Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Solstice, the Last Time I saw Santa

At 72, without young children or grandchildren, Santa Claus has drifted from my life. 

As I recall, the last time I saw St. Nick in person was some 40 years ago at Bob and Florence's home in Clarks Grove. It was a traditional, quiet family gathering. We were in the living room, comfortable after a big meal, digesting with some of Bob's home brew poured out of a jar, an apricot brandy as recall. It was a small living room, made smaller by the big Christmas tree by the window, so the excited children were scattered about on the floor opening gifts or playing with new toys. As I said, it really was a very small home, so some of the young couples were double-stacked in chairs, with the young men's laps serving as seats for their ladies. Which seemed to suit both parties.

It was quiet, just laughing children, soft conversation and a Perry Como Silent Night LP playing on Bob's Heathkit Stereo. He was quite proud of it. He had built the wood cabinet from scratch and assembled the tube-type components from kits. I do not know how it would sound compared to a modern set-up, but at that time we only had a handful of LPs to play and we thought it all was quite fine. 

Anyway, back to our tale. Suddenly without a knock or a hello, a fully costumed Santa burst through the front door, running about, hollering, "Ho! Ho! Ho, Mer-ry Christ-mas", again and again and again. The kids were terrified. Hell, the adults were more than a little uneasy until we realized that our personal old elf had more than a hint of liquor his breath, a bottle at his hip and sounded a bit like the late Gordie Hanson, who lived up the street. And poor Santa was escorted into the cold night air a bit roughly. (We found out later he was supposed to be at a party next door and wandered into the wrong house.)

It should noted here that Gordie had a long history. Among a list of things, he painted long, rambling political commentary in neat black letters on his white garage door. He also had a black, full-sized, carbide cannon on his roof, put there by his neighbors after he shot it off at 2:00 in the morning once too often. They put there on the theory that he would generally would be too drunk to find a ladder if he was in a cannon discharging frame of mind. It perched up there unshot for years.
And then there was the parachuting dog incident. 😢

(An aside: Was this the year that Kurt brought all the presents "wrapped" in grocery bags? We still use the large teak salad bowel.)

Happy Solstice,
Be well,


George A said...

I enjoy a good winter Solstice almost as much as a good winter tale and a good winter beer. My birthday, the 22nd of December, tends to fall on or near the solstice. Some years the Solstice is reckoned to fall on the 21st due to a bunch of calculations relating to the rotational speed of the earth, whether or not February had a leap day and so on, but I always claim that my birthday falls on the darkest day of the year whether or not it actually does. Call it poetic justice or license or whatever--me claiming the Solstice as my own helps make up for all the times my birthday got overshadowed by Xmas a few days later. So enjoy your Solstice!

Don't know whether you can tell the difference yet or not but down here tomorrow will have two more minutes of day length than today.

PS: my father built a shortwave receiver from a Heathkit chassis and bunch of tubes and resistors, variable condensers and other fiddly bits he soldered together from Radio Shack. It worked ok for those times. After the old man died I found that radio while cleaning out the attic of his house. It no longer worked but I couldn't throw it away knowing all the hours he put into it. I finally gave it to a blind man I knew who expressed an interest in it. I don't know if someone helped him get it working again or not. This of course has nothing to do with the winter solstice but it does tie in with your mention of the Heathkit your friend built. Back in those days you just didn't go to Best Buy and open your wallet and get a radio--by God if you wanted to hear Kate Smith belt out "When the moon comes over the mountain" you'd built one and go track Kate down amongst all the pops and crackles and heterodyne squeaks. Gave you a certain satisfaction. Almost as good as lighting of a carbide cannon in the middle of the nite.

Gunnar Berg said...

Since I wrote that last night I have realised that the Santa Claus incident was the year Florence died, so it was Bob's first year solo. He was a great man, one of only two or three I have know in my entire life.

Gunnar Berg said...

We notice. When I worked I used to go to work in the dark and go home I the dark. A minute here or there is huge.

Gunnar Berg said...

Day length today 8 hours 56 min.