Sunday, December 17, 2006

Today's "Moment of Dad"...JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!!

Haven't done one of these "Dad" posts in a while, so why not?

First of all, he and I were alike in the sense that we couldn't always get too "Chrismas-ed" up like other folks. Dad was a US postal worker, and during our childhood (Ruthi's and mine, I mean) there were times when he'd have to work late on Christmas Eve or even work Christmas Day, doing collections or delivering packages. In short, he was behind the scenes a lot more than the average bear, so holiday cards and packages were met with sympathy for the carrier as opposed to enthusiasm for the item itself.

However, there are a lot of good memories associated with Dad and Christmas. Here are a few:

1. EGGNOG: When I did "Dad's Food Pyramid" for one of the October Moment of Dad entries, I don't know how or why I missed this precious item. From Thanksgiving to New Year's, Dad loved his eggnog. He would slip some whiskey in it once in a great while, but usually he took it straight, or cut it halfway with milk. I never saw a man so happy. I did "blaspheme" once by drinking eggnog and eating a peanut butter sandwich with it. I think he looked at me and muttered, "You're just like your mother." Hey, at least I didn't DUNK it...not where he could see, anyway.

2. CHRISTMAS CAROLING: Mom and Dad were active in their church Sunday school class. One of the things their class would do was go caroling around town. That is, everyone but Dad. They couldn't ditch Dad...after all, that would NOT be something Jesus would do. However, Jesus never heard my dad sing. So the class did the next best thing - they stuck him in the back row and made him mouth the words. Dad would express mock indignation and dismay at the fact that his OWN Sunday school class didn't appreciate his talent. Thank GOD he wasn't serious.

3. GIFT GIVING TO MOM: Well, for starters, Mom was proposed to by Dad on Christmas. (See the October archives for details.) There were other Christmas gifts from Dad to Mom that were quite memorable.

(a) Mom and Dad had their own "Gift of the Magi" type Christmas in 1977. No, Mom
didn't cut off her hair to buy him a watch chain like the O'Henry story, nor did
Dad sell a watch to get her present. Not at all.

In the fall of 1977, the Washington music booster club had a doll-dressing contest to raise money for band uniforms. Mom enjoyed activities like this, and since this was going to a good cause, she figured why not!?

So, she dressed her doll like a Southern belle. She used a pale green satin brocade material for the dress, created a petticoat underneath, made a little hat, and even "pierced ears". It was gorgeous! Furthermore, she won "Best in Show" with her creation, and the doll was snapped up very quickly after.

Mom felt kind of bad because she wanted to keep this doll - she was so proud that she won, and wanted to keep her prize-winner.

On Christmas morning, Dad was home as well as Grandma & Grandpa, Ruthi, Mom and I. Dad handed Mom a package to open, and when she did, there was her prize-winning doll. He even kept the ribbon and sign on the doll. She smiled all over the place, and there were probably a few tears too.

Good job, Dad.

(b) In 1994, Mom became enamoured of a "snow village" at a local ceramics shop run by a friend. The color scheme was very low-key...blues, greys, creams...not unlike a Lladro sculpture. She figured it was too expensive, and at the time, my sister, her spouse, and their three kids were living with them as well. She thought it might be too fragile to have in their busy, growing household.

Dad, however, wasn't too worried about it. On Christmas Day, once again, he just handed her a box and said, "This one's for you, dear."

She opened it, and then gasped, "Oh, John! My SNOW VILLAGE!!!"

Her eyes shone, her cheeks blushed, and she started taking out all the pieces. We had to shoo Courtie away from it because she was just a toddler and didn't know her own strength. But Mom set it all up, then looked at it and sighed a while. Dad had done it again.

(c) So the comedy element isn't totally left out, there was one year where Dad got Mom a pair of diamond earrings.

What did Mom give Dad?

A nose-hair trimmer.

4. DAD'S GIFT GIVING TECHNIQUE, ETC.: Since he was always busy with work, carting kids around, or his parents, one of the modes Dad had to employ was "running the gauntlet". In other words, a gift worth giving is worth acquiring the day before the holiday.

I remember in my high school/college days when Dad would say, "I need to get your mother's present. You're coming to town with me."

I would respond, "What do you need me for?"

His answer? "Well...I haven't really picked it out yet."

I'd roll my eyes and go with him to the jewelry store.

Sometimes his own personal "shopping angel" would help him out.

This angel was named Nancy, and for many years, she had an upscale consignment shop next door to our shoe repair store. Mom got a lot of her dressy outfits there, and since Dad and Nancy were such good buds, she'd sometimes hold some choice items for Mom. She knew Mom's size, what colors and styles looked the best on her, and all that "woman stuff" that Dad couldn't be bothered with.

"Running the gauntlet" was also employed on Christmas Eve when Ruthi and I were rushed off to bed. Mom and Dad usually wouldn't get presents wrapped until that time. No wonder they hated it when I got up at 5 in the morning wanting to open presents - they had only gone to bed 30 minutes ago!

5. WHAT GIFTS DID DAD GET? Well, you know that when you're a little kid, you don't always have disposable income. So Dad got homemade school know, a lump of ceramic something that's supposed to be a paperweight or an ashtray. Eddie Murphy's first album captures the dilemma of what to get a dad for Christmas (e.g. the Brut by Faberge gift set, Hai Karate with a gift tag containing the names of every kid in the house) in case you want a further reference.

As Ruthi and I got older, we could do things with a little more extravagance. Ruthi was good at picking out clothes for him, and I would get him books or videos. Usually, you couldn't go wrong if you got him movies pertaining to cowboys or aliens. I had a hard time finding videos that had cowboys AND aliens, but I'm sure they're out there.

Mom and Dad knew each other very well, so Mom wouldn't buy him ties or things he'd never have the occasion to use. One year, she bought him a really nice Daewoo pistol (magazine loaded) in its own carrying case. He must have been REALLY wanting the thing, because he pronounced the brand name right on the first try.

One year, he got a remote-control car...and he used it to chase the cat around the house.

Another year, my first husband and I found a six-shooter that shot thick rubber bands...and he used it for target practice with the cat. You see, he had a good eye back in the day, and could shoot a rubber band so it would land right next to the cat without actually hurting her. The cat actually enjoyed it. (Must have been dropped on her head or something.)

Of course, for every good gift there's a dud. I think one Christmas, he got a smokeless ashtray. It worked for a little while, but then the fan motor developed a short and the only way it would work is if you smacked it on a solid surface (namely, the arm of Dad's chair). So some nights, when he was home and just wanted a smoke, you'd hear:

*whack* Damn it!

*whack* Work, damn you!

*whack* Remind me why I shouldn't throw this son of a bitch away!?

All in all, we had normal Christmases at our house. As the family dynamic changed, so did Christmas traditions. But one thing stayed the same...

Don't drink all the eggnog.