Archived Story

Christmas greetings in July

Published 10:13am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Column: Tales From Exit 22

“Next year, I’m doing this in July!”

That’s what I grumbled last December as I prepared Christmas cards for mailing.

I love Christmas and everything it involves. However, I run short of time during the Yuletide season. Christmas is a time when many voices plead, “Give me patience and give it to me now!”

“Next year, I’m doing this in July!”

My wife, The Queen B, might have heard me. She might not have. She has developed selective hearing.

My memory strayed to my December declaration after I’d visited with a white-topped fellow while I waited to go on stage at the Winnebago-Itasca Travelers annual rally. It was a day so hot that I rejoiced that I wasn’t a lobster. A lobster doesn’t feel the heat until it’s too late.

The man and I conversed as light background noise to a vendor talking loudly on a cellphone with a “Who Let the Dogs Out?” ringtone. The man told me he was a truck driver who spends his life trying to stay awake in comfortable tractor seats and trying to fall asleep in uncomfortable beds in motels.

He’d just finished breakfast. He woke up hungry, but eating made him tired. He offered me a cup of hot coffee from a battered thermos. I don’t drink coffee, but I find the smell of freshly brewed java tempting and I’m convinced that hot drinks cool me on sweltering days. He showed me a blurry tattoo of what I think was a dancing girl.

He told me that he had gained enough weight since he’d gotten that tattoo after being over-served while on shore leave in the Navy that the inked item now looked out of focus. He said that when he was a boy, his family baled hay and straw. Each year, his father bought a cheap straw hat. When the last bale of the season was in the baler, his father threw the straw hat into the machine.

That was a goofy thing to do, but understandable. We’re humans. We’re goofy. It’s a preexisting condition.

The story of his father’s idiosyncrasy encouraged me to mail this year’s Christmas greetings in July. No, my calendar was not broken nor did I purchase it at Emil’s Discount Calendars Emporium, the “Home of the short year.”

I sent the Christmas salutations when the temperature was in the 90s. I contemplated Christmas while global warming gave me a global hotfoot. It was a day as humid as a locker room, so at least it was a wet heat.

I didn’t send the Christmas good wishes early because I’m a spendthrift worried about a postal rate increase. I used forever stamps. Thanks to forever stamps, I struggle to remember what a first-class stamp costs.

Though I’m not trying to save on postage costs, I admit to having frugal tendencies. I grew up in a family that used catalogs for toilet paper. Our toilet paper didn’t come on a roll, but it did have page numbers. We were leaders in the province of recycling.

I didn’t mail Christmas greetings in July in order to be different. I’m already that. In my home, normal is a setting on the washing machine. If I wanted to be different, I’d wear a necktie. I was a pallbearer not long ago, and I was the only one in the phalanx who wore a necktie.

My father was unable to enter a church unless he wore a suit and tie. When I was a boy, clerks and teachers donned ties. I saw a photograph of a crowd at Wrigley Field in Chicago recently. It must have been from the 1930s or 1940s. Several things struck me about the image. The fans were almost all men, and most of them sported hats and neckties. The lids were mostly straw hats and fedoras. I didn’t see many bowlers. I suppose everyone wearing that particular kind of hat was in a bowling alley.

There are many head coverings evident at a ballgame today — the majority are baseball caps or gimme caps. Nearly all the fans in the aged photo were wearing neckties. Take a gander at baseball game today, and you’ll see that neckties are scarce. Wear a necktie and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb or at least like a painful pinkie.

Sending Christmas greetings in July made me feel better all over than anywhere else.

I sent them early because I didn’t want to wait until the last minute to wish you a merry Christmas.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday.