Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Stories

Christmas resonates so deeply within us because of our holiday memories. I thought I'd share three of mine.

The first happened when I was ten. For some reason I decided to do something extra that Christmas morning so I opted to make pancakes. Which I had never done before. My mom stood by to give advice, but not too much as she believed that the best way to learn was from your mistakes. I served a stack, hot and steaming, to my dad and proudly waited for his confirmation of my culinary expertise. As my old man was a real chow hound, I expected him to wolf them all. When he cut into the pancakes, they oozed moist dough. After his initial bite, I asked what he thought of them. "Kinda mushy," he answered diplomatically. In retrospect, the look on his face was that he wanted to spit them out.

The next year, a used car dealer near my house had decided to augment his inventory of wrecks-on-wheels with Fox minibikes. He'd let us kids tool around the lot, hoping to get us so excited that we'd badger our parents into buying us each one. I'd bring home brochures and tell my mom and dad how cool these minibikes were. We didn't have a lot of money, but to my eleven-year-old brain, that mattered little. I never saw a clue that my folks had bought a minibike but that didn't prove a thing. If nothing else, that my parents were going to such lengths to hide the existence of a minibike only meant that they had purchased one. Christmas Eve I went to bed imagining myself the envy of the neighborhood as I puttered about on my brand-new Fox minibike. I'm sure you've guessed the punch line--there was no minibike under the Christmas tree...or anywhere else. My sister keeps the memory alive by reminding me, "Remember that time when you thought you were going to get a minibike for Christmas? You were so disappointed. That was awesome!"

Story three: Christmas 1973. My best friend and I were back home on leave from the army. After months of military restrictions, we rampaged the town like Visigoth vandals. There wasn't a party we didn't crash, a liquor cabinet we didn't raid, an old girlfriend--hell any girl--that we didn't hit on. The soundtrack for our escapades was "Jessica" from the Almond Brothers as we tore about in my friend's used Chevy, one that he had bought with his enlistment bonus for joining the infantry. But I also recall a bit of poignancy in that this was our last hurrah as footloose bachelors. The responsibilities of adulthood awaited within an uncertain future. When you're on furlough, you wait until the last minute to head back to base and as luck would have it, at the moment my friend was to leave on his trek from New Mexico to Georgia, his car wouldn't start. The clock was ticking and Uncle Sam is very unsympathetic if you're late reporting to duty. But my friend couldn't abandon his car, nor could he afford a new starter. So we took turns that frosty afternoon chipping away at the corroded contacts and trying the starter. Finally, late in the evening, he got the engine to turn over. Not wanting to push his luck, he zoomed away without exchanging more that a hasty, "See you later." Months passed and I managed to connect with him over the phone. I asked about the Chevy. He replied, "That lemon broke down on me twice along the way. I ended up donating it to a guy for a demolition derby. After all the trouble that POS caused, it was almost worth those headaches watching it get smashed to pieces."

Merry Christmas, everyone! See you next year!

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