Flipping Out at Christmas (Santa’s Dead)

For some folks, Christmas causes depression–painful memories.  Days are shorter nights are longer.  First responders everywhere would tell you the Holidays can bring out bizarre behavior.

“Go to the base hotel,” Came the call.  “There’s a young man there causing a disturbance.”

It fell upon me as a young Airman working emergency room night shift to check out the situation.

The German ambulance driver and myself, restrained a young Air Force enlistee, who had apparently attacked a mechanical Santa Claus in the base hotel lobby.

He was sent away for a psych evaluation.  Problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption, loneliness, depression–from being away from home in a foreign country.

Fast forward forty-plus years.  A blonde, blue-eyed three-year old boy was crying.  The jovial, singing, mechanical Santa in the center, main hardware store aisle, frightened him.

“There, there–it’s all right,”  Consoled the little boy’s  gray-haired, well-intentioned grandfather.

“Look, it’s fake–it’s not real.  It’s not going to hurt you.”  Obviously, the grandfather was frustrated to his limit.  The crying continued unabated.

A few curious customers looked up from the nuts-and-bolts.  “Grandpa won’t let it hurt you. Now, stop crying!”

“See–I told you it’s not real!”  Grandpa’s foot connected with Santa’s head, sent it skittering across the polished concrete floor.  Santa’s disembodied head continued to regale with loud “Ho, Ho, Ho’s” and “Merry Christmases.”

The grandson was not to be consoled, until his mother arrived.  Store workers gathered Santa’s pitiful remains.  Hopefully, the grandson wasn’t permanently traumatized on the day Santa died.

EVERY PARLOR NEEDS AN UNCLE BUBBA

victorian 3

When Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Bubba came to visit, the women went to the kitchen and talked about families, childbirth, and homemaking.  Uncle Bubba went to the parlor with Dad.  My sister, Grace and I, wandered between both settings.

Our parlor was Uncle Bubba’s debate forum.  There, surrounded by lace curtains, furnishings frozen in time from the Victorian era, Uncle Bubba held forth–starting with an inquiry as to the availability of home-baked delicacies.

Uncle Bubba was a big, guffawing, hulk of a man.  Aunt Gertrude was a prim and proper wisp of a woman–quiet and reserved.  Her salt-and-pepper hair was usually fixed in a bun.  Unlike her husband, Aunt Gertrude always saw the good in everything.

“It was on Merv Griffin yesterday–people depressed at Christmas, after Christmas, during winter, spring, and every other time of year.  Christmas blues, Post-Holiday blues, the “Boo-Hoo” blues, the “You and Me” blues–who believes that crap?  It’s just another excuse for people to not work and get on the public dole,” Uncle Bubba said.

“What’s everybody looking at me for?  Pardon me for being slow on the uptake. I get it, now.  If it was any of your dad gum business–which it ain’t; I injured my back at the meat-packing plant.  That’s why I can’t work anymore.”

“Nobody’s singling you out,” Dad said defensively.  “Uncle Bubba, who’s Merv Griffin?” Grace asked.  Dad’s stern expression said, “keep quiet.” But Grace went on, anyway.  “Depression is a serious mental illness.  Sometimes people fall into dark holes and can’t climb out without help.”  Grace was like mom–spoke what was on her mind.

“Drug companies are always looking for ways to make more money–that’s all I was saying.  Pretty soon, everybody’s going to be on feel-good pills.  Well, whatever–it was on one of them talk shows.  I don’t even try to keep up.  They’re all the same.  I mean, what other job is there–where you get paid for talking, and don’t have to know anything?”

Dinner guests meant kid shenanigans at the table.  Grace would stick a spoon on her nose; then I’d eat peas with my knife, until Mom or Dad gave us the “stink eye.”  We knew when and where, to not cross the line.  Then, Uncle Bubba concealed amusement with fake coughing attacks, excused himself from the table.

Uncle Bubba’s passion and rage was everywhere.  His lack of discernible skills, made drudgery last as long as possible.  It didn’t stop him from offering opinions on just about everything.  At least, it seemed that way to me, back then.

“Cream rises to the top.  Dregs sink to the bottom.  It’s that simple.”  Was I cream or dregs?  I always thought Uncle Bubba was talking about me.  Especially on the day, my foot slipped off the clutch of his old GMC pickup.  I hit a pothole so hard, the old truck bounced–Uncle Bubba’s head banged into the roof.  “Damn it, Son–you gotta’ be more careful,” was all he had to say.

He was my father’s brother.  They couldn’t have been more different.  My father was quiet and reserved.  Uncle Bubba was seldom, if ever, quiet.  My father was of average height and weight with a full shock of hair.  Uncle Bubba was portly, and bald as a billiard ball.  Could there have been a mix-up at the hospital when he was born?

I loathed working for him.  He was obstinate, stubborn, opinionated–couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate.  The only emotions expressed were frustration and rage.  I could never live up to his expectations.  It seemed, as if there were always better ways to do everything.  However, Aunt Gertrude was nice.  How had she ended up with him?

Sometimes the silence between dramatic pauses was too much to bear.  Then, I’d talk about anything and everything, just to break the silence.  Uncle Bubba never said anything about me being a “motor mouth.”  On those days, maybe he just didn’t feel like talking?

“You look like a polecat–with that white stripe in your hair.”  Uncle Bubba said, once, on Halloween.  I don’t think he ever knew or cared–that I was supposed to be Eddie Munster.

“Son, do you know Jesus?”  Uncle Bubba asked one day, right out of the blue.  “Yes, I learned about Jesus in Mrs. Hampton’s Sunday school class,” I answered.  I’d never known Uncle Bubba to be a religious man.  He threw around a few “damns” and “hells,” but never took the Lord’s name in vain.

“I want you to promise me that you’ll ask Jesus to forgive your sins.”  I’d never seen him so sincere–so, I promised that I would.  Was it because he never had a son?  He never said those exact words, but I think it was true.

George Henry Walsh was Uncle Bubba’s real name.  He was Grandma Mary’s son by another man.  The man’s name was never mentioned.  People in those days didn’t talk about such things.  Grandpa Joe raised him as if he were his own flesh and blood.

Uncle Bubba passed away on a gray November day in 1999.  There it was–inscribed in polished granite, plain as day: “George Henry ‘Bubba’ Walsh, Beloved Adopted Son of Joseph M. & Mary R. Walsh.”