Post-Holiday Letter Thoughts

The holidays are over, 2010 is here, and we’re typing this year. Let’s start with… The Holidays: A Brief Review.

Now believe it or not, and I’ve been known to lie, but this holiday saga starts at a Borders Bookstore, with a boatload of books and no coupons. Now everybody knows the thing to do with Borders is to print the Coupon Of The Day from the website before you go. I hadn’t known I was going to Borders, which actually happens to me a lot during the holidays, so I have no Coupon Of The Day, but – ah ha! – I have my trusty hat. I may not believe in Santa Claus, but I believe in my hat.

So I find the things I’m buying, walk to the checkout counter, and wait my turn. Once “I Can Help You Down Here” calls me, we begin.

I Can Help You Down Here: “Did you find everything OK?”
Big Ugly Man Doll: “Yes, thanks!”
I Can Help You Down Here: “Do you have a Borders Rewards Card?”
Big Ugly Man Doll: “Ah, I don’t have it with me, but would you mind looking it up under my wife’s email address?”

We do that, and I mention that in addition to being the one to set up the Borders card, she’s also the one who’s going to kill me dead when I get home, because I forgot to print out the coupon – ah well.

I Can Help You Down Here: “Oh. Hmm, well, you know *I* have a coupon…”
Big Ugly Man Doll: “Oh, would you, thank you so much, I really appreciate it!”

He scans his coupon, saving my life and least $15 bucks, and then he says it: “I like your hat, by the way!”

Heh. Not nearly as much as I do. That hat has paid for itself by now, just in people being nice to me. I don’t know why, but it works.

OK, I lied about not believing in Santa Claus. Otherwise how would all those presents get into my stocking while I’m asleep?

Our saga continues with the Actual Christmas morning. SOBUMD and I had impressed upon the three lunatic children that, in the spirit of the True Meaning of Christmas (TMC)™, even better than the gifts of gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh that we’re certain they *were* going to get for us, would be letting us sleep past 7am in the friggin’ morning. Practicing my MBAness, I told them to consider 8am to be their stretch goal.

So, Santa must have done his breaking and entering gig, because when I woke up there were all sorts for things under that tree. I woke, of course, to the sound of three VERY anxious lunatic children walking into our room at exactly three minutes after 7am. So much for the stretch goal – no bonuses for them, although the Human Tape Recorder did get the coffee started.

This was followed by a calm and joyful recitation of the blessings we’d enjoyed over the past year, with each child opening and appreciating one present at a time, taking turns, and contemplating the TMC™.

Yeah, right – maybe when monkeys in elf suits fly out of Santa’s red velvet butt. This was actually followed by a 20-minute orgy of destruction and wrapping paper, bows flying so thick at one point that I could hardly see to unwrap SOBUMD, for which I got whacked upside the head and shoulders. I still maintain that we could have been hard at work conceiving a fourth child and the first three wouldn’t have noticed us.

We hastily dressed and headed to my parents house, for another, slightly more ordered, 20-minute orgy of destruction and wrapping paper. The Clever Grandpa had received, from someone in his office, a bottle of an interesting medicinal beverage called “Chivas Regal.” With all the adults volunteering to test this beverage, the bottle lasted almost 25 minutes. This was followed by a Christmas Day dinner that couldn’t be beat, which may in itself have constituted the TMC™. Having eaten everything but the tree, we came home, filled with love, wonder, cookies, and beef. Also Scotch.

The Holidays continued the day after Christmas, which dawned bright and early with a trip to Pennsylvania, by which I mean we got on the road two hours late, in the rain. The car was loaded, packed with twelve pairs of underwear, eleven well-wrapped presents, ten allergy-safe foods for the Queen of Pink, nine hours of music for the three hour ride, eight overnight bags for the five of us, seven days worth of medication, six winter jackets, five butts in seats, four sets of snacks, three lunatic children, two American Girl Dolls, and a spare tire under all that crap.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? Can’t you?

Right. We’d been driving in the rain for all of 20 minutes when we hit the Pothole of Doom (PoD) at about 65 miles per hour in the left lane with the driver’s side tire. It took another 35-40 seconds to roll on the rim past the other 14 cars who had ALSO succumbed to the PoD and get the van onto the shoulder, by which time smoke was pouring out of the 3 inch square flap of rubber hanging from what had been the sidewall of the front left tire.

It’s interesting what you notice when time slows down and every second counts. As I fought the van, rim-riding my way over to the shoulder, I did a constant check of the mirrors for anything else that might be coming at us. As I watched in the rear-view, I saw a gray-green Mini Cooper vanish into the PoD, lights-first and whole cloth. I guess we were lucky.

Having never needed to access the spare tire before, I proceeded the only way I could imagine – move all the things on top of it to be, instead, on top of the three lunatic children, who were remarkably calm given the sheer volume of things being piled on them. I fought my way to the nut that opens the hatch that holds the tire, and commenced unscrewing the nut. After spinning for a few minutes, I realized that it was just spinning, not screwing – we were screwed, it must be stripped. (I’d’ve rather had that the other way around, even in the rain.) I walked 14 cars back to talk to the guy with the tow truck, to see if he carried spare tires around with him. No. I walked back up the 14 cars to mine, where I noticed a full-sized spare tire under my car, where my screwing had lowered it.

At that moment, even my hat believed in Santa Claus.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work! I jacked up the van and it rose with a jerk. More rapid than eagles I changed out that tire, though the strain was enough that I thought I’d expire. I was covered in muck from my head to my foot, and my clothes were all tarnished with oil and soot, but laying my finger aside of my nose, I yelled, “Christmas is ON!” and up the highway we rose.

The road crews were on site paving over the Mini Cooper before we left. I hope they got the people out of the car first – speaks volumes for the sunroof as a safety feature.

And so it came to pass in those days that the Family of the BUMD arrived in Bethlehem, albeit the one in Pennsylvania. We saw wonderful family and had another Christmas Dinner that couldn’t be beat, which had of course been preceded by the obligatory 20-minute orgy of destruction and wrapping paper.

We decided to leave around 2 pm, by which SOBUMD meant “immediately following breakfast,” which proves that women are right about everything. This is proved by the fact that, had we left at 2pm, we would likely not be home yet. As it was, she noticed while gassing up the vehicle, that the driver’s side REAR tire, which had also known the joys of the PoD, had a bulge the size of an ostrich in the sidewall. Not an ostrich egg, a whole ostrich. That we made it all the way up the highway is proof of the TMC™, but I wasn’t going to rely on the TMC™ to get us home. I drove as if on eggshells (ok, ostrich-egg shells, if you must) to the nearest Sears, where George and Allen were happy to help us pick out four new tires and put them on.

The three lunatic children were again remarkably well mannered, I think because we took them out of the car before piling things on top of them this time. We got the car back in a mechanic’s hour, by which I mean three hours, and drove straight to the McDonald’s drive through. The three lunatic children wanted happy meals, I wanted some nuggets, and SOBUMD wanted the car to stop billowing smoke out of the front. We got some food and went back to Allen, who was happy to put the lid back on the coolant container and announce that it was just coolant and water burning off, and didn’t it smell nice? We let him sniff it for a few minutes until it stopped billowing, then continued the drive home.

Were you aware that the combined High School Musical soundtracks have a total of 36 songs and can be played back-to-back-to-back in only 2 hours, 7 minutes, and 28 seconds? No? That’s what got us to Delaware. Grit, determination, and duct tape got us to Maryland, where Number One Son politely waited until we were almost to the rest stop to puke. It was only the TMC™ that got us the rest of the way home, a mere nine hours after we’d left.

From there – the Race To New Year!

There is no joy like the joy of working between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, because between the people who have scheduled vacations, the people who have decided to take vacations at the last minute, the people who really were planning on coming in but something came up, and the people who are just too hung over to make it in today, the office is basically a full on dance party, except with better parking. And so, arming myself with the above answer to the inevitable “how was Christmas” question, I went to work the following morning.

Being in dance party mode, the idea that I could meet SOBUMD, the three lunatic children, and my father for lunch at the local pizza chain and still be back to the office in time for a 2pm pick-up meeting we’d scheduled in the hallway didn’t seem out of the ordinary. Included in this lunch outing was to be a trip to “Grandpa’s Office To See The Man-Eating Fern.”

The local pizza chain being local, we all met there with our respective cars, and had a dance party lunch that couldn’t be beat – or so we thought. Near the end of the lunch, the 11-yr-old Human Tape Recorder excused herself to the restroom, where she would still be to this day had SOBUMD not gone in after her 10 minutes later. Meanwhile, Grandpa, the Queen of Pink, Number One Son, and myself have paid and processed out, and wait calmly in the lobby until SOBUMD calls from the can to tell us to proceed with them – the eldest is screaming on her hands and knees, and in no shape to leave the comfort of the stall.

What follows is a montage of cold walks, quick car rides, man-eating ferns (only one victim was ever known to survive), and increasingly hysterical updates from the can-phone. The determination was made to leave the younger two of the three lunatic children with Grandpa for a few moments while I went to the stall for a first-hand assessment. This plan was executed with near-military precision, Grandpa having been a Colonel and Number One Son having noticed the proximity of a “Game-Stop” store. As I headed stall-ward, they headed store-ward, Number One Son having explained to Grandpa that he was the proud owner of a gift card good at the Game Stop.

Number One Son, of course, was blissfully unconcerned about the state of his older sister and the state of said gift card, which was of course safe and warm in his room, rather than on his person. Crazy means not having to sweat the details.

Arriving at the stall, the hat was enough to grant even the ugliest of BUMDs access to the ladies room. What followed was a hasty conference:

SOBUMD: I don’t know what to do with her.
BUMD: I don’t know what to do with her either.
HTR: Aaaaaahg!
Pizza Joint Manger: I call ambulance now?
Us: Um, sure.

I used the can-phone to let the dance party in the office know that I was going to miss the 2pm pick-up meeting, then went back to Grandpa and the Increasingly Expensive Children. It is an unwritten law of nature that the longer you keep someone under the age of 10 in a videogame store, the more it will cost you to leave. By dint of a balanced combination of reminders about the TMC™, threats concerning the man-eating fern (seeing IS believing!), and moderate capitulation, we were able to remove them from the store for less than the price of lunch.

With the impending ambulance, we were about to have too many children, too many cars, and not enough adults. The Grandpa, being wonderful and clever, solved one of the problems in a trice by declaring that he would simply take the younger two of the three lunatic children with him to his house, right then, and executed this plan with, again, near-military precision. This left SOBUMD and the HTR in the ambulance and me following in my car. Removing the HTR from the stall was a study in human behavior; there is nothing like the removal of a fellow diner by paramedics, into a waiting ambulance, to get people to say “Check please.”

I will digress for a moment to mention that both the staff of the pizza joint (it was an Uno’s) and the paramedics were courteous, professional, and helpful – not easy in the face of a moaning 11-yr-old girl.

At the local Emergency Room, for those of you counting at home, we now had two drivers and one car, the other car maintaining its position next to the pizza joint. While the local bonestaff wheeled the HTR in for X-rays, I called the dance party to coordinate with the Best Boss Ever. The BBE drove up to the ER, met me there in the Shared Infection Area, and drove me back to the remaining car at the pizza joint. By the time I got back to the ER, the bonestaff had decided that the HTR probably had a mild stomach virus on top of being completely “blocked” – which turns out to be a nice way of saying that she was full of shit.

For this, we needed an X-ray? I could have told them that. Along with some medicines to move things along, we moved out of there, the ladies in their car and I in mine. I followed them home long enough to change clothes, then went back out into the night to pick up some Magic Movement Medicine along with the younger two of the three lunatic children, still hanging with Grandpa and Grandma. Number One Son wanted to go home before I had my coat off, the Queen of Pink wanted to stay through 2010, and the wonderful and clever grandparents were highly amused. We should note here that Number One Son has been known to mention to people that he’d like to go home, even when sitting in his own living room. As noted, crazy means not having to sweat the details.

I got the younger two of the three lunatic children home with the new medicine and noticed that we still had two days to go in 2009.

There being no joy etc., I went back to the dance party the next day, armed now with a story about pizzas and ambulances, which I related to all and sundry. During this time, a consensus was building concerning the disposition of New Year’s Eve; usually we retire to “Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the Woods” in West Virginia, along with said grandparents, the Aunt, and Her Boyfriend. In this case, however, a perfect storm was brewing: The Grandma had a cold and couldn’t talk, the Aunt had twisted her ankle walking across her own bedroom, of course the HTR was tethered to the can, and the weather outside was frightful, with a call for freezing rain Thursday morning. Discretion being the better part of valor, we agreed to meet the New Year in our respective houses. This decision was no sooner made than another pick-up meeting was scheduled for the dance party on New Year’s Eve, freezing rain notwithstanding. Since I wasn’t going to West Virginia, there was no reason to decline, so I didn’t. Donning a coat and tie on a freezing morning in the rain seemed a fitting end to the whole of 2009.

Happiness was seeing this past year in my rear-view mirror as I returned that afternoon from the dance party of my office, to have a New Year’s Eve Dinner that couldn’t be beat, stay up to watch the ball drop, and call MY grandmother, the Queen Mother of Pink, to yell Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit and hang up on the stroke of midnight. It never works; she always yells it first because she knows it’s me.

I was under strict orders from the HTR to wake her up for midnight so she could have a thimble of Champagne and watch the ball drop. As usual, she was unrousable, so I turned off her light and closed her door. Noticing the lights on for Number One Son, I found him awake and reading a book. “Would you like to come downstairs with me and mommy and watch the ball drop and midnight and have a thimble of Champagne for New Years?”

“Well, sure, OK.”

With that kind of enthusiasm, the new year HAD to be better than the last, right? We poured him a thimble of a Champagne, listened to the animatronic head of Dick Clark, and watched the ball drop. Number One Son was uninterested in the bubbly and disappointed in the proceedings: “When do they detonate it?” He’d thought I’d said “watch the bomb drop.” He would never have left his bed for a ball, new year or no.

The wonderful and clever grandparents came to our house for a New Year’s Day dinner that couldn’t be beat, and everyone went home safe and happy, even Number One Son.

The Big Ugly Man Doll is back, with wishes for the kind of 2010 that makes you say “Huh?” at least once or twice a week.

3 Responses to “Post-Holiday Letter Thoughts”

  1. An excellent reminder that reality is what we make of it. Also that cerebral lesions can result from certain prolonged activities.

    ObHatComment: This post is worthless without pictures (of the hat)!

    Finally, I see a novel in your future: “Not to Mention the Hat: The True Meaning of Christmas and the Man-Eating Fern.”

  2. “Crazy means not having to sweat the details.” You should get that trademarked. If it isn’t already. Trust me. (Ask your wife about me.)

    Thank you for the laugh til I wheeze interlude. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Hope 2010 has no good blog fodder. (For your sake anyway…as a reader however…).

  3. […] years after we married, my Bestest and I headed up to LV for a visit. We had to get a tire fixed (darned I-95 potholes), so we dropped the car off at the tire place before heading to the dentist’s office where my […]

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