Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

‘Tis the season of Merry and Bright


In less than three weeks I will be fifty-nine years-old and celebrating my Christmas Eve birthday. For nearly sixty years, people have been asking me if I got gypped on presents because my birthday landed on Christmas? I have replied, “Oh no!” It should be, “Oh no, and give me a gift for the aggravation of being asked one more time!”

In reality, I’d wake up on the morning of the twenty-fourth and before breakfast would sit on the sofa taking audience like a princess, surrounded by family and would open my birthday gifts. I had other gifts awaiting under the tree for the Christmas Eve festivities, however dinner had to be eaten and dishes washed before our family opened those presents. Santa would visit later that night and we three kids would run into the living room on Christmas morning to see toys everywhere, leaning up against the walls, laid out under the tree, stretching out to the middle of our living room. That’s how it went down year after year when I was a child. We always figured it was my dad’s way of making up for having gone through the Depression with few toys. He enjoyed seeing us oozing with happiness.

After decades of wrapping paper and bows, it doesn’t really matter if I receive gifts any longer. I have enough stuff. Verbal gifts are wonderful and so is sharing company with a good friend. When someone says they like reading my columns in the paper or enjoyed seeing me play a role in a local theater production, these are great gifts. A suitable President for our country along with removing all the greedy elves from the workshop would be the best gift, but I doubt that will arrive by Christmas Eve!

It’s fun to give people gifts. Back in the eighties, my older brother went into a beige phase which caused me concern. He only wore clothing in shades of beige, tan, taupe, linen, buff, mushroom, oatmeal, let’s not forget bone...or parchment and its kissin’ cousin...hazel. One Christmas, knowing he needed an intervention, I gave him his gift, “The BEIGE Box.” It was wrapped in brown shipping paper, and filled with as many beige items as I could find, such as Band Aids, masking tape, putty, rubber bands, a card of buttons, Dr. Scholl’s moleskin, an ACE bandage and an unwrapped Bit-O-Honey to sweeten the joke. It has become a fond memory for us at Christmastime. I report that my brother moved out of his beige phase and never went back. He has made a full recovery, because last summer I was delighted when I saw him in an enterprising plaid shirt of turquoise and watermelon, with white in the weave as well, to give rest to the eyes.

One year I received quite an odd gift. I had offended someone because they made tuna salad as a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Thinking it an odd choice, I made what I considered humorous, but apparently hurtful, comments about it. A month later I opened my Christmas gift from them and received all the ingredients needed to make tuna salad. A rather clever comeback on their part.

This year for Christmas I’d like to have all the answers. All these years of experiences have come and gone and I still haven’t  “figured it out yet,”  or maybe I really have and I’m waiting for someone to show up at my door with a big certificate of acknowledgement, like a Publisher’s Clearing House event. That would be a nice gift! We are taught as mere punks that our smarts earn us a report card and we get the impression we are figuring it all out. Somewhere around eighteen, or the mid-twenties if you go on to college, that chapter ends and we flounder for the rest of our days wondering if we will ever arrive. We know the Dalai Lama has arrived. How? We just know. The majority of us seem to rely on others to tell us if we have arrived somewhere on the “figured it out” chart. If nobody ever tells you how brilliant, profound or wise you are then you probably slipped through the crack and need to try harder, or run for President. I trumped myself on that one.

What about self-help for Christmas? I mean it, seriously. To be nearly sixty and lacking in structure is an issue, so perhaps I need some self-help, habit-forming tips. I start routines and they don’t last. I miss out on regular exercise, can’t persevere in popping gaggingly-large, ugly, sometimes beige vitamins and holistic supplements that could be very beneficial to me. I rarely even make my bed. When I do I am always reminded that “Mother,” the queen of routine, always made her bed. She was making her bed moments before she died. I’ll probably be drinking a Morgan Coke and wearing a feathered hat when I make my departure. But I always think of her as I smooth on the bedspread in an attempt to make the process routine, sometimes commenting out loud, “Mother, you are laughing at me, I know it.”

Writing Christmas cards isn’t in my routine anymore either. Does anyone send cards? Last weekend I was in the basement storage space under the steps digging in a green Rubbermaid tote with red handles. Toward the bottom of the tote, pressed to the side was a box of Christmas cards. I thought, “Oh, I should send out a few cards.” I slid them up the side of the tote, turning the box over to reveal the card front through the clear plastic. The words “Merry & Bright” were written in white with poinsettias and holly greenery adrift around the words. In sarcasm and aggravation, I thought, “What a joke!” North Korea is as unstable as me in stilettos, Matt Prowler is in the headlines every day with new women coming forward to accuse and now Keillor, too. What the hell is “Merry & Bright” about this state of affairs!

Santa will be delivering lumps of coal and bushels of sticks this year. I feel it’s all unraveling faster than a kitten pulling on the red ball of yarn that’s supposed to be my Ugly Christmas Eve sweater! How can it be that all these women waited until now to come forward? They accomplished all that professional training, lived lives of intense routine with successfull diet and exercise, then in 2017 many are deciding they’ve come far enough to not be quiet any longer? Up until now their careers were worth the silence? I do lack some understanding here and surmise that if I’d been in their situations some nut crackin’ would have ensued. I will say this however....if Meryl comes out...then I’ll eat crow on this one.

Yes, “Merry & Bright!” I wondered how long has it been since anyone could send out a card saying that in all honesty? I mean, you probably could if you were in a steady relationship with Captain Morgan and Jim Beam and absolutely never watched the news! A toast to isolation with spirits and ice! A bottle of spirits may be a fine gift to myself this year as a matter of fact.

Oh come, all ye faithful. Let’s dispense with the doom and gloom and be a bit joyful and triumphant! Surely there are still things to be thankful and festive about these days! A card that says “Merry & Bright” might just be a reminder to DO this and to BE this. Let’s look deeper, reach out and grab one another by the hand and move ahead into 2018. I’ll raise my spirits as I continue to avoid routine! The big beige vitamins will sit in the pill box, the bedspread will drape down onto the rug at the end of my bed, and I’ll eat peanut butter star cookies under a cozy quilt, avoiding that healthy walk. I steadfastly find pleasure in things like sparkly red velvet gloves, singing a holiday tune, hugging my cats, sharing time with my son and keeping company with people who are ages one to one-hundred and trying to make sense of it all just like me.

Scarlet invites your comments and can be reached at: timberjay@



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