I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Yes, that is a song from my youth that always gets me in the spirit at Christmas time. In fact, if anyone asks what I want for Christmas I usually answer them by saying, “a hippopotamus”, or sometimes “a Snuffloppacus”.
If looks could kill!
The best Christmas present of all usual turns out to be the behaviors and actions of those around me. Here is the first of a series of unusual and/or bizarre happenings that had me smiling for most of the day, in or around, December 25th, 2009.
Christmas Eve: A Last Minute Present Trek to the Mean Streets
My son and his wife live over 2000 miles away in Red Deer, Alberta. They put together a large Christmas box and decided to send it to us via Grey Hound Bus. It was to arrive the Monday before Christmas.
The package did not arrive as advertised. Grey Hounds don’t run well in snow and below zero temperatures.
After a call to the terminal on Wednesday, the lady in charge bluntly stated, “Ain’t got no packages yet. The darned bus broke down and hasn’t arrived. We’ll call you when she does come in.”
I wonder what happened to the poor passengers, though. Pity them if they had a lay over in Punkeydoodle Corners. There’s not much action there, save for snowmobile Poker Runs.
Well, time flew by, and I found myself up to my elbows on Christmas Eve, cooking up a special supper (Requested by my daughter), when lo and behold the phone rings at 4:30 pm. My new friend at the terminal proudly announces, “Your parcels in, mister. But, I’m just sayin’, ya’d better get a move on it, we close the terminal at 6 pm, see! Merry Christmas.” She said the Merry Christmas part as if she was spitting out something that tasted bad.
Alright, the pots are a bubbling, the kitchen is in disarray, my gourmet meal is at the make or break stage and I’m going to have to drop everything and run? The package is at the Bus Terminal in Brantford, forty-five minutes away. So, we’re talking almost two hours in terms of turn around time.
My wife looks at me with those puppy dog eyes of hers and sighs, “We have to go. Those are Matt and Linsey’s presents. They’re for the entire family. It won’t be Christmas without having them here under the tree.”
Realizing that I can’t just stop the juggernaut of Chef Jimbo’s dinner presentation, the good wife volunteers to make the trek. My protests are ignored. It seems to me that there is a ticking time-bomb here.
After I quickly MapQuest the directions, I realize the bus terminal is in the seediest part of town and she will arrive there just after dark. So, I do what any good husband would do. I turn to the 15 year old boy and say, “I want you to go with mom and ride shotgun!”
When the wife and the boy arrive at their destination, my tough guy takes one look at the surroundings and says, “I’ll wait in the car, mom!” They are in a rough part of town and there are several “street people” in the vicinity. Did I mention that drugs are rampant in this area?
My wife bravely makes her way into the dusty terminal and talks to the clerk through a peep hole. She half expects that the woman is going to try to force the package through that small aperture. Security seems like a good idea, given the surroundings. But alas, she retrieves the huge box and makes her way to the door.
Here’s what she had to say.
“I could see Josh sitting in the car, and I knew I couldn’t open the door to the terminal. I tried to get his attention when this ‘sketch-bag’, sticks his head in the glass, and proceeds to open the door for me. There’s another ‘sketch bag’, smelling of liquor and covered with tattoos, offering to carry the package. I decline, clutch the package and my purse more tightly and high tail it to the car. Of course, the doors are locked."
Number Two son isn’t taking any chances. I bet his eyes were as big as saucers.”
You get the picture.
But there is more to the story.
The intrepid package retrievers stop on the way home to top up the gas, again in this seedy part of town. My wife says to Josh, “I’d better get out and wash off those front windows.” To which my shotgun running son says, “No, mom, don’t get out of the car.”
Maybe he didn’t provide muscle that day, but I guess he applied savvy street smarts and was a good lookout. After all, the package did arrive home safely.
BTW, those dudes are lucky they didn’t mess with my wife’s purse. In her hands, it becomes a lethal weapon. You see her purse is as big as a knapsack and heavier than a baby hippo.
When the two if them walk in the door nearly two hours later, I am still in the midst of preparing supper. In fact, I had been furiously texting the two of them all the while, knowing that they were on a tight timeline, and worrying about their safety. Such is the way of every caring chef. We can multi-task with the best of them.
The kitchen is still in disarray but the scent of good food prepared with loving hands permeates the entire house. No one notices the pungent odor of the garlic I burnt. Hey, the smoke detector stopped whining about an hour before they arrived. (NOTE: Using the smoke detector as a food timer, isn’t a good idea!)
Even though dinner is just about to be served, the boy decides that his priority is to open the package. Did I mention that my kid appears to have a bottomless pit when it comes to food?
When I say it’s time to eat, he stares me down as if I’m some kind of druggy and he’s about to kick my ass. What’s with that? Where was that attitude an hour ago?
My blood pressure rises in leaps and bounds.
Said daughter, who requested the meal, is late arriving after a day of last minute shopping. She walks in just as I am about to serve.
Fortunately, I don’t blow a gasket. How can you get angry when the first words out of her mouth are, “Oh, dad, this supper looks wonderful. Thank you so much!”
I’m such pussy. Those words melt me down to one degree below mellow.
After mother retells her package story, my daughter laughs and says she is going to change her Facebook status to, “My mother said sketchbag’. And she said it twice.”
I’m thinking that “sketchbag” may replace my wife’s current favorite word, “ginormous”. Maybe that would be a good thing.
On Christmas Day we discover that the Alberta package contains some very unique gifts like; corn relish, dill pickled carrots, rum balls, and honey dipped beef jerky.
This Alberta Beef Jerky is the best I ever tasted even though it claims to be, “Not just for cowboys”. My daughter-in-law suggested eating the corn relish on crackers with goat’s cheese. Those tiny rum balls pack a mean Albertan punch, my friends. And, her pickled dill carrots are simply amazing. A Lucky boy that son of mine is - because Linsey surely is a keeper.
Question. Why do great meals take hours to prepare, more hours to clean up, yet take mere minutes to eat? And should the chef be in charge of both set-up and take-down?
Discuss among yourselves.
After supper we sit down to watch, “Night at the Museum II”. The best scene in the movie is when the Ben Stiller character has a confrontation with the young guard at the Smithsonian Institute; a piece of classic dialogue and funny as hell. As for the rest of the movie? You be the judge!
After all is said and done, we all felt a little guilty Christmas morning.
You see, Linsey and Matt had wrapped each and every gift with ribbon, bows and Christmas decorations, each of the five immediate families received a beautiful basket of “goodies”, and even the dog got a treat. They’d put tremendous effort into this package, hours of work, including trekking it to the Grey Hound Bus Terminal at their end. We’re talking about a few feet of snow, slippery treacherous roads, and temperatures reaching -35 C. This is the stuff of hearty Canadian resiliance.
Our Christmas card to them, even though it was
filled with numerous gift cards, seemed a little chintzy
and contrived. It took maybe 20 minutes of effort, tops!
So, as Rosanne Roseannadana would often say,
“It’s always something!” And, when it comes to Christmas
at our house, it is always something and usually something more.
Stay tuned for a few more stories of Christmas cheer.
I keep telling you, there’s never a dull moment in