“The Year Dad Flocked the Tree”

‘Tis the season!
Christmas Memories Division

Today’s headline story (reminiscent of Thurber) comes from Tim Torkildson: “My father was not a sentimental man; to him, most holidays simply meant time off from work for a nap on the couch.


“But one year he made an exception for Christmas. He decided that our Scotch pine should be flocked. And he decided to do it himself. This was a shock to my mother, who had to threaten him with a cast-iron trivet just to get him to move the couch once a month so she could vacuum behind it.

“What prompted this burst of holiday spirit was a Sno*Flok kit that someone had left behind at Aarone’s Bar and Grill on East Hennepin, where he worked as a bartender. Fuddled patrons often left behind things like a bag of groceries or an overcoat, and my dad, as chief dispenser of suds, had first dibs. Freebies always inspired him with unusual energy.

“The Sno*Flok kit, guaranteed by Good Housekeeping (which stifled any cavils from my mother), required the use of a vacuum cleaner and came with a dry-powder packet to be mixed with water. Or so my dodgy memory recalls. This was back in the 1960s.

“Both of my parents were heavy smokers: My dad puffed away at Salems, and Mom was never without a lit Alpine between her fingers. Our house was so thick with second-hand smoke that the winter light streaming through the windows showed ghostly ropes of it wafting about the living room. But they thought that flocking the tree inside the house might harm my lungs, so Dad set the tree up against the garage in the back yard and commenced flocking. On his own initiative, he had added several drops of red food coloring for a pretty pink effect. Unfortunately, the effect gave more of a Manson Family effect. And when Dad was done, the gory silhouette left behind on the white garage wall gave rise to all sorts of ghoulish gossip in the neighborhood about ‘those strange Torkildson people.’

“Sad to say, Dad’s efforts at D.I.Y. holiday decoration was a complete flop. And I do mean ‘flop.’ He apparently paid no attention to the mixing directions for the powdered flocking, and the stuff remained so sodden on the branches of the tree that lumps of it flopped onto our wrapped presents underneath all through the night. By next morning, the wretched stuff had seeped through the paper and loose cellophane to permanently mar the screen on my Etch A Sketch.

“And that is why, all these years later, I keep a very green Christmas. I use a pine sapling, which I will plant this coming spring, and all of my presents are wrapped in corn husks — so they can be reused for tamales afterwards. There’ll be no flocking under my roof, unless someone spikes the eggnog.”

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “A home-built dollhouse has to be the greatest plaything a child can get. I know ours was.

“By the time it got to me, after four older sisters, it had already had a hard life. We moved a lot when I was a kid, and it rather resembled ‘Racketty-Packetty House,’ which made it even more endearing. I last saw it when we moved to the country when I was 8. Somehow it hadn’t made it into the storage shed (a.k.a. unused chicken coop) when we moved in the middle of a snowy February. When spring arrived and I discovered it, the weather and the field mice had finished it off, but the memory of it never left me.

“One Christmas, I drew the plans to re-create it for our own kids. My husband built it to plan, which I had improved upon by adding a stairway to the third floor, something my dad had not included. This photo was taken when our four little kids first saw it that Christmas morning. The little girls are both clustered where the action is, while the boys had to settle on the outside looking in.


“That dollhouse has been repainted a time or two — but never moving any farther than upstairs or down, it is still in excellent shape. Our six kids played with it, as did many of our 29 grandchildren.

“You know what? I think I’m going to bring it back out this Christmas and play with it myself!”

Bestemor of Hastings: “When I was a young child growing up in Chicago, I believed that Julenisse (Santa) arrived on early Christmas Eve.

“I attended the Missouri Synod Lutheran church down the block from where I lived. Every Christmas Eve, the Sunday School children had to arrive early to prepare for our saying ‘our memorized piece’ in front of the congregation. My mother said she would make risengryns grot (rice porridge) and put out a bowl for the Julenisse while my father walked me to church.

“When our family returned home from church, I was so excited to see that the bowl was empty and presents were under the tree! This lasted for quite a few years, until I noticed that the tags on the gifts were in purple ink — with my mother’s handwriting! I continued saying ‘my piece’ until confirmation, and when we transferred to St. Timothy Lutheran (now ELCA) — where my mother was confirmed, my parents’ were married, I was baptized, I was married and our sons were baptized by my father-in-law, the Rev. Talbert R.

“New wonderful memories with both sets of our parents on Christmas Eve were made over the past 45 years, with many of the same Norwegian traditions now with our two sons and their families.”

‘Tis the season!

Norm Barnhart (“a Minnesota comedy entertainer for company events and family parties; MagicNorm.com“) writes: “Santa loves to bring happiness and joy to children of all ages during the Christmas season. He can be spotted everywhere from stores to park-and-rec centers. Santa unconditionally loves everyone no matter their creed or views. He is a good example of how we all should be.

“Would it be breaking news if a few tears fell behind the beard?

“This morning I heard of one Santa who called a local prayer line. The lady who answered the phone heard a guy identify himself as Santa, and she thought: ‘I’ll humor him.’ She asked; ‘What can I pray about for you?’

“He explained that in his travels to events throughout the Twin Cites, he asks children what they want for Christmas and sometimes hears: ‘I don’t want any toys. I want my Mommy and Daddy to stay together. There is a lot of fighting in our house, and . . .’

“Santa is there to be a kind encourager to the youngsters, and sometimes what he hears can be overwhelming.

“Another child said: ‘My brother is on drugs, Santa, and I wish you could . . .’

“Go ahead, Santa. It’s your party; you can cry if you want to.

“This is probably why that Santa turned to prayer — as did the original St. Nick, who saw much poverty and despair and gave what he could.

“I have a St. Nick suit that I lend to people or sometimes put on. Recently I called up a local Independent Living home for the aged and said: ‘Could ya use a Singing Santa?’ She said: ‘Yes, how about today? At noon we have our annual Lutefisk and Lefse meal.’ I said yes and hung up wondering where I put the suit a year ago.

“I am not a real Jolly Old Elf. I just pretend. But the magic of Christmas was there, as I found the suit and scrambled to put some songs onto my laptop to do Karaoke-style ‘Jingle Bells,’ etc. I figured the fake beard would cover my nervousness. I had never done this before.

“What did I get myself into? The comedy of errors began as I could not get a single song onto the laptop, and time ran out. I donned the red pants and boots and ran to my destiny.

“I did have an Elvis song on the computer, and I introduced it by saying: ‘This is the song I sang to the Missus when I first met her: “Wise men say fools rush in . . . but I can’t help falling in love with you.’ Well the song is about love and at least has some wise men in it.

“I then muddled through some a cappella songs, including their tradition at the residence: ‘The Lutefisk Song,’ sung to ‘Oh Christmas Tree.’

“It’s a funny song, and we laughed together, and I realized I was successful. That is a nice feeling. Afterward, I gave lots of handshakes and hugs. Everyone slowly left to their rooms, and I gave a hug to a sweet little old lady. As I waved goodbye, she said: ‘At our age, we don’t get hugs much anymore.’ I gave her another hug.

“Santa did not cry. But an hour later, in the quiet of my back yard, I walked the dog and thought about what that sweet lady had said. The cold breeze brushed my cheek, and my tears.”

Kathy S. of St. Paul offers “a Christmas vignette”: “Mom’s last nursing home threw a party each December for the residents. They used tablecloths and china, etc., and had live entertainment. It was kinda wasted on Mom, because she was so sensitive to loud noises — and of course she was parked in front of a loudspeaker set to be deafening. I tried to change this, but a move wasn’t possible. So she endured it. She was a trouper.

“But it wasn’t wasted on her wonderful roommate, ‘Sweetie.’ As fuzzy as Sweetie could be, she noticed the tablecloth, felt it with a fingertip, and smiled.

“I hope I remembered to mention this to her family, at the end. . . .”

The great comebacks

Grandma J. of Grant reports: “The year was 1951. It was during the Winter Carnival in St. Paul.

“When a Vulcan tried to kiss my Grandma J., she whapped him up-side the head with her 10-pound purse! (He ended up in the snow bank, moaning ‘Geez, lady! I was just tryin’ to kiss ya!’)

“So with my sweet little grandma, it was ‘Walk softly, and carry a big purse!’ I call it ‘Sexual harassment handled — Grandma-style!'”

Score one for the Pioneer Press!

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: ‘Time and tide wait for no man.’

“The Wednesday front pages of both Twin Cities dailies carried the same photo (larger in the St. Paul paper) of Doug Jones celebrating his victory in Tuesday’s special election in Alabama. What really caught my eye was the headline in the Pioneer Press: ‘Tide turns in Alabama.’


Gaining something in translation

Elvis reports: “Attached is a photo of the label on a set of placemats Elvis‘ girlfriend brought home from Cambodia.



Not exactly what they had in mind

D. Ziner reports: “On special occasions, I will sometimes receive what I call a box of California sunshine, sent by my West Coast relatives. My sister called and said to look for a shipment of pomegranates and avocados from my niece. I will now have to call and let them know I received pomegranates and guacamole.


“I salvaged enough to dip some chips — and actually resorted to a few licks of the packing material.

“The pomegranates will take some work, but both their beauty and their taste make it a labor of love.”

Vanity, thy name is . . .

Donald: “The Saturn on County Road C in Roseville displayed this personalized plate: ‘SING IT.’

“I would, if I knew what ‘IT’ was.”

Not exactly what he had in mind
Or: Till death us do part

Al B of Hartland: “I told my wife that if I lived to be 91, I wanted to be just like the fellow I’d visited. He was mentally sharp and enjoyed life.

“Only after my words had tumbled out did it occur to me that he was a widower.

“My wife didn’t say anything in response.

“I changed the subject to that of a field of unpicked corn.”

What’s in a name
Including: CAUTION! Words at Play!

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A dogged competitor.

“From a recent date on my Twins Page-a-Day calendar: ‘Jack Russell (1926–40) is the only big leaguer to have pitched over 2,000 innings, yet notched fewer than 90 wins.’

“OK, but how many other major league pitchers have a breed of dog named after them?”

BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Is there a Jack Morris bulldog? Should be.

Twenty-six years later, and the goosebumps are as  bumpy as ever!

Band Name of the Day: Box of Sunshine

Website of the Day, recommended by Mr. Tulkinghorn (our Official Attorney): https://gizmodo.com/behold-the-most-hilarious-wildlife-photos-of-2017-1821301269



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