From a shivering boy to a pound of butterPublished 9:16am Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The boy shivered.
It was a combination of excitement and frozen socks.
It was near Christmas and he’d found ice thin enough on the Le Sueur River to allow him to fall into its gelid waters — again. It was a blessing — an unintentional tradition that left him thankful that he didn’t do it more often.
After thawing, he’d gone to town with his father who said while pointing, “That’s the Christmas tree man, son.”
“Where does he sell Christmas trees?” the boy asked.
“He doesn’t. His head comes to a point.”
They bought the cheapest Christmas tree — only seeds would have cost less. The tree had a lived-in look. The stockings were hung behind the tree as a warning to others.
Life is in a hurry. One day, he was shaking the presents under the Christmas tree, hoping that none contained underwear. His family saved wrapping paper. It was from the past, but it was good enough for the present. The next day, he was getting a BAPOB (Bring A Pound Of Butter) invitation to a lutefisk feed.
He’d waited so long to become an adult, only to discover that he wasn’t good at it. He was putting out cookies for Santa one Christmas Eve and dropped one onto the floor.
“No problem,” he said, as he picked it up well within the time allotted to the five-second rule and blew off all the germs before placing the cookie back on the plate.
“You can’t do that,” protested his young son.
“Don’t worry. Santa will never know.”
His confident youngster said, “If Santa knows if I’ve been bad or good, he’ll know you dropped a cookie on the floor.”
It was a time for all good men to get out the ladder and hang the Christmas lights. He uses a stepladder. It’s not his real ladder, but he loves it just the same.
“When are you going to put up the Christmas lights?” his wife asked.
“It’s too cold,” the man replied, “I’m waiting until summer.”
“Then it’ll be too hot.”
“OK, I’ll do it next fall,” he said.
“Fine! Why don’t you just leave them up all year?”
He wants the record to show that it was her idea.
He mailed the Christmas cards in July. He didn’t want to wait until the last minute.
Once he’s finished the Christmas cards, it’s time to finish the credit cards. At this time of the year, one of his shoulders is held lower than the other. It’s his Christmas list. Christmas is when he disposes of his disposable income. It’s better to give than to receive unless the gift he gets is stupid. He gets shoelaces every year. It’s always a surprise. He never knows if he’s getting black or brown ones.
When it comes to shopping, he’s told himself that it’s never too late to panic. He’s willing to give the shirt off his back to others, but who wants a dirty shirt? He stopped at the perfume counter and bought a jug of whatever they had on tap for his bride. So many people had sprayed scent samples into the air that he tasted perfume. He gave his brother English Leather cologne so that he could smell like a leathery Englishman.
One year, his present was Silly Putty. It came in an egg. He didn’t know or care what kind of chicken laid the egg. He’d press the putty on a newspaper comic and the image of the cartoon character magically appeared on it. The putty stretched and it bounced like a rubber ball. It was nice, but it wasn’t digital.
He and his wife had shame-cleaned their home in preparation for guests. Christmas plays were abundant. He’d once learned his lines frontwards and backwards for such things, but they always came out sideways.
A neighbor told him that this is the time of year that his family gathers to remember why they spend the rest of the year apart. The boy-become-a-man hoped such feelings were uncommon. He recalled the words of Richard Lederer, “Knock, knock.
Eyewash you a Merry Christmas.”
The man has learned that the secret ingredient is always butter. That if you’re going to get the wrong sized clothes for a wife, get them too small. That a handkerchief is a gift to be sneezed at. That we should be glad for every person who is at a Christmas celebration. They will not always be there.
He wishes that the joys of Christmas follow you throughout the year.
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.