So now it is Christmas
and what have you done?
Too darn little. Too darn much. That may require some explaining, seeing as how both comments seem contradictory.
First things first. I don’t do a lot of preparing for Christmas. I have a good excuse. Very little works on me below the neck. My hands are pretty much useless as are my arms. My fingers might as well be on someone else’s hands. Actually, much better if they were because in that case they’d probably be useful.
The fact is that I don’t do much baking before the allotted time. Never did. Christmas baking was never my strong suit. My fruitcakes didn’t taste like fruitcakes, which some people kindly said was their strongest point.
I have to admit that my wines are in constant demand, mostly by 0H who likes to keep samples around for explaining how bad my wines are. She also likes the “flushing the wine down the toilet” parties which always go over big.
I was much better at filling the freezer with meat, i.e. wild game. Rabbits were a specialty. The freezer had plenty of the fresh-frozen variety while the shelves were lined with pint and quart bottles.
No problem with finding a roast of moose or a couple of dozen moose steaks, either. And, of course, there were several bottles of that same good-tasting animal. Always a few mackerel, holy and otherwise, caught in the fall along with several meals of fish (real fish). Perhaps I couldn’t cook but by cracky, I could hunt.
Because of my recent (14-year) physical status, my hunting and fishing have been somewhat curtailed. But that doesn’t mean it’s been cut off completely. No. 1 son and I are good for 25 or 30 rabbits between us. It’s a partnership hunting of sorts. He goes in through the woods looking for the same rabbit trails that have been there for 40 years, while I sit in the van listening to music and keeping the engine running. I don’t know who has the worse job. I know I’d swap with him in a heartbeat, if he’d let me.
No. 1 son-in-law (the first of the three to acquire that status) is a big game hunter par excellence. His moose is a sure thing each fall, as is his liberal sharing with us. This year he also shot a wild boar, as did grandson Nicholas in Florida, but the meat is not real thick on those critters. He shot a bear and a coyote, but I politely declined sharing privileges. He is a great source of moose burgers and sausages.
Nicholas is already increasing in dexterity at shooting grouse, which are as tasty as partridge and more so than rabbit.
So, I continue to do my bit, with a little help from my friends — not to mention family. I have a good friend who keeps me supplied with fish during the food fishery — quite legally; real fish, too.
Now we come to the bitter bit: the supplying of Christmas gifts to roughly 8.3 per cent of the population of the Western Hemisphere. If you’re thinking the man must be filthy rich in addition to being one of the great philanthropists of Atlantic Canada, allow me to wise you up.
Other Half begins her shopping for the next calendar year immediately following the holidays. To those who know her, she is the undisputed Queen of the Retail Sales scene. These will range from the humblest of yard sales to Midnight Madness at Walmart. She can sniff out the sale item of the century faster than a bloodhound can run down a bleeding escapee from a Texas chain gang.
Consequently, she amasses an incredible amount of quality goods for a fraction of their original cost. So when someone comes to her talking about a poor family falling on rough times, she can outfit them all at no cost to anyone except herself. She’s usually two or three years ahead of gifts for our family and those in need.
My own dream is that I’ll find a Cadillac SUV in the driveway some day, when I ask her about it, 0H will wave her hand airily and say, “Oh that, I got that on sale in Toronto last month for $129.56. Only thing is it’s secondhand with 1,500 km on it already.”
I won’t be surprised, just grateful.
Without exaggerating at all, hundreds of gifts have been wrapped in and delivered from this house in the last three months. Most of them are items destined to make sure Santa’s elves don’t run out of supplies on Christmas Eve, especially in your less than palatial-type homes.
I do none of that. When that beautiful song asks what have you done, they won’t have the time to listen to OH’s account, except she will never say it.
That’s what I mean when I say I do darn little — I’m not even humble about it. I’m like televangelist Jimmy Swaggart who got his kicks from watching the hookers perform. I’m a Christmas gift voyeur, watching his wife perform her charities as he churns out his humble gifts to the wordsmith gods.
That’s the “darn little” part. Too darn much? There ain’t no such thing, friend.
No one who is aware of the legacy of Nelson Mandela can ever claim to be giving “too much.” No one who has seen the body of a soldier being brought home from Afghanistan, or seen the rows of crosses at Beaumont Hamel can ever state that they have given “too much.”
No one who has looked into the eyes of a starving, not just hungry but starving, child— even on television — can ever say even to themselves that “we have given too much.”
What should we have done? Enough that we can say honestly within ourselves …
… as much as we reasonably could.
Merry Christmas to each of you from OH and me.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in
Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.