Archive - December 2005
The Old Yule Log
Despite what the title may imply, this isn’t going to be about my Uncle Bernie and his penchant for inappropriate lap rides and cheap vodka.
It’s about Christmas. I was tempted go with “Christmas Bells.” (Get it, “Christmas Bells.” My last name is “Bell.” Get it? No? No good? See, that’s what I thought too.) But I decided to include the phrase “Yule Log” because it makes me giggle. Almost as much as “Lake Titicaca.” And yes, I’m aware of how mature I am. Or am not.
Let me tell you the mystery of my childhood Christmases. We were poor, I get that. But there was always a myriad of gifts beneath the tree come Christmas morning. The mystery was how, when the dust settled and we sat in the shadow of a mountain of torn, discarded wrapping paper so tall Sir Edmund Hillary would have shot a sideways glance at his intrepid Sherpa and proclaimed “Fuck that,” I wouldn’t have shit for presents in front of me.
Each Christmas, one of the gifts from our mother to each of us, was socks and underwear. She continues to do this even now, when my wife is completely capable of buying them for me. If you are asking yourself if you’re poor, look at your Christmas presents. If your parents try to foist one of life’s necessities on you as a gift (canned vegetables, the receipt for the rent check, socks and underwear), then you’re poor. And while I can’t prove it, I know in my heart, that my mother took some perverted pleasure in it all. As if it was payback for some unknown sin of the child. Forty hours in labor, perhaps, or some extra gray hairs.
The first Christmas after our marriage, my wife opened a present from my mother, and lo and behold, she beheld a container of socks and underwear. Welcome to the family. I’m just not sure why they were edible underwear. That was a little creepy, Mom. Plus, you know I don’t like licorice. What are you trying to say?
The other adventure of Christmas at the Bells was the fetching of the tree. Again, due to our impoverished state, I was thirty-two before I found out you could buy one.
Every year, several weeks before Christmas, my father and I, belly full of some sort of pasta dish, would bundle up and head out into the dark. My father would throw a saw in the trunk and a six-pack on the seat. (Back in the day, drinking while driving was merely “frowned upon.”) We would pull out of the driveway and invariable watch my mother run down the stairs yelling one last instruction. “Don’t get shot!” I used to think she was joking, now, I’m not so sure.
We would drive out to some piece of land my father had scouted out earlier in the week. He’d turn out the headlights as we pulled down the dirt road. (In retrospect, I was in a lot more danger than I ever thought I was.) The next twenty minutes were spent investigating trees in the pitch black to find a good one. When the winner was found, I would hand my father the saw I had been carrying, and he would hand me his beer. (It wasn’t safe for me to carry the beer, I might spill it.) “Keep an eye out.” He’d say (again, I get it now) and saw down the tree.
Tree felled, we would drag it back to the car which now was somehow 3.2 miles away, and throw it on the roof (we didn’t have a station wagon). Some years we remembered rope, some we didn’t. Either way, the ride home was windows down, hands holding onto our tree, frost-bitten and praying we hadn’t just pissed of the rabid squirrel nesting near the trunk. I’d be leaning hard against the door, one cheek on the armrest so I was tall enough to reach the branches. No seatbelt. This was a while ago. I’m not even sure the car had seat belts.
Times have changed. I pay for Christmas trees now, but I drink while putting it up. The fear of getting shot is considerably less, but maybe that’s why the tree doesn’t smell as good, or look as full. Cheating death can make you appreciate the little things. Also, I buy underwear out of season, but don’t tell my Mom.
You're fucking hilarious. How did you get a job doing this?
Normally, I wouldn't devote much time or space to answering this question, since it's not really asking for help. But there's been a dearth of questions this month. (Which kinda pisses me off, people. I mean really, I've been outside recently. I've seen people. I know for a fact there's plenty of crazy assholes out there. Perhaps they're too busy making earwax figurines of their favorite 16th century British poets to write ole Grumpy.)
How did I get a job doing this? 2 simple steps, my friend.
1. Marry someone who won't make you work for a living. (Tricky, but crucial.)
2. Come up with a witty and memorable name for a website, then convince spouse (see above) that it will help you out in your writing "career."
Warning though, there is a fair amount of explaining to do as regards your "career" and what exactly have you done other than give angst ridden teenagers bad advice regarding handjobs. Also, you'll do a lot of laundry.
And be careful about how you bandy the word "job" about? That implies making money, and that just isn't in the cards. I don't do this for financial gain, I do it for the kids, man. (Pause for dramatic effect.) For the kids.
Hope that helps,
Not grumpy enough for you? Alright. How 'bout this?
Fuck you and your stupid problem.
Hope that helps,
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