My Old Man, Santa Claus

My old man was a hoot. Everybody in the neighborhood said, “Tom Pickering does have one heck of an imagination.” The thing was that his inventions seldom worked. His imagination seemed to be larger than his abilities.

There was the bicycle he believed would fly. He believed it so much that he rode it off the roof of our two story house. All the neighborhood saw it and there were those who shouted, “It’s a bird. It’s a plane.” When my Dad and the bike crashed through our neighbor’s first floor window, they were sure it wasn’t Superman.  Dad landed on Mr. Adams as he was trying to get some shut eye after a long night’s work. Needless to say Mr. Adams was not pleased and neither was the bicycle.

But Dad was no quitter. He had just the right thing he thought would get him into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame. An underwater car. It was a Saturday afternoon when he drove the Chevy off the pier. Little did Dad know that the water was deep. Very deep. So deep in fact it could have made the Challenger Deep look like a sinkhole. Down, down, down the car went as its engine stalled, then stopped. It had putted its last putt.

It was then that Dad realized he had forgotten one essential piece of equipment if you want to travel underwater. He forgot oxygen tanks. Fortunately there were three scuba divers who followed Dad into the water. It took several minutes for them to make the jailbreak out of the car. It’s a good thing that Dad was a deep breather.

Then there was the time Dad went about saving Christmas. At least for my kid brother, Jimmy. It was the year I told him there was definitely no Santa Claus. The whole thing was made up.

At first, Jimmy didn’t take my word for it. Then several of the the kids in his school  confirmed my testimony. They too told him there was no Santa. Jimmy did the math. He added and subtracted, multiplied and divided. He was nowhere near having an answer how Santa and his reindeer made it to every house in every country in the world on Christmas Eve.

When Dad saw Jimmy with qualms of disappointment on his face, he knew he had to come up with a solution to the Santa Claus issue. He remembered way back when he was young. A similar thing had happened to him. Only it wasn’t a kid. It was Old Mr. Creepers next door. He wanted to make Halloween the biggest holiday of the year. There was only one way that was possible. He had to take down Santa Claus.

That year Santa missed Dad’s house. All because he doubted Santa. Now Dad was determined that was not to happen to his kid. His solution: he would appear on our roof as Santa, then slide down the chimney with a bag of goodies.

Now Dad had the heft of a Santa and he carried it with grace. Six weeks before Christmas Eve, he began the preparations for what he called “the Santa’s Caper.” He went down to the local Santa store and bought his fake beard and his fake hair and his suit, which was not fake. And he did not cut corners. Only the best for his little Jimmy.

When Mom got a clue to what Dad was up to, she asked, “You fool, how are you going to get down that chimney?”

“Oh, it will be a tight squeeze. But I have the perfect solution. Grease.”

Mom shook her head, knowing there was no changing his mind. “Just be careful and please don’t break the chimney.” But she gave him that worried look. With Dad, what would go wrong would go wrong. So much so that she had taken to calling him Murphy behind his back

Christmas Eve came. Jimmy and I were sent to bed early with a “Santa won’t come if you’re awake.”

Though we absolutely knew there was no Santa, still we were taking no chances. By ten p.m. we were in our beds, pretending we were zzz-ing off to Never Never Land. Despite our best efforts, we nodded off. Then we heard a noise on the roof.

It wasn’t a clatter we heard. It was more like a bomp. One thing was sure. Santa was making his rendezvous. It was a definite that he was on our roof. Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! went Santa’s boots.

We jumped out of bed and hurried to the window. No sleigh on the lawn. Rudolph must be on the roof. Along with Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. We just knew it.

But it was not Santa. It was Dad. And he had spotted his target. The chimney.

All dressed up in his Santa suit, he lugged his bag over to the chimney. He sat down on the chimney’s side. With the bag lifted over his head, he gave himself a push. As he shoved off, he heard a giant ripping sound. His red pants had caught on a nail. The nail tore not only his pants but his bright red Santa underpants with white Rudolphs on the bottom as well.

That night gravity did its mighty work. Down the chimney went Dad and his bag. Until he didn’t. Like a balloon blowing up, Dad filled up the chimney, then stopped half way down.

Mom took out her flashlight and pointed it up the chimney. What she saw made her throw herself onto the floor, laughing uncontrollably.

In all the history of Santas, this must have been the first time Santa found himself unable to reach the cookies and milk. The grease had not worked.

Jimmy and I rushed into the living room. “Where’s Santa,” we screamed in unison.

“Boys, go back to bed,” Mom said. “Otherwise Santa won’t come out of that chimney. And there’ll be no presents. Right, Santa?”

From the chimney came a muffled voice that was half Santa and half Dad.”Ho, ho, ho. Listen to your mother. Moms are always right.”

“Okay, Mom,” we said, disappointment in our voices.

We left the room and closed the door, but we were not about to go back to bed. We’d be kicked out of the All American Kid Society if we did. We took turns peeping through the door.

Somehow Dad squeezed himself almost to the floor of the chimney. His black boots were about three feet in the air. If you’ve never heard a man cry, you would have heard a man cry that night. “What was I thinking.”

“You weren’t, as usual,” Mom gave him one of her what-fers.

“Well, can you give me a hand?”

Mom grabbed onto Dad’s boots and gave them a tug. “Ouch,” the chimney said. The boots dropped onto Mom’s foot and her ouch joined the chimney’s.

“Do you still have those rockets you bought for the Fourth of July?” Mom asked.

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to stick them up your rear end and send you into the Great Beyond. Otherwise it will be the waste of a perfectly decent chimney. Why do you ask?”

“No.” The chimney was emphatic. “Absolutely not.”

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

For years afterward, my family called this horns of a dilemma The Horns of a Dilemma.

Behind the slightly open door, my brother turned to me. “Where’s Dad? He could get Santa free. He’s smart like that.”

I just didn’t have the heart to tell Jimmy where Dad was.

Then a thud. And not just any thud. It was The Thud.

Mom’s eyes and Jimmy’s eyes and my eyes shot to the ceiling and the footsteps. Could it be?

Of course, it was.

From above, we heard a deep bass voice. “Fool, get out of my way.”

Dad dropped to the chimney floor and crawled out, his suit all in tatters. Behind him were a pair of boots. They stepped over Dad and into the center of the living room. There was a glow about The Man. He wore a suit of the brightest red I’d ever seen. I swear the white beard shined.

Mom rushed over and grabbed the glass of milk and the plate of Oreos. She timidly handed them to The Man.

He looked at Mom and smiled and took the refreshments. He gulped them down, then headed for the work of the night. The Christmas tree.

Frozen in our places, the four of us watched. He set his bag on the floor, reached up and adjusted the star and several of the ornaments. Then he opened his bag. He looked over at Jimmy and nodded. “This one is for you.” He placed the large gift under the tree. “For believing.” Next came my gift, then Mom’s.

Finally he looked over at Dad. Tears were in The Man’s eyes. “Thanks for the help.” Out of the bag came a very small package. He placed it under the tree, giving it a bit of extra care as he did.

In a flash, he was back at the chimney and up on the roof. But he wasn’t done. Back down the chimney he came. Standing before us in all his glory, he said in that deep deep voice of his, “I forgot.” Then he sent us a “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

From our toes to the tippy tip top of our heads, our bodies filled with joy and love and peace and hope.

“And one final thing. Merry Christmas and a very good night.”

On the roof, we heard, “Peace on  earth and goodwill toward men.” Then he disappeared into the night, heading onward to fulfill the mission he has been on for centuries.

And now, from Uncle Bardie, Merry Christmas to one and all. May you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday this year. And one final thing. As Tiny Tim said, “God bless us everyone.”

Advertisements

Micropoem for Thanksgiving: stuffing

It’s Thanksgiving, and oh, do I have much to be thankful for. Most of all it’s the beginning of that season we call The Holidays. The bright lights that come with Christmas and Hanukkah. And it culminates in the end of the year celebration, New Year’s Eve. Then we’ll get another eleven months to recuperate before we’re called back into combat. But for this moment, let’s think about what we have to be thankful for. That special Someone. Family. Friends. Work. Our health. The food we have on the table. Life is good. Now, let’s eat.

Oh the turkey,
oh the dressing,
oh the pecan pie.
Now I’m bursting.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Something a little different for Halloween

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. With Halloween coming up, I thought why not have some fun. Each year the band Lake Street Dive does a special video at Halloween. This one was for 2015. Enjoy:

And just in case you want to know what they are like when not doing Halloween, here’s a taste of their regular sound:

Halloween Decorations

Oh, it’s autumn and the trees surrounding the house are a flaming red. And so are the plants. That’s cause the sun is rising and impressing the world with its colors. There’s a stone walkway up to the porch and some chickens in the yard and the house is real homey. Yes, it is an autumn of a day. Just like Clint likes it.

Clint finishes his coffee, standing in the front yard. He’s trying to decide what Halloween decorations to do this year. Last year it was the Walking Dead. The house was all zombied up. Well, that’s not this year. He could go in for vampires. The problem with that is that a lot of other peeps do that.

What about witches? Especially the WWW, the Wicked Witch of the West. But the local coven wouldn’t be happy. They feel that it gives witches a bad rep. And Clint surely doesn’t want any evil spells tossed his way. He remembers that Macbeth spell. It got Mac into deep trouble, and that wasn’t good.

Killing the king was like killing a president. Only it wasn’t the Secret Service that went after him. It was the king’s relatives. It was a family feud. Not the TV game show but the Hatfields and McCoys, the Montagues and Capulets kind of feuding. And with swords and everything. So maybe he’d better lay off the witches this year.

Werewolves? Nobody had done werewolves in a month of Sundays. But werewolves didn’t have the sex appeal of vampires or witches. Then again that was because of all the p r attached to witches and vampires. If werewolves were given that kind of p r, they’d be sexy too.

Then it hit him. Why hadn’t he thought of it before. It was like the stroke of midnight, only it was late in the day. He would do up the house as Frankenstein’s castle. The Creature would hand out the candy to all the trick or treaters.

Clint goes back into the house to tell Alice. Yes, that Alice. The one from Wonderland. She’d gone down the rabbit hole and suddenly she was in a time travel machine. She met Clint, they fell in love, and that was that. Here they are this very day, living in the ‘burbs with their 2.5 kids, Candy and Dandy and Bitsy. Bitsy is the cute one. Clint fell in love with Alice’s English accent. Alice fell in love with Clint’s accent. That and it didn’t hurt that he was tall, dark and handsome.

“We’re doing Frankenstein this year,” Clint tells Alice.

She’s in the kitchen, making herself a cup of Earl Grey. She just can’t get through her day without a cup of tea. It’s in her English blood. If she were Irish, it would be Guinness but she isn’t.

“That’s a fine idea,” Alice tells her husband of ten years. “The kids will just love it. Perhaps we can see that film, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, to celebrate. There’s a wonderful Halloween scene. Would you like that?”

Clint still loves his wife. After ten years in the same house, he still loves his wife like they just met. Their love is like the Fountain of Youth. It keeps them young.

Clint takes Alice in his arms and they kiss like it’s their first kiss. It’s as if he’s her Prince Charming and she’s his Snow White. Only there’s no dwarves. There’s 2.5 kids but no dwarves.

They finish their smooching and then Clint describes the castle he has in mind.

“The kids are going to absolutely love that,” Alice encourages him. “Especially little Half Pint.” All in the fam call Bitsy Half Pint cause she’s the point-five kid. But they love her like she’s a whole person.

“Well, I’m off to the Emerald City to see the Wizard of Decorations. If I get there early, I might just get my discount.”

One last smooch and Alice says, “Don’t forget to tell Dorothy I send my love. I’ll give her a ring in a few days. I really am anxious to see Kansas but I just haven’t had the time lately.”

“Bye, Sweets,” Clint says.

“Bye, Yourself,” Alice says.

Then Clint’s in his 1968 red Mustang and on the Yellow Brick Road. He’s whistling and thinking, “It is so good to be a Munchkin.”

A Halloween Tale

It’s October, and you know what that means. It’s harvest time. It’s time the leaves on the trees are red and gold and orange. Seems the trees make an extra-special effort this time of year. The birds take off for their southward journeys. The squirrels make a last minute snatch, gathering up a few more nuts for the coming chilly days of winter. It’s October, and Halloween’s a-coming.

Already carved pumpkins are showing up in folks’ windows and on their lawns. They’re letting us know that the show is coming soon. That show being costumes and trick-or-treating galore.

Yet, over the years, Halloween’s been the runt of the holidays. Unlike Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, Halloween didn’t start showing up in the national consciousness till the twentieth century. And it didn’t even have its own story. Until “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.

All great stories invite the reader in with an invitation. Here’s the invitation from The Halloween Tree:

It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small norther part of a Midwest state. There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel and touch the wilderness. The town was full of trees. And dry grass and dead flowers now that autumn was here. And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across. And the town was full of…

Boys.

And it was the afternoon of Halloween.

Eight boys show up for trick-or-treating in a variety of costumes. Tom Skelton is dressed in skeleton bones. There’s a witch, a mummy, an apeman, a gargoyle, a beggar, a ghost and Death himself with his scythe. There’s only one boy missing. And that’s Joe Pipkin.

Joe Pipkin was the greatest boy who ever lived. The grandest boy who ever fell out of a tree and laughed at the joke. The finest boy who ever raced around the track, winning, and then, seeing his friends a mile back somewhere, stumbled and fell, waited for them to catch up, and joined, breast and breast, breaking the winner’s tape. The jolliest boy who ever hunted out all the haunted houses in town, which are hard to find, and came back to report on them and take all the kids to ramble through the basements and scramble up the ivy outside-bricks and shout down the chimneys and make water off the roofs, hooting and chimpanzee-dancing and ape-bellowing. The day Joe Pipkin was born all the Orange Crush and Nehi soda bottles in the world fizzed over, and joyful bees swarmed countrysides to sting maiden ladies. On his birthdays, the lake pulled out from the shore in midsummer and ran back with a tidal wave of boys, a big leap of bodies and a downcrash of laughs.

In other words, this Joe Pipkin was a mighty fine fellow. And the other eight boys waited in anticipation to see what he would be dressed as. But poor Joe is whisked away on a journey of life or death.

With the help of a creature named Moundshroud, the eight follow Pipkin to the celebrations of the origins of Halloween by the ancient Druids. They find themselves among the mummies of Ancient Egypt, the ceremonies for the dead by the Greeks and the Romans, the gargoyles of Notre Dame in Medieval France and the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Each ceremony has a jack-o-lantern on the Halloween Tree.

Are the boys able to rescue their friend, Joe Pipkin? And, if they do, what will it cost? Only by reading The Halloween Tree will you be able to discover the answer.