Al Batt: The second-best things in life aren’t things

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

The snow fell so heavily that I couldn’t tell what the weather was like.

It’s the reason kids in Minnesota use a lot of white crayons when coloring.

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It was cold, too. If you went without earmuffs one day, you went without ears the next. I wanted to drink some orange juice, but I’d have clanked when I walked.

It was time to break out the winter coat. As in each year, there was a cough drop in one pocket and facial tissues in another.

It wasn’t quite nice enough to be a blizzard. Our winter storms are given names, but I don’t know how they tell a male blizzard from a female blizzard. And I don’t know why one hasn’t been named the Blizzard of Oz. The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm that contains large amounts of snow or blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than a quarter mile for at least three hours. The word “blizzard” was first used to describe a snowstorm in an Iowa newspaper in the 1870s. Blizzard had referred to a cannon shot or a volley of musket fire. By the 1880s, it had become a common term to describe winter storms.

Thanks to blizzards, I have neighbors who put more miles on their snowblowers than on their cars.

Many Minnesotans migrate south. Those who remain here have strong burrowing instincts. Our winters aren’t for everyone. A winter sometimes seems like a joke that everyone but you is in on. Each winter is a barefooted walk on a barbed wire fence while holding a bobcat under each arm.

Someone asked, “Do you think it will ever stop snowing?”

It always has.

Winter is worth loving, but not easy to love. It should be, as winter is our primary method of mosquito control.

We develop a winter-take-all attitude. There is a 50-50 chance that winter will end early. It either will or it won’t.

There is no good time to have winter, but it could be worse.

We could have it in June. Then we wouldn’t have Christmas to make it all better.

Even one in which nothing was under the Christmas tree but a spruce cone is better than no Christmas.

Back in the days before Christmas trees were made of kale, we collected ornaments over the years and ended up with more decorations than tree. We mailed Christmas cards early to the slow readers.

Men are surprised annually that Christmas comes on December 25th every year. We think all holidays move around except New Year’s and the Fourth of July. That’s why men buy most gifts two days before Christmas. We buy 25 percent of the gifts at convenient stores, in the over-priced items aisle. Lucky loved ones get the world’s largest Toblerone bar. Recipients of our largesse find it difficult to believe that it took us only 364 days to find that.

Men specialize in giving gifts that people say, “Oh,” after unwrapping. Followed by, “You shouldn’t have” or “Why did you?”

I’ve heard of a husband who found the perfect gift, but I believe him to be a mythological beast.

As a boy, I asked Santa to not judge me and I was happy that the bus driver wasn’t Santa Claus. If the cookies I left on the kitchen table were eaten, it meant that Santa or our dog had been there.

Back in the day when jumper cables were the perfect gift for anyone of driving age, one of my aunt Helens (I was lucky enough to have three of them) used to bake things to give as Christmas gifts. It didn’t always work out. Sometimes, she remembered where she’d hidden them and ate them before Christmas.

It’s not truly Christmas until I’ve heard “Little Drummer Boy” 519 times or until I want to throttle one of the Chipmunks, either Alvin, Simon or Theodore.

Please remember that Lego bricks and jacks may seem like harmless toys until you step on them in your bare feet and that the joy of giving far surpasses the frustration of getting.

Christmas makes tidings glad. I recall the words of Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”

Christmas comes but once a year, but it takes us at least 364 days to truly appreciate it.

While on the subject of appreciation, I appreciate you. Merry Christmas.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune Wednesdays and Sundays.