Some years, Christmas took forever to arrive. Like the year everyone’s pipes were frozen in the Adirondack tundra, and, their needing a plumber, specifically my dad the plumber, took precedence over gift opening, which didn’t take place until 2pm. I’m not bitter. Just sayin’.
My grandfather hid out in our garage, doing things that required great patience and solitude. He really enjoyed sorting and labeling things and cleaning up after my dad. In the summer he would melt lead and pour it into molds, to make lures for fishing. He would take them to Florida over the winter and sell them for a buck a piece. He would tweak them every year, depending on who was catching what. He couldn’t make them fast enough to keep up with the demand. He taught me about market research.
Again, that same year, before Nana and Pop-Pop left for Florida, we all sat around stringing pop-corn and cranberries in front of the fireplace. That was the year Shim came, the Britney Spaniel that would become my grandfather’s trusty companion and chief mitten-stealer. She would walk around in circles for what seemed like an hour and then plop down for her naps. My grandfather trained her to do amazing things, as only a soul with his extraordinary patience could do.
Christmas eve, over the choral musings of the beloved Mitch Miller, I thought I heard a thud from the back of the trailer. I got back there just in time to find my grandmother on the bed, wearing an expression I could not interpret.
“Don’t tell any body but I think I broke my ribs.”
I maturely ran to the front room screaming: “Nana broke her ribs! Nana fell and thinks she broke her ribs!”
The next few moments are a blurry memory of a flurry of activity. It was her wrist, not her ribs. (I didn’t know what ribs were, anyhow). My mother, who was warned in High School First Aid class not to ever go near anyone in crisis, ever, did a sensible thing: She pulled a Dixie cup out of a wall dispenser and poured Nana a 4 ounce shot of.
My next memory comes from a Polaroid picture of Shim, laying on Nana’s lap, wearing red ear–muffs. Nana is in a cast singing Bing Crosby . My father comes in from working people’s frozen pipes. He surveyed the situation and asked casually “you guys have a busy morning?”
I would like to tell you how gracefully I handled this situation, but I was whining that I wanted my presents. Just then neighbors stopped in, displaying their presents and further delaying my agony.
That was the same year we left in such haste we forgot to take the tree down, and when we returned in March, every needle was still attached, until someone slammed the door. Then, just like the tree in “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!,” every needle fell to the floor.