Al Batt: Be in the present this Christmas like a cat

Published 8:43 pm Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


“Aisle do it!

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I said that because someone had to run to the store to get a couple of things. I was that designated someone to participate in combat-shopping. It gives me that happy holiday feeling — broke.

I know it’s getting close to Christmas when the pumpkin spice-scented cat litter loses its odor.

We have a watchcat. During the night she makes pre-upchuck sounds as warnings. Those wake me more effectively than any alarm clock. Staggering out of bed, I step in her production. The cat doesn’t believe in throwing up on bare floor. That would be embarrassing for her. She must vomit on carpet, as is the traditional feline way. When I step in it, I make pre-upchuck sounds. The cat watched, pleased with my apparent appreciation of her Christmas gift. We each give what we can. Then she waddled off to reboot at her food bowl. I growled that hers would be a parting gift, but that was an empty threat. The cat loves to see gifts opened. She sits in the boxes. Cats live in the present.

I was lucky to have both river and woods on the farm where I was hatched. Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifted snow. Our horse couldn’t have carried a sleigh even if we’d had a horse and a sleigh. My father came from a big family. He told me his best Christmas as a boy was the year when it was his turn to get the Christmas gift. For me, having so many cousins made life interesting. If Grandma got my name right on the fourth or fifth try, that was reason for celebration.

This Christmas isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been to town before and I’ve learned things. Well-chewed gum serves as a nice option when you run out of tape while wrapping presents. There is hope for the world as long as people continue to turn sawdust and apples into fruitcake. It might be a good idea to gnaw on a bedpost for a few weeks prior to Christmas so you’ll be ready for the fruitcake. If you get socks for Christmas, try to think how your feet feel about them. If you want to spice up your Christmas letter, pretend you are Warren Buffett or Oprah Winfrey.

While ringing bells for the Salvation Army, I saw so many people wearing Carhartt watch caps, I’m guessing they were a popular Christmas gift last year. It may be because they are warm or low-priced — or both.

I love Longfellow’s words, “May your merriment never stop, but turn down the music or I’m calling a cop.” Those were yelled at me by my old neighbor, Shorty Longfellow. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote something quite good, too: “I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I don’t believe he was any kin to Shorty.

I’d love to be able to give my wife everything. But you can’t have everything. Where would you put it? Instead, I give my wife an odd gift because I’m sure it isn’t something she’d buy for herself. That takes the tense out of presents. I’m giving her a new lens for my camera this year. There should be a bit of the giver in a gift. That won’t be her only gift. I’ll give her pepper, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg. Seasonings greetings. Last year, she told me, “I don’t yearn for caviar or gaudy jewelry. Thanks for the Christmas gifts and for going to all the trouble of getting them.”

“It was no trouble,” I responded modestly.

“I didn’t think it had been,” she said with a sigh.

One year, I planned on giving my father a box of slightly used nails I’d picked from the ground after the neighbors had shingled their house. I was gift-wrapping each individually in tissue paper when my mother convinced me that a Zane Grey book would be more appreciated. Later, I heard them talking at the kitchen table.

“What did you get Allen?” whispered my mother.

“I got him a pail of coal,” said my pappy.

“Oh, no. I got him the same thing.”

I had enough coal that year. This year, my plan is to have a Merry Christmas. I’m hoping for an alarm clock that sounds like a cat about to throw up.

Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday and Saturday.