A Very Jeanette Christmas

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Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

If you knew fire would burn or would make your skin hurt-you wouldn’t touch them. If I had known that hanging Christmas lights would cause me pain and suffering, I wouldn’t have attended Christmas decorating day at my mother in laws. It’s amazing the things you learn during the holidays, especially after spending a day at a little place I like to call Jeannette’s Holiday prisoner camp.

It started innocently enough when I was called upon to assist my mother in law to display her outdoor holiday ornaments. I arrived to find my sister in law Jill and her husband Craig already at work. Now I know what you’re thinking- people wrapped with scarves, sipping hot chocolate, singing carols and happily trimming medium-sized evergreens. I arrived to find Craig and Jill walking quietly from the garage to Jeanette’s house carrying armfuls of Christmas decorations. I noticed that they dare not make eye contact nor did they look to the side. I had heard of this kind of conduct in prisoners of war but dismissed it as grim determination in the face of the cold weather. I also noticed a steely blue look in Jeanette’s eyes when she greeted me. I would guess the prison guard from "Cool Hand Luke" had these same eyes under his sunglasses. The scene was not one of frivolous Christmas.

I don’t want you to think that hanging tons of Christmas ornaments is not enjoyable nor does it not offer time for fellowship. I can still remember the heart-warming times as Jeannette allowed us to jog in place to warm our feet while she barked out cadence. My benevolent little dictator of a mother-in law has a definite artistic flair for decorating although she has decided it’s more efficient to have a small scale at the exit to her garage that we must weigh all ornaments prior to their being hung. I believe 10 tons was this year’s goal. It is also verboten (forbidden) to try and hide any ornaments for later disposal and we are thoroughly checked for hidden Christmas items which I thought added to the Christmas cheer. At one point, I suggested a few different options about how to hang the lights but was met with a "thousand mile stare"" by both Craig and Jill-my fellow elves. These were old-timers hardened by years and years of Holiday fun. They spoke not a word but gave each other that "well it looks like the new guy is gonna get beat-up" look. I heard the last guy who spoke-up during Christmas decorating is -well let’s not talk about it.

So anyway let’s get back to the fun. Jill sat on her husband’s shoulders who had perched a top on my shoulders and our brow-beaten little crew was happily trimming (one string of tinsel at a time) a thirty foot jackpine when I noticed my feet were a little cold. I dismissed it as more holiday pain/mirth. A little later however, I noticed the same sting and was almost going to dismiss it when I first noticed the bloody tracks that were being created behind me and then a few steps later I noticed a gray toe had fallen out of my shoe. I imagined myself in one of those gladiator movies where all of the slaves are rowing and there’s a person walking up and down the middle whipping them in an effort to encourage them to greater efforts. I was not surprised to find that the person holding the whip in my weary daydream to be my own beloved mom in law. I noticed how she only used the club end of her whip on the others and I felt to myself that I must be displaying true holiday spirit and lugging more ornaments, lights and those dang plywood Christmas yard displays than my other fellow indentured servants.

What you have been reading is a farce. I like to make up little stories based on an event but with a twist that comes from somewhere in my own mind. My mother in law has brought joy to people for years with beautiful holiday displays . Last year she didn’t because she had only recently lost her son. This year she made a huge comeback and god bless her for it. She has both religious and secular yard displays plus a red, white and blue light set-up to remember our boys fighting for our freedom. The little effort I added to make this happen is my honor. I can hardly wait to see what happens next year when Jeanette, Jill and Craig (not me, I’m calling in sick) ring in Christmas.