Marolt: It’s Christmas! All stay calm!
Merry Christmas! Let it happen. Shed your cares like snowflakes off Rudolph’s red nose. This is not a day for panic or problems. Oh come all ye faithful — things will work out fine.
When I was a kid, the problems were all about batteries. Everything worked or didn’t depending on batteries. Santa never had a problem getting down our narrow chimney and dancing around assuredly hot embers, considering the raging fire we always lit on Christmas Eve to sit next to while we ate our traditional fondue (yes, Virginia, it was the ’70s), but he could never seem to bring the right quantity of batteries or the correct types to power up our new toys.
Quality control seemed a little lax at the North Pole during the last-minute rush; then again, we made our lists in September when the annual Sears Christmas catalog arrived to spur our imaginations. Maybe that gave us too many opportunities to change our minds. Even Santa must have had his patience tested by the time he received my third or fourth revised letter. Hey, Mr. Simons always told our class that the writing wasn’t good until we had rewritten a story enough times to be sick of it. It is wisdom I employ today, although I have been at it long enough to be sick of stories that are still in my head.
Assembly was not a problem; Dad usually did that. When he inevitably put a piece of the toy in backward or broke a part, he was quick-thinking and adroit at fixing it, often before we knew there was a problem: Snap! What was that? Oh, nothing kids, look at this beautiful firetruck. Looks like the new type they are using in the cities, the kinds with shorter ladders so the firemen can climb the sides of the building like Spider-Man instead. I often wondered if he had been an elf at some point in his life, albeit a very large one, before he started working at Obermeyer Sports. There always seemed to be a big gap in his history from being a boy like I was until they made him into an adult at college.
Whatever problems emerged after the wrapping paper was knee-deep around the living room and threatening to become a serious fire hazard, it seemed logical for my parents to suggest a family ski day to make us forget our Christmas-morning woes. It is such a magical morning. We used to love to play Grinch and Max and race down Buttermilk Mountain, which, for one special day every year, became Mount Crumpet in our minds. Whoever was Max on a particular run was at a clear disadvantage. Max is a nice dog. The Grinch, on the other hand, had license to do whatever it took to win. He could cut off tourists, spray people with a wake of snow as he roared past and even break up ski-school classes as they concentrated on snaking down the mountain behind their instructors. It was great fun, and we assumed innocent bystanders understood all about the Grinch.
There was only one time I recall when the family ski thing didn’t work out. It was the Christmas I got a Norwegian sweater/ headband combo that I had been coveting (it was the late ’70s by now). I also got new sunglasses in my stocking. I couldn’t wait to try it all out on the slopes, and I wasn’t about to cover that beautiful sweater with my old jacket, either. “But it’s only 15 degrees out,” my mother warned. “Yes, but there’s not a cloud in the sky,” I argued back. It was Christmas, and my mom caved in. I’m sure she was feeling some guilt about lack of batteries or something. Needless to say, I froze my holiday rump roast.
I am happy to report that things always worked out, though. No matter what happened Christmas Day, we piled into the wood-paneled Grand Marquis in the evening and went over the fields and through the woods to Granny’s house for dinner. It was perhaps the most magical event of the day. She lived in El Jebel. In fact, she was about the only one who lived in El Jebel then, right about where Whole Foods is today. It might as well have been Bethlehem for all we knew.
The extent of a child’s imagination is the greatest gift of all. There, all is calm, all is bright. Merry Christmas!
Roger Marolt is wondering what a pound of coal is worth this morning. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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