Friday, December 25, 2020

Joy to the World

Thought for the day: Hang onto your hat, hang onto your hope, and wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. [E.B. White]

Well, it's Christmas. Doesn't feel like it... but it is. The house is very quiet, making it easier to hear the ever-present high-pitched monotone ringing in my ears. Both cats sit close beside me, the feeling of their warm bodies a reassuring reminder that I'm not entirely alone. Oh, I could've gone to Alabama to spend the Holidays with my son and his family... but I wanted to stay home. Really. I'm hanging in there pretty doggone well since my husband died five month ago today, but I'm not ready for any raucous celebrations just yet. I seek solace in the quiet... the normal. Not much in the way of decorations here this year. Our same-old, same-old wreath hangs at the front door, and bright red poinsettias sit atop the shelf above the fireplace and on the coffee table in the sunroom. Also on that fireplace shelf are two candles that I've had forever... one of a jolly waving Santa, and the other a snowman with a huge smile. My kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus salt-and-pepper shakers sit up there, too... and one other cheerful snowman figure. Next to the TV is a seated fabric Santa that my mother made years ago, and the hooked rug my father made is in the sunroom. That's it, but don't you dare feel sorry for me. I didn't want all of the trappings this year. No cards, no gifts, no twinkling lights. Just a peaceful day with a minimum of tears. I'm not exactly pretending that it isn't Christmas, but I don't want to be reminded any more than I am every other day that Mike isn't here. 

It seems I'm not the only one who skipped sending cards this year. Mike and I used to get a kazillion cards, but this year, there's only been a trickle. Which is fine. Better than fine, actually, because that makes me feel less guilty about not sending any myself. But holy moley! I got cards from some of YOU. People I've never met face-to-face, but whom I've grown to love, nonetheless. Thank you. Thank you for caring. Thank you for spurring me to sit down to write this message to all of you. I know you care, and that means so much to me. I care about you, too. It's been a hard year for all of us, but today is a day for joy. For hope. Next year, we can celebrate, hopefully, but for today, let's embrace hope. Hope that each day will be a little better than the day before and that normal is right around the corner. Don't despair. We'll get there. You and me. All of us. We'll get there.

One tiny bit of normal is the following post, one I've shared almost every year since I started this blog. It's... a tradition. That's what you guys told me. So fine, let's go with that tradition. It seems I can do quite well without decorations and presents, but who knew? It appears I don't wanta do without Louise...


Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.

No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.

We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made by my sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. This year, very few decorations found their way out of the storage boxes. (A RED tablecloth counts as a decoration, right???)

These carolers once belonged to my grandmother.

Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)

                                         We're more like the house on the right these days:

And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.

Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning, the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were always left dangling as empty as ever.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll required a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of a bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and she let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning, my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but his poor dog was very confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom every morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's demise. We discovered that she'd suffered from an acute case of hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can sneak out of the house.


             Merry Christmas! May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                                                                As for 2020?