Monday, December 13, 2010

Uncle Jim's Christmas Stocking




Grand Uncle Jim

First things first: This is a story about an Irish family. While my name is Jim, and I’m an uncle, I also have an Uncle Jim of my own. There is an Uncle Jim mentioned in this story, but he’s not that Uncle Jim, although that Uncle Jim is the one who told me this tale of the other Uncle Jim. Actually, he’s Uncle Jim’s Uncle Jim, making him my Grand Uncle Jim (and some folks prefer the title 'great uncle', but let’s not open that can of worms.) It’s very confusing to the uninitiated, I suppose, so if it will keep you from getting a headache, feel free to think of him as Uncle Aloysius.

Anyway, when my father was very young – five or six - his Uncle Jim taught him a very valuable lesson.

My father had hung his stocking on Christmas Eve, as did all of the family. This included the older relatives, and that group included his Uncle Jim. Come Christmas morning, everybody took down their stockings and looked inside to see what Santa Claus had brought them.

The usual things were found inside the stockings - little toys, tasty candies, and other such trifles. Nice, of course, but nothing unusual. That is, until Uncle Jim inspected the contents of his stocking. He turned it upside down, and out rolled a lump of coal and an onion.

While good little boys and girls receive toys and candies, a lump of coal and an onion are, by tradition, what bad boys and girls receive. Seeing those things come from Uncle Jim’s stocking, my father laughed and laughed. Uncle Jim was a bad boy! He got a lump of coal and an onion!

While my father was laughing, Uncle Jim said, "Oh! This is wonderful! A lump of coal and an onion? These are just what I needed!"

My father thought his Uncle Jim had gone round the bend. How could someone be happy to have received a lump of coal and an onion in his Christmas stocking?

Uncle Jim picked up the lump of coal, then took my father’s hand and led him to the basement. They stopped at the furnace. Uncle Jim said, "It’s so cold today, this lump of coal is the perfect gift. I can put it in the furnace and we’ll be nice and warm all day!"

Uncle Jim then led my amazed father back upstairs. They returned to the family parlor, where Uncle Jim now picked up his Christmas onion. He led my father into the kitchen. While my father sat and watched, Uncle Jim chopped up the onion, and then mixed it with celery, bread, and spices. During all of this, he went on rapturously about how his stuffing for the turkey would have been no good whatsoever without an onion.

Later on, as my father sat in a warm house eating delicious stuffing with his Christmas dinner, the lesson was permanently burned into his memory: It doesn’t matter what you’re given. It’s what you do with it that matters.

(I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that in mind when you see more re-runs from me in the coming days.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

(Some of the more perspicacious among you no doubt realized that this entry, itself, is a re-run. I appreciate your loyalty and persistence in having reached this final parenthetical without bailing. May you find superb uses for all of the coal and onions life gives you.)


30 comments:

haphazardlife said...

So this is the winter version of if life gives you lemons, make lemonade?

- Jazz

Gaston Studio said...

It may be a rerun but it's a first for me and so beautiful! I love your Uncle Jim and his outlook on life.
Happy holidays Jim!

Daryl said...

haphazzardlife stole my comment

Uncle Skip, said...

Our Irish family was loaded down with Uncle Jim's, too, and Johns. Good grief! We couldn't keep them straight.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

What a great lesson, especially for the kids in your family at the time.

Never heard the onion part. In my family the legend was coal and sticks.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I got to the coal & onion part & thought, this reads awfully familiar...still its such a great story and the embodiment of the Christmas (holiday, whatever) spirit that it really is the thought that counts :-)

Quirkyloon said...

I deserve coal and onion this year. And now I know what to do with it.

*smile*

Bruce Coltin said...

Just a thought. Would you run fewer re-runs if we paid you more money?

Suldog said...

Bruce - If I was paid *any* money, the new stuff would flow from my fingertips like gonorrhea from a cheap hooker.

Buck said...

I'd be hard-pressed to figger out what to do with a lump o' coal and I suspect most of us in this electrical-innernet age would be, too. Unless I had a smelter in my backyard, which I don't. Onions are another story altogether.

Money? You mean some people actually make MONEY doin' this blogging thing? ;-)

Bruce Coltin said...

A lovely word-picture!

Uncle Skip, said...

I'll second Bruce's comment.
If it was a post, it would get bacon.

Craig said...

Yeah, what Jazz said. . .

When life gives you coal, burn it in the furnace; when life gives you onions, make stuffing. . .

-----

I actually lived with a guy when I was in college, who used to eat onions as if they were apples. One time, when the menu called for stew, or somesuch requiring onions, the cook-for-the-day went to the fridge, only to find that there were no onions, so he went to the guy who'd done the shopping, and chewed him out for not getting any onions; and of course, the shopper swore that he'd bought onions.

So that night, over dinner, the cook and the shopper casually asked if anyone knew what had happened to the onions, and our onion-eater-guy said, "Oh - I thought those were just for anyone to take; I've been packing 'em in my lunch. . ."

Red Hamster said...

A charming Christmas homily from Uncle Jim Suldog. Good thing I'm old enough to know what a homily is and what a lump of coal was used for......

Sweet story. I would be thrilled with a lump of coal if I could figure out how to turn it into a big diamond in my lifetime, instead of a billion years. If you can figure that out, then you can enjoy our comments without preferring cash.

IT said...

Good story, Suldog. I'm glad you recycle them. You sort of remind me of O Henry... or maybe a character from O Henry.
I'm kinda partial to onion soup. I bet if I could get that lump of coal burning, I could make soup with the onion.

Suldog said...

IT - I've grown fond of onions over the years. Hated them when I was a kid. Now I use them in many dishes.

The shame of it is that My Dad, who got the lesson in this story, was always trying to get me to eat little pearl onions. He'd tell me how sweet they were, and that people's tastes change over the years. I refused, often. Now that he's been gone for many years, I've still never tried them. I'm afraid I'll find I like them and then I'll feel as though I somehow betrayed him in life by not enjoying such a tasty treat while he was still around...

Silly, I know, but I can't bring myself to pop one in my mouth now.

Karen said...

I remember this one and liked it as much this time around :)

Barbara Shallue said...

Oh, I love this story - how lucky your dad was to have such a wise uncle! Thanks for sharing it with us! (My husband's family is Irish, so I totally understand the Jim, Jim, Jim thing.)

lime said...

hey, at least your reruns are worthy...which is more than can be said of the television. a good reminder. thanks :)

Joan said...

Wonderful story!

Teacher's Pet said...

Oh...what a wonderful blogpost. It was an "ahhh" moment when I read what was done with the coal and the onion.....and the lesson behind the blog was a SUPER ahhh.
Thank you, Jim!!
Hugs and warm smiles,
Jackie

Jeni said...

Re-run or not, it's still a very good post and also, quite a valuable lesson in it too!

Michelle H. said...

Well, it's a wonderful lesson and a great story. As for trying to justify the re-runs with it, I might need more convincing ;-)

Carolina said...

One can never have too much coal or too many onions.
Especially not in this weather (baby it's cold outside).

Boom Boom Larew said...

I heart Uncle Jim! What a wise man!

Cricket said...

I love your Christmas reruns. I'll be following your example again myself, as this is one of those years. What can you do?

I bet it was "James Aloysius," too, huh? I knew quite a few of those, considering.

Suldog said...

Cricket - Actually, it was James Edward. However, since the younger of the two uncles is also James Edward, that didn't clarify matters.

Thimbelle said...

Still a favorite.

And FWIW, I'm ALLERGIC to onions - so while I appreciate the lesson, I would never be able to fully partake of it's bounty!

Lisa said...

Very nice! That reminds me of when my mom talks about how when she was little and they had no coal for heat. Serious stuff!

Anonymous said...

Well my special needs son came home and his teacher who bTW teaches all kids w.sn and only has 9 kids in her class along w/2 paras gave this to my son, he has sensory issues so when he pulled it out and smelled it he tthrew up and cried, so im pissed!! and when school is back in I will let his teacher know how much!! I am one of the few probably that thinks shes there to teach reading and writing not be a parent thats my job!! Glad we didn't buy her a gift! First time ever I havent bought my sons teacher lavish gifts as i appreciate their vocation.