Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Christmas Story

No, it's not about getting my mouth washed out with soap, being pissed off about my secret decoder ring, (Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!) or even my quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun. This is actually a true story.

The epic struggle which follows lives in the folklore of Cleveland Street to this very day.

For several years, I lived in and around Phoenix, while my mom lived in San Diego. The rest of the family lived back east--either in Nashville or Atlanta. Most of those years I couldn't make it back east for the holidays, so when that was the case, I'd always manage to make the five-and-a-half-hour drive to San Diego to spend Christmas with my mom. We kept the usual family traditions alive, but we had one other activity that we'd do every Christmas Eve.

Mom had some friends who invited us to their church for their Christmas program. Not being a religious fellow, I was apprehensive the first time, but agreed to go, figuring that I could always use a few points on the good side of the ledger.

Let's face it, most of us are scoffers. But moments before zero hour, it did not pay to take chances.

So we went the first time, and I'm glad we did because it was an excellent program--dramatic scripture readings, excellent chorale music, a wonderful non-preachy sermon from the pastor, and the whole thing was followed by a candle-lighting ceremony that set the tone for a perfect Christmas Eve. It was such an enjoyable program that I had no problem with putting a small donation in the envelope when the baskets were passed around. Of course I marked it 'Anonymous', not wanting to get on any recruiting lists...

After the service, we'd drive around looking at all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood--everyone nearby really went all out with the decor, and on one street we could actually park the car, drink hot cocoa, and walk around listening to holiday music while enjoying the decorated homes and yards.

Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.

After that, we'd head home for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration of eggnog, snacks, and gifts.

We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.

We enjoyed the presentation so much that we made it a custom to attend every year, doing the same thing every Christmas Eve for several years running. We'd go to the same church, sit in the same row, with the same people, watch the same program, then go out looking at all of the homes in the neighborhood. It was always a wonderful evening.

The last time we attended was four years ago, and when the presentation was winding down, it was time to fill out the donation envelopes again. Not wanting to be 'Anonymous' again, I decided to add a little humor and wrote down that the donation was from The fat guy that only visits on Christmas Eve! and put it on top of the stack of other envelopes.

My mom saw it and tried to give me The Look, but after about two seconds, she started laughing, as did her friend sitting next to her. Of course the people around us kinda wanted to see what was so funny, so my donation envelope stayed on top while the basket made it's way down the pew. Pretty soon I started laughing too, and the whole row got the church giggles.

We made it to the conclusion of the service, barely, and after it ended the pastor made a point of coming up, saying hello, and shaking my hand.

Now I know that some of you put Flick up to this, but he has refused to say who. But those who did it know their blame, and I'm sure that the guilt you must feel would be far worse than any punishment you might receive. Now, don't you feel terrible? Don't you feel remorse for what you have done? Well, that's all I'm going to say about poor Flick.

--Adults loved to say things like that but kids knew better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.

I'm sure that by the time he sorted through all of the donations the next day, he knew exactly which one was mine.

It was all over - I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.

Luckily it was a generous donation, and the lightning bolt with my name was diverted to someone more deserving. I didn't get a BB Gun that year, but then again, I didn't get my mouth washed out with soap, either.


No comments: