Thursday, November 29, 2018

Uncle Jim's Christmas Stocking

A wonderful reader of mine, Buck (deceased for some time now, unfortunately), once left a comment saying he had a sense of deja vu concerning a post of mine. He was, as was often the case, being wry. He knew damn well he had seen it before. And I admitted as much in my reply to his comment. I mention this because today's post is also (as a used car dealer might phrase it) pre-read.

I'll be truthful with you here (which is a step in the right direction, I suppose, and maybe I'll be truthful with you all the time someday) by telling you that most of what you'll see here over the next 45 days or so will be material that has appeared here in years past. Two reasons:

1 - They are Christmas and/or holiday stories/reminiscences that received good reactions the first time around, so why not trot them out on stage for an encore?

2 - I'm lazy.

Of course, if you haven't read any of them before, they're just the same as brand new to YOU. Also, if you smack yourself over the head with a frying pan enough times you'll forget you saw them before, so why not go do that? I'm fairly sure that sort of thing will make anything I write seem more coherent, anyway.

Enough blather. Here comes the old stuff!


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 the main character herein 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.

Soon, with more better stuff.