The snow was falling, soft and gentle, on that good night, as tears were falling from every eye . . .

What is right with people?
‘Tis the Season Division

Deuce of Eagan: “Subject: Hospice Holiday.

“‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know . . .’

“St. Joseph’s Hospital of St. Paul has made the local news lately. Rumors have started of the possibility of its closing within the next three years. That got me thinking: I bet there are many hundreds of stories that the staff, health-care providers, former patients and volunteers could tell.

“A recent fine article in the Pioneer Press (12/5) written by a Dr. Katie Freeman presents her view of the values the hospital exemplifies. One thing she heralded was the ‘compassionate care.’ That phrase took me back a few years, to 1991/92.

“It was then that I was one of several volunteers who worked the Hospice unit on one of the upper floors of St. Joe’s. The Hospice program provided comprehensive and compassionate care to individuals who were approaching the end of life, and to their families.

“As volunteers, we assisted the Hospice staff with serving coffee to visitors, visiting with the residents, reading to them, etc. Unrivaled satisfaction was getting to know them and hearing the stories they told of their lives. Conversely, the most difficult was coming in for a shift and hearing they had passed away.

“One of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced took place a few nights before Christmas. One of our generous volunteers arranged for a motor coach in which Hospice staff would ride to the homes of those on the ‘at-home’ Hospice program, to sing Christmas carols. I have to tell you: It was the perfect night — a light snowfall with large glistening flakes, no wind, and the temperature hovering just a bit above freezing. We all (about 20 of us) commented how lucky we were to have the ideal weather that night. I often wonder if that was merely ‘luck’ (?).

“The individuals and their families were told beforehand of our plans. At our stops, we were greeted with smiles and waves, along with tears. Believe me, tears trickled down the cheeks of the carolers as well. That made it difficult to follow our song books, but overall we sounded pretty darn good. I cannot find the descriptive words that could define the joy and love displayed that wonderful evening.

“‘O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant . . .'”

Goodvertising
‘Tis the Season Division

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Hafod Hardware, a little old-time store in Wales, has posted wonderful Christmas ‘adverts’ for the store online, from 2017 through 2019. All center on a family business in a village of about 2,000 people. One shows four generations of the family running the shop. All contain the young boy and his dad.

“These adverts illustrate why I try to buy directly from artisans and local businesses — to do my best to help keep them going.

“Here is the newest one.”

‘Tis the season!

The Gram With a Thousand Rules writes: “Subject: Fake Santas. [Bulletin Board says: “Fake” is such a . . . harsh word, don’t you think? How about “Imitation Santas”? Or maybe “Stand-in Santas.” “Wannabe Santas”?]

“I never bought into the idea that those department-store Santas were real. I was only 5, but to me it made no sense. The poor guy was up there at the North Pole working his fingers to the bone making toys for us in time to deliver them on Christmas Eve. What idiot could believe that he had time to sit around talking to kids in a department store? So, on that day in December of 1937, when I was having a perfectly good time looking around the toy department, my 17-year-old sister Raye decided I should get in line to sit on the guy’s lap. I rebelled. She whined to Mother, and Mother urged me to ‘just go ahead and do it, dear.’ Unknown to me, Raye had an ulterior motive. The family story goes that Raye had a crush on the young fellow playing Santa Claus and wanted a close-up look at him.

“That was how I experienced the one and only time I almost talked to a department-store Santa. The store was very hot, and the line was long. The kids shuffled along inside the ropes, and the accompanying adults shuffled alongside them on the outside of the ropes. I was one kid away from my turn, and Raye was already directly opposite Santa looking adoringly into his eyes, when she started to swoon . . . and I mean swoon. She fell forward into a dead faint right into the poor guy’s lap. I turned around and made my escape down the up-aisle, and by the time I reached Mother, she and a store employee were reviving Raye.

“We caught a streetcar home. Raye was humiliated, Mother was amused, and I was certain that the real Santa was going to reward me for my loyalty.”

‘Tis the season!
Including: The Permanent Good Wifely Record

The Astronomer of Nininger: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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“One Christmas tradition at our home, started by the Good Wife many years ago, is to have one of our Christmas trees (I’ve lost count) decorated with handmade ornaments. Each year has a different theme. This year, the Good Wife acquired a computerized embroidery sewing machine, so all of the ornaments are exquisitely embroidered tree decorations, with anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 stitches each. I cannot even imagine doing this by hand.

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“When guests visit our home at Christmas, they are invited to take an ornament home which they can add to their tree.

“This year is our 40th annual Christmas Open House, and the Good Wife has been making ornaments for most of these occasions. Hopefully, when our guests see that ornament on their tree, they will think of us. We wish everyone a very merry Christmas and hope they have fond thoughts of us all the year through.”

The simple pleasures

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The Stitcher of Woodbury: “Simple pleasure: when your yarn ball is almost hollowed out but it hasn’t collapsed yet.”

The highfalutin amusements

Lucky Buck: “From my Florida brother John.”

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This ‘n’ that

From The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: (1) “Subject: Mary Jo Copeland she ain’t!

“I’m still in my pajamas watching the ‘Sunday Morning’ show in my recliner when the Runabout puts thick wool stockings on my bare feet. All I do is ask her for a little more coffee when she’s done, and I get such a look!”

(2) “Subject: Picture this.

“Comic strip in my head: The first frame shows a convict eating a meal in a holding cell as a sad priest looks on. Frame two sees the shackled prisoner being led from the cell by the priest and guards. The final picture has the prisoner asking, as he passes one of the guards: ‘Can I get a look at the dessert menu, please?'”

Our times
Dark Humor Division

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: Life imitates art or vice versa or ?

“This comic ran in the December 13th Pioneer Press.

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“To misquote Sheldon Cooper on ‘The Big Bang Theory’: ‘It’s NOT funny, because it is true.’ It hits too close to home, since our own hometown newspaper became hedge-fund fodder years ago. ‘Prickly City’ has been sounding the alarm for newspapers for quite a while. May it carry on the battle as long as even a single independent newspaper survives.”

The Dean of Comedy

Donald: “Subject: Did it change any results?

“From Sport’s Illustrated’s ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’: ‘After officials added one second back to the clock at the end of the the first half of Auburn’s 48-45 win over Alabama, allowing the Tigers to make a field goal, Auburn’s dean authorized professors to give students one extra second on final exams.’”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: That is decidedly NOT a Sign of the Apocalypse! It is a sign that, even in these crazy times, humor still has a fighting chance.

Bravo (or, of course, Brava), Dean!

Metaphorically speaking (responsorial)

This was the headline on the most recent Bulletin Board: “How is the beginning of a pregnancy like the end of a hockey game?”

This was the item in question, from LeoJEOSP: “A female relative is currently visiting from a very large northeastern city. She was married a few years ago and said that she and her husband were trying to get in a family way.

“After a few minutes, she said: ‘Eric and I decided to pull the goalie.’ “I am 64 years old, and this is the first time I have heard that expression used in this context.”

We presently heard from The Farm Boy of St. Paul: “How is the beginning of a pregnancy like the end of a hockey game?

“I was guessing: No more periods.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Bravo, Farm Boy!

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other

All Al B of Hartland: (1) “I used the necessary at a huge clinic. I noticed the toilet paper. I notice things like toilet paper because I’ve looked through an empty toilet-paper tube and discovered land. There were two rolls of toilet paper at the service of those in need. There are two ways to hang toilet paper: Over, with the loose end draped over the top, and under, with the loose end hanging inside next to the wall. One of the rolls was over, and one was under. Unintended, or was someone trying to please everyone? No matter, it’s good to have choices. I wonder if it was 1-ply or 2-ply?

“Toilet paper is like many things. I don’t care which way it hangs as long it’s there. You never know what you have until it’s gone.

“A few days later, I received a survey from that clinic with a request for completion. If you leave your house, you’re going to be asked to complete a survey. It’s homework for grownups. I read the survey twice; there wasn’t a single question about toilet paper.”

(2) “I wolfed down a couple of Aussie bites for breakfast. I’ve heard them described as the offspring of an oatmeal cookie and a granola bar — packed with oats, nuts, seeds, berries, fruits, honey, vanilla, cloves, and anything an Australian might find while foraging in the bush. They’re chewy and sweet, but not too sweet.

“Properly fueled, I walked through a heavy rain. I was a big drip, dripping rain. I carried no umbrella because I’m an adrenalin junkie. I was unarmed when encountering those jousting knights armed with sharp umbrellas. The most dangerous of those were the people texting while walking and carrying an umbrella.”

(3) “The world had put on its winter coat: a heavy coat of snow. I drove through way too much snow (according to the National Weather Service) to get to an important meeting. We complain about the weather forecasts, but we should complain that they are too accurate. Another attendee asked how my drive to town was. I told her that I’d seen a small flock of snow buntings. Those birds made the post-storm journey a delight.”

(4) “I was a shivering boy from a combination of excitement and frozen socks. It was Christmas, and I’d found thin ice on the Le Sueur River and fallen into its gelid waters — again. It was a blessing — an unintentional tradition that left me thankful I didn’t do it more often.”

(5) “One year, I wanted and I got Silly Putty. It came in an egg and was a popular stocking stuffer. I didn’t know or care what kind of chicken laid the egg. I’d press the putty on a newspaper comic, and the image of the cartoon character came off with the putty. It stretched, and it bounced like a rubber ball. It was silly, but it was like putty in my hands.”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Two-Digit Division     

The most recent edition of Bulletin Board included this note from Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “My wife and I were trying to remember what some of the old telephone exchange names were in St. Paul and surrounding areas back in the ’50s and ’60s. We could remember only a few of them, like CA was ‘CApitol’ (State Capitol area), PR was’“PRospect’ (East Side area), MI was ‘MIdway’ (Midway Area). There was also a ‘NEster,’ but we don’t remember where that was. And so on.

“Let’s take a trip back in time and see what the BB readers can remember. Hopefully we will get a good response from some of the readers.”

We presently heard from . . .

South St. Paul Gal: “The two telephone exchanges I remember are: PArkway (my grandparents’ home was on Minnehaha Parkway) and WEst, for my parents’ phone number. We lived about three miles west of Hopkins in Glen Lake.

“My husband remembers SPring, for White Bear Lake.”

Dennis from Eagan: “My phone exchange growing up in the Como/North End area (1956-1978) was ’48,’ which meant HUmboldt.”

Granny Stad: “In West St. Paul it was CEdar. And for the first few years in our new house on Butler Avenue, it was a three-party line.”

Jimbo of Inver Grove Heights: “MU for MUlberry was from the West Seventh Street area.”

Marie of North Branch: “I remember: CApitol, NEster [Bulletin Board says: NEster, or NEstor?], MIdway, PRospect, HUmboldt, EMerson, TOwer and VAn Buren.”

Semi-Legend:Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake’s discussion of Twin Cities telephone exchange names of the 1950s and ’60s reminded me of New York City exchanges when I grew up there: BUtterfield 8, MUrray Hill 9.

“It also reminded me of Allan Sherman’s 1963 protest song about the switch to all-digital numbers.

“The lines ‘Let’s take our business / To another phone company’ were a joke. There was no other phone company.

“This was also key to a plot twist in Theodore J. Flicker’s 1967 movie ‘The President’s Analyst.'”

There’s a signpost up ahead . . .

Now entering the Twilight Zone is Papa Doofus of Roseville: “Subject: Unsolved Mystery.

“What I am relating here, in the first person, is the absolute truth, though I must admit I myself find it hard to believe.

“The better part of 50 years ago, my bride and I bought a bargain ‘fixer-upper’ in a modest neighborhood in the ‘burbs, with the ambitious, if naive, intent of transforming the tiny (565-square-foot) flat-roofed cottage, a ‘Frank Lloyd Wrong,’ into an actual house.

“We were delighted to find that both of our immediate neighbors proved to be the best neighbors ever. Both of the guys were members of the Greatest Generation — one a decorated U.S. Army vet, the other from the U.S. Navy. (They got along well in spite of that.) Anyway, they were both very high on the self-sufficiency scale; ‘handymen’ was the term, way before ‘DIY’ was even a thing, and they both had impressive tool cribs and extensive experience which they were more than willing to share with us rookies as we bumbled along on our project.

“Over the next few decades, we developed great neighborly relationships with both of these guys. The typical joking and verbal jousting was ongoing. Eventually, we had a reasonable facsimile of a real house, had raised and launched our kids, and of course had witnessed the aging of those fine neighbors. During those later years, we had been able to return the favor of their generous help by lending our assistance for their various needs.

“Then, about 18 years ago, after one of these fine gentlemen had passed, his son was clearing out the premises and wondered if I wanted some of his tools and boxes of miscellaneous plumbing and electrical supplies. Since our house project was an ongoing saga (and still is, as you BBers probably well know from your own experience), I gladly accepted. I stashed the boxes away in my garage and occasionally rummaged through them to find a suitable valve, switch, or thing-a-ma-jig for whatever I was fixing. Saved a lot of trips to Menards.

“Over the following years, those boxes were less and less accessed, and kind of migrated to the darker depths of my garage.

“The thread of this discourse actually picks up about 15 years later, at a gas station out west of the Twin Cities, about 30 miles from home, where I’d stopped for gas and a doughnut on my way home from a business appointment. On getting back into my car, with said doughnut, and my receipt, keys, and billfold in hand, I did notice, in hindsight, a bit of fumbling in getting my billfold into my back pocket, as my untucked shirt-tail was obstructing that attempt. (And yes, I’m kind of a slob, but the prior business was casual.) So you can likely see this next part coming: Got home. No billfold. Panic/hot flashes/frantic search. Called the gas station to ask whether anyone turned in a billfold that was lying out on the apron by pump #3 (the # was on my receipt). The answer was ‘Nope.’ So I had to attend to the great nuisance of replacing my driver’s license, canceling and getting new credit cards, replacing membership cards for insurance, auto club, and of course my AARP card. — all the while having anxiety attacks and nightmares re: some nefarious guy out there stealing my identity and committing who-knows-what in my name. But luckily that didn’t happen.

“What did happen (stick with me here; this is actually all connected) was that a couple months after I had secured a new billfold and all the necessary replacement contents, my son (who has inherited the DIY gene) called to ask if I might have an electrical box for a home project that he was doing. I was pretty sure that there would be one in one of those boxes from the dear neighbor, though by this time I hadn’t been into them for a couple years, and they were by then stacked back behind layers of accumulated miscellaneous ‘garage stuff.’ You know: grandkids’ trikes, broken Tiki torches (which just needed some duct tape), jugs of drain oil, some unused deck stain, and a few odd-shaped plywood remnants. So I dug through that stuff and dragged out the box that had the best chance of containing wiring supplies and took it into the house to check. I opened that box and then opened another smaller, closed box that was inside. In it, I was quite surprised to find a billfold, and wondered why on earth my old neighbor would have left a billfold in a box of electrical leftovers. On opening up the billfold, I was absolutely flabbergasted — totally gobsmacked to see myself looking back at me from my own driver’s license! It was indeed my very own lost billfold, with everything intact, including the $4 cash that I had left after purchasing that doughnut.

“Believe me: To this day, and I’m pretty sure for the rest of my life, I will never have a rational, earthly explanation for how this happened. I am truly baffled. The only thing that makes any ‘sense’ is that my dear departed neighbor was looking after me and somehow scooped my billfold up off of that gas-station apron, and, as a friendly prank, transported it to a place where he knew I would eventually find it and would know that he was involved. I can picture him grinning down at me now. Thanks, Len.”

Our squirrels, ourselves

Unaccountably, this note from Kathy, Princess Marcie’s mom, escaped our notice when it arrived in mid-November: “Our pumpkin bed-and-breakfast is open for the second year. Mr. Gray Squirrel came first to inhabit the pumpkin. He enjoyed eating all the seeds inside while staying warm and dry. My husband ended up replenishing seeds every day as Mr. Gray Squirrel ate and ate and ate.

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“Then the trouble began. Rocky, the red squirrel, came to check out this bed-and-breakfast situation. The two of them had a major fight over the territory.

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“Mr. Gray Squirrel, now much fatter than usual, lost the battle. The pumpkin house is now inhabited royally by the King of the Hill, Rocky the red squirrel.”

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Our pets, ourselves

St. Paul Spike: “Subject: Failed doggie elf picture.

“I tried to get a picture of my goofy beagle/basset, Dude, wearing an elf hat for the Christmas newsletter. Dude had other ideas, as you can see.

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“We ended up playing tug-of-war with the hat. This picture went in the newsletter.”

Dennis from Eagan: “Subject: Happy Holidays.

“Dear BB editor & readers:

“You lucky dogs . . . you get a photo of Stormy and me during our trip to Bemidji in mid-July!

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“We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2020!”

Our grandsons, ourselves!

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Uncle Buck of St. Paul: “Hendrix (a.k.a. Jimmi!) and Grandpa just chilling — because, when you’re cool, the sun shines all the time. Well hello, ladies.”

The darnedest things

WARNING! Cute kid stories ahead!

King Grandpa: “While entertaining the grandkids (Jacoby and Sonya), I had the brilliant idea of creating Christmas hand turkeys, since Thanksgiving was behind us. After they’d traced their little hands and colored mostly within the lines, I reminded them that they needed to take special care of these turkeys.

“They both promptly stood up and put them in the refrigerator.”

luv.mom: “Christmas cards and letters are coming in the mail and on email from many friends and relatives. A sweet one came from one of my former students, who has two children, Gabriel (3-1/2 years) and Rosalle (2 years). She shared this: ‘When we told the children that we were expecting a new baby, Gabriel looked thoughtful and asked, “Can we still keep Rosalle?”‘”

Band Name of the Day: The Fake Santas

Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “Maybe a worthy successor (or accompaniment) to the Ice Castle?”

This Snow Labyrinth In Poland Looks Like It’s Straight Out Of A Fairytale And It’s Larger Than 10 Tennis Courts