My brother and I have been reminiscing about past Christmas celebrations. Naturally we recalled the lovely ones first – such as our glittering, nighttime, sleigh rides behind George Tollefson’s team of Belgian mares. I can still hear the harness bells jingling as the big girls broke into a brisk trot down the snowy lane. Nonetheless, our Currier and Ives conversation quickly transitioned to something a bit more typical – Holiday Hullabaloo.
Was it a Delight or a Disaster?
For example, the time a mysterious cousin named George from Peoria showed up at the house. Our parents seemed a little confused about George’s identity, but Midwest hospitality demanded they invite him to stay for the night. Not only did George settle in and charm us with fanciful stories of his world travels, he stayed for Christmas. It wasn’t until cousin George took off in a new Ford my father helped him purchase that we got a phone call from the FBI. They had picked him up for something akin to mail fraud and money laundering.
Then there was Christmas Eve dinner at the Burrows house. After an hour or so tippling Holiday toddies, Mrs. Burrows opened the oven door to remove the turkey. Unfortunately she lost her grip on the roaster pan. We all watched in amazement as the big bird rocketed out of the pan, hit the floor, and sailed like the Queen Mary across the kitchen linoleum. The Burrows Labrador Rufus thought he had just won the lottery.
Leave it to the Dogs
And speaking of labs, I reminded my brother of the year our dog Sam tipped over the Christmas tree, not once but three times. The sound of tinkling glass at 2:00 A.M. served as a home improvement call to action for my father. He marched to the garage and constructed a tree stand base that could have held up an American Elm. It was not the most attractive woodworking project we’d ever seen, but you couldn’t have tipped the tree over with a John Deere front-end loader. This peculiar stand still takes up space in my garage.
So, our trip down memory lane covered all the highlights and lowlights of Christmas past. Since I managed to get sidelined by the flu this week, my brother’s retelling of a food poisoning story grabbed my attention. It took place during a festive buffet at our friends the Horsticks. The guest list included local politicians, ministers, Supreme Court justices, and other dignitaries. I do remember seeing the Horstick’s cockatiel Jeff land in the punch bowl, though that hardly caused a ripple of attention. It was the food that brought the story to a sharp point. Apparently a side dish called green rice harbored a dastardly form of bacteria that struck down most of the guests. As for our family, I only remember that we had too few bathrooms, and a washcloth absently discarded in the toilet brought the septic system to its knees.
It’s a wonder we ever live through the Holidays