The ice man came in a rickety truck. His name was Bolivar Shagnasty. At least, that was what my mother said.
We both looked forward to and dreaded the regular visits from this troll-like little man. He had an interesting selection of teeth that seemed to vary from week to week as he carried a 40-pound cake of ice up the stairs, stopping to do a few polka steps along the way, just to show he could. Water dripped from the ice, pooled up on his leather jerkin and trailed behind him, making a muddy trail on the floor. With good luck and careful planning, our food would stay cool for two or three days after his visit.
Visits from this unique character were supplanted in winter by a more welcome visitor, a fellow with white whiskers, a red fur-trimmed suit and a much more reliable form of transportation. It was cold enough to put perishables outside on the window sill and Christmas was on the way.
Recently, I asked 50 or so of my closest friends on Facebook if they could remember when they first knew that Christmas was really, truly on the way when they were children. I was inspired to ask the question by a recent Pew Report that provides an interesting point of comparison: What do Americans remember doing on the Christmases of their childhoods, and what do they still do now, as adults? For instance, 89 percent remember buying gifts for friends and family during a typical Christmas season, while 86 percent will do it this year, too. I have the feeling that people who can remember the joy can re-create it as adults.
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Of my own informal survey, everyone remembered the Christmas lights in the stores and the magical, animated store window displays as the reliable first sign. And radio. Christmas carols come earlier every year. Some stations started playing carols the day after the election this year.
Jane Pulliam remembered her family always rented a TV to watch Christmas specials, and “we were always sad to see it leave after New Years Eve.”
I’ll remember this holiday season as the year I didn’t go to Hawaii. I had my tickets, had chosen a wardrobe to go with days in the sun and extra heavy-duty support hose. I even had a special ointment compounded of crushed marijuana leaves for aching limbs. Finally, someone pointed out to me that while the popular leaf is legal in Washington, it is not legal in Hawaii. Realizing that my son wouldn’t like to see me celebrate the holidays in federal prison, probably, I took the magical salve out of the suitcase to stay behind.
I woke up to find that the hip that’s been problematic for six months had just given up all together. While four-fifths of me felt very well indeed, the last fifth wasn’t going anywhere.
So I did the only possible thing. I felt really, really sorry for myself. I did this for several days. After a while one of my children — no names — called to say I was going to have to put my Big Girl Pants on and make the best of it.
“If you keep trying,” Byron Creuger says, “good things are inevitable.” So far, I find that irritating since I’m still sitting here wrapped in my favorite robe, which was new at the start of the Reagan administration.
But any minute, the joy of the season will kick in, and I’ll see what I can do.
My friends are still trying to cheer me with signs of the season. Number 2 son checks in, “We knew it was Christmas when the cobras went into their holes?” he guessed, remembering the Christmases spent in Southeast Asia. “Wait,” he mused, “maybe that was the start of the dry season.”
“We had a strange childhood,” he reflected.
Humor is important.
It turns out that the ice man really wasn’t named Bolivar Shagnasty. He was a character created by comedian Red Skelton who appeared regularly on Skelton’s radio show. Many folks across the country gave their eccentric handymen that name.
Peggi Seldon Rowe caps the discussion. “My granddaughter at age 4 (she’s grown now), bounced in and announced ‘I know where Santa lives … Nordstrom!’ ”
Merry Christmas! May your house always be the place where joy resides.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.