I had just started writing this column when I was interrupted by a call from my little sister to let me know that she was a bit behind in her shopping and that our package might not make it by Christmas Eve.
I told her not to sweat it because we had just received the one she sent “a little late” last year.
I can’t say that I blame her procrastinating for the last fifteen years because, according to some TV ads, the Yuletide season commences around mid-September and she always feels that she has plenty of time to find something for me in her re-gift vault (usually some old fishing lure that would scare a ling cod to death).
It used to, and still should be, against the common law of good taste to combine Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas time into one huge epoch of sales specials and infernal commercials that have Santa skidding across your flat screen in a BMW with a huge bow tied to its hood while you’re still carving pumpkin heads struggling not to lose a vital appendage in the process.
I remember the times nary a tinsel was draped nor a jingle bell heard until America had at least finished its Thanksgiving leftovers.
Before I give you a snapshot of what it was like back then for the Varney clan, I need to make a full disclosure.
In the interest of justice, I am forced to admit there are certainly two (maybe ten) sides to each story. There is my sister’s version and there are mine (the other nine). The reason mine may vary a bit is in direct relation to the remaining number of living witnesses and their proximity to where I am expounding about my adventures.
Today I have carte blanche.
First of all, when I was in the tender years of, let’s say 4 to 7, I was well behaved, of sterling character, energetic, and if memory serves applied for a Social Security card when I turned four in order to help support the family after my sneaky sister arrived.
It was tough sledding but my dedication to the purpose of helping feed the ravenous new arrival never wavered. (The tiny lady quaffed so much milk during her first year that our cows stampeded to Tijuana in search of easier work as sandals.)
It was a particular grueling period for a youngster who was carrying a full load of pre-school courses while attempting to teach advanced moral ethics to a new born urchin whose only response was, “gack.”
We made it through those formative years just fine until she learned to talk. It was then things started spinning out of control when she commenced sashaying around ratting me out, especially when Santa was nosing around trying to scope out who had been nuclear naughty or nice.
Thanks to Sis, my choir boy image was shattered by her insistence that I was somehow behaviorally flawed and that it wasn’t her that was filching fudge or engineering tiny “peeking” slits in the packages under the tree.
Once I modified a set of Mom’s premium panty hose to use as a special “stocking to be hung with care”.
Sis thought I was being a greedy snot — even after I desperately explained that I was merely trying to ensure Santa had somewhere to put a bb gun since there wouldn’t be any room left under the tree after he dropped off my bike, chemistry set, and complete World War II re-enactment collection.
She refused to listen and tattled to Mom who instantly copped an attitude about her primo new hose. I ended up with an anklet dangling from a doorknob that Kris Kringle was barely able to squeeze a couple walnuts and Pez dispenser into.
The Grinchette had struck again.
It took several years to figure out how Santa always got the latest goods on me. It was so simple. When we went to Woolworth’s for visit on the big guy’s lap, she always went first and then he’d suddenly give a weird glance my way and immediately split on an emergency break when my turn came leaving me with no other alternative than to launch last minute Santa-grams via the post office. To this day, I’m convinced they were probably red- flagged as a toxic waste of time and incinerated when they hit The North Pole just because of what the little imp whispered in his ear.
By the time I joined the military, I had accumulated enough coal in my sweat socks to heat a small community for the winter.
Although we now live in separate states, my lovely sibling continues to make inquiring calls to my bride just before the holidays to find out if there have been any mysterious mini-disasters during the year that I’ve blamed on our dim and delinquent dog Howard or if Jane is missing any panty hose.
Maybe someday I’ll surmise why she still enjoys tracking down any malfeasance on my part so she can text the details to St. Nick.
Mom gave me a hint once but I’m sure it has nothing to do with the year I traded Sis’ mint condition, deluxe edition of Barbie’s Dream House for moldy outfielder’s mitt and part-ownership in a Wiffle Ball set.
Women don’t hold grudges that long, do they?
Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if he isn’t busy building an add-on to his coal bin.