“I remember being in hog heaven this night in 1959 . . .”


‘Tis the season
And: Sleepers

Little Sister writes: “I was never a night owl — not even on Christmas Eve. Unlike some of my rowdy older siblings, my parents never had any trouble getting me to go to bed. I never wasted any time getting into my flannel nightgown and quietly disappearing upstairs to my nest of feather pillows and thick homemade quilts.



“I remember being in hog heaven this night in 1959, our family having just opened presents. The doll I’d spied in the Sears toy catalog (and had dropped many not-so-subtle hints about) was under the tree, and she joined me in our first snuggle together. I remember the exhilarating new smell of her and the feel of the crisp lace along the edge of her bonnet. I just knew she’d never grow old and worn. Her shiny auburn curls would always look exactly as they did when I’d first taken her out of the box. Having this picture has kept her exactly that way. Thanks, Dad!”

‘Tis the season!
And: The Permanent Family Record

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Bessie’s Christmas Stocking.

“When my mother was a little girl growing up in Spirit Lake, Iowa, in the mid-1890s, she hung her stocking from her bedpost on Christmas Eve. She told us they never had a Christmas tree in their house, like we did. She said the only Christmas tree they knew about was the one in the church.

“On Christmas Eve, the tree would be all decorated with toys, and she said it was so exciting. Every child would look and hope and wonder which toy had his or her name on it. Well, every kid except my mom and her twin sister and her twin brothers. She said she was about 4 when she spotted two identical little doll high-chairs hanging from the branches — and ‘sure enough,’ they were for her and her twin. No more wondering for the Smith twins after that — just find two-of-a-kind.

“She tucked little unwrapped trinkets in the branches for us to wonder about, but there was no point for us to hang our stockings. After Santa had made his exhausting visit to our house, he sure as heck wasn’t going to sneak back again in the middle of the night.

“Mom always enthusiastically supported Dad in his magical, wild and crazy Christmas Eve celebrations, but after Dad went into the nursing home, she said that was enough. Shut the show down while the audience was still applauding. No one could ring those sleigh bells or Ho-Ho-Ho like Grampa Jake did.

“She agreed to come to our house from then on. I still had kids at home, while my siblings all had grandchildren to share their Christmas Eve celebrations, and now we were the lucky ones. We had Mother. It was oh, so different, but so wonderful. She played endless games with the kids, strung popcorn and cranberries for the downstairs Christmas tree — and she really enjoyed our low-key Christmas Eve around our fire. I made her a Christmas stocking, and she eagerly hung it up along with ours for the last five years of her life.


“You can’t see her satisfied little smile in this photo, but believe me, it was there.”

‘Tis the season!
Christmas Memories Division (responsorial)

Aggie Girl:The story with the surprise Santa in Grand Central Station in New York City reminded me of a December trip my friend and I made to NYC a couple years ago.

“We had a great time, taking in the tree at Rockefeller Center, gazing at the many window decorations, catching the Radio City Christmas show and generally enjoying all the sights and decorations.

“The walk to Radio City was particularly interesting, as they had barricades along all the curbs to keep the overflow crowd on the sidewalk, and the number of people was such that we nearly were crushed against a building. Whose bright idea was that? But I digress.

“We had breakfast at Grand Central Station a couple of mornings. And one day apparently there was something called a ‘Santa Pub Crawl.’ This, as best I can tell, involved hundreds of people dressed up as Santa, and some as elves, drinking at every pub in Manhattan. As we ate breakfast, we saw probably 300 Santas get off trains and head out. By late afternoon, there were drunk Santas everywhere, including a number staggering around Grand Central Station (where we had returned to pick up a purchase at a craft fair). I keep envisioning the original poster thinking her ‘surprise’ Santa was just one of the hundreds of pub-crawling Santas. Good thing they picked the right weekend!

“P.S. I attached a couple of pictures from that trip for all to see. None of drunk Grand Central Station Santas, though.”




IGHGrampa: “Subject: Odd treats.

The mention of Elf pickled herring reminded me of some of the odd treats I’ve enjoyed over the years. Pickled herring is one, and it has to be Elf pickled herring. This time of the year, I always get a small jar of it. Funny thing, but I’m the only one in the family who likes it.

“I also like eggnog. That seems to be available only around Christmas.

“I like olives, too, but that’s not very odd. Those that I have now are super-salty.

“Something I liked as a kid was pickled pigs’ feet. I’m not sure you can even get them any more. [Bulletin Board says: You can. A cursory Google search informed us that Sam’s Club, for example, carries numerous brands — though one would think they’d be pretty much interchangeable.] They tasted vinegary and had a texture like crunchy Jell-O. I should look for them next time I’m in the supermarket, but I don’t think I will look hard. It just doesn’t sound right to eat pigs’ feet. Just the name is a major put-off.

“A couple of years ago, I got a hunger for watermelon-rind pickles, and, glory be, I found them. They even tasted like mom’s.

“I think I’ll head to the supermarket now.”

The highfalutin pleasures (responsorial)

Friendly Bob of Fridley: “The submission from The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills (12/19) reminded me of a way I handled a similar unwanted call nearly 20 years ago.

“I had just been declared 100 percent disabled (unemployable), and was for the first time living alone in an apartment. Under the circumstances, it was easy to fall into a rather unstructured lifestyle: When I wanted to stay up late, I did; when I wanted to sleep in, I did. Oh, I still do those things.

“Before I continue, I should explain that although I have gone by ‘Bob’ (and in younger years, ‘Bobby’) for most of my life, my actual first name is LeRoy. I use that for anything I sign, services I get, and other times when I do not want someone to know me as Bob. I shall not explain why.

“So, one morning I am lazily sleeping in. Telephone ringing awakens me (partially). Qwest was my provider at the time, and I did not have Caller I.D. Somewhat amazingly, the caller identifies himself as being from AT&T, and asks if LeRoy is there. I knew that some fantastic offer was to follow. Somehow in my sleep-deprived brain, I came up with this response: ‘Sorry . . . he’s in the hospital. He got run over by a telephone truck.’

“Silence. After a few seconds, I spared him further embarrassment and hung up. And went back to sleep.

“These days, Caller I.D. saves me the trouble on both my landline and my cell. If I do not recognize the number (or, worse, if it proclaims something like ‘Unavailable’), I do not answer. If it is important, a message can be left on either phone. Well, that rarely happens!”

Art imitates life
Know Thyself Division

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: ‘The Good Doctor’ Meltdown.

“As I told BBers some time back, I am on the autism spectrum. So I have been watching the new show ‘The Good Doctor’ — in which Sean, the main character, is on the spectrum. I think they have done a pretty good job of showing a young doctor who is both autistic and a savant, working his surgery residency in a hospital. As a savant, he shows brilliance in some medical situations. And, of course, his autistic side can drive the world nuts.

“In the last episode, Sean ‘had a meltdown.’ It is the kind of situation that emergency personnel need extra training on, because an autistic person having a meltdown may seem scary or dangerous. And someone can end up harmed or killed.

“In the show, Sean has been bothering his mentor by calling for help in the middle of the night, etc. — because Sean can be like the Amelia Bedelia character in children’s books. If you tell Sean to call if he needs help, he will. At 3:00 a.m. To tell you that his faucet is dripping. I know better than to do this, but young Sean has not yet learned the multiple meanings of Call Me.

“The TV mentor decides to Fix Sean, by finding him a life coach — forgetting that Sean is an adult who should make his own decisions. And that Sean has feelings and opinions — understandable and ‘visible’ to folks, or not.

“As the mentor escalates his attempts to ‘fix’ Sean, Sean hides from him in a maintenance closet — where the smaller space and reduced light level are more comfortable to someone like him. Autistic people are often more (or super) sensitive to input like light, sound and commotion, etc., so this is calming.

“At the end of the episode, the mentor loudly confronts Sean in a hospital lobby, and orders him to come see the life coach. As Sean repeatedly says no and announces he wants to make his own decisions, etc., the mentor grabs him — and Sean flings his arm out to free himself. Sean then flees, empties his apartment, and disappears.

“This is the part where some folks might assume Sean is scary and dangerous — even though he is fleeing an intolerable situation, and he did not strike out until he was grabbed. To a person hypersensitive to touch, Sean did nothing wrong. But law enforcers, as I understand it, are trained to dominate and control — escalating their behavior to scare the other person into submission. Which I figure will make autistic people louder and less compliant — because they are lost in their ‘scared and confused’ places, incapable of hearing orders.

“Were I present in a situation like this, I would want to quiet things down in all ways. Lower my voice, back off physically, and tell Sean that I heard him. There is a great quote in the Bible about a quiet voice turning away anger, and I figure it applies here.

“Were I the mentor, I would explain to Sean the problems his behavior caused me — and communicate ground rules, such as when and how the mentor is available for advice, etc.

“It will be interesting to hear how the TV program handles this situation.”

Life as we know it
Or: Our times (still!)

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: See Dick work. See Dick play.

“I go to a small barber shop in a small town: one chair, Field & Stream magazines and an old barber named Dick. Unless you see him taping up the sign, he goes fishing without much notice. His regulars are usually sparsely covered pates in 50 shades of gray. We are a vanishing breed, but then so is he. At our age, many of our brothers have no need for a barber at all.

“I went in early this morning to avoid the Christmas rush. So did five other guys. As we waited our turns, others came in, took a look, and promised to return later that day or the next.

“Their loyalty inspired me to think of those economic models I studied in college, over 50 years ago. Supply and demand; point of diminishing returns; first in, first out, Yada, yada, yada, yawn. There was never any consideration given to a happy, gentle life in those models, as I recall, and definitely no mention of going fishing.”

Our theater of seasons
5/7/5 Division

A December haiku from WriteWoman of Shoreview:

“three leaves fell to ground

“landed softly in the snow

“a junco flew by”

Band Name of the Day: The Drunk Santas

Website of the Day, from Double Bogey Mike: 


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