December 11, 2010 11:46:00 PM
The funniest Christmas story I ever read appeared years ago in one of the women''s magazines; I forget which. Will Stanton was the author. Much later, I saw an article by him in the Readers'' Digest. I wrote to them to get his address, then wrote him to find out how to get a copy of his story. He very kindly replied. I acquired the story and made copies of it, which I rolled up, tied with a red ribbon, and stuck in everyone''s Christmas stocking. But I think the two people who liked it most were Put Burris and me; we laughed ''til we cried.
It went like this
Three grown daughters had brought their families home for Christmas. Right here you sense trouble, don''t you? The grandparents had just installed new carpet, which shocked everyone repeatedly from the very first greeting.
Grandpa had installed himself in front of the TV and would not move from there during a series of posadas (ritual reenactments of Mary and Joseph''s search for lodging in Bethlehem) in different nationalities. I think he watched the story of Jesus'' birth, slightly altered to take place in the U.S., England, Spain, Germany, Russia, Latvia and the Congo.
Christmas wrapping, torn off a multitude of gifts, grew into a mountain, which was moved into garbage bags and hauled off. Sometime during all that Grandma missed her dentures. Just before dinner was served, the sons-in-law were sent outside to sift through the trash in search of her teeth. When the meal was served, Grandma found her teeth. Dessert was on the table before someone realized no one had thought to call in the sons-in-law. They were still at the garbage can, looking for dentures.
And so it went.
I imagine all of us have experienced our versions of such a family Christmas. For my part, I think some of the most trying are the ones when we cannot get together. Then we have to arrange a series of mini-celebrations. From Thanksgiving on, we try to find the right time to bend each branch of the family tree.
For example, this year our youngest daughter''s family would not be with us Christmas, so I arranged to meet them in Birmingham, Ala., about midway between Atlanta and Columbus. We spent the night. I planned to take them out for a nice dinner. But, no -- the youngsters were in a hurry to get to the mall and insisted on dining at the food court. We closed the mall.
Later that night
We went back to our rooms and piled up to watch TV. Then Diana got sick (food court?) and fell asleep with her clothes on. I went to my room to read. Meanwhile, the children wanted a soft drink. They had been cautioned about picking up articles in the refrigerator because they would be charged for each one they moved. The concierge lounge had closed. So off they went in the hotel, looking for a drink machine. No luck.
Finally, they were back in the mall, where cleaning crews were hard at work. Someone gave them directions, and they found a drink machine in the nether regions of the mall. At 13 and 14, they considered it an adventure, but their ineffective chaperones were both literally and figuratively in the dark.
The next weekend I went to Jackson, where I am supposed to spend some time Christmas. I had invited that crowd to supper at my apartment one evening, so I spent most of my time trying to get a little bit decorated. Because I had injured a knee on one side and a hand on the other, I was so clumsy that everything I put together took three times as long and kept coming apart. I had ordered a simple tree that you could just pull up on its stand and have completed. This I did -- over and over and over -- finally leaving it to grandsons.
I put toy soldiers on the mantle. One kept attacking me, jumping off and bayoneting me on the head. The entrance looks OK, though, if you do not look behind the little table-top tree, where one-third of the lights are tangled in a giant knot. I put a bottomless hurricane lamp glass on the other side and filled it with glass balls. Now I am wondering how I will disassemble it without having the balls crash to the floor? Duh.
Oh, well. Bah. Humbug.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.