What a moody cuss He was. Manic-depressive doesn’t tell the half of it; recollect His haphazard night-time unloading of His Christmas Eve cargo at my place: an Omega wristwatch in my stocking that year, a lump of coal the next. The Great Santa, like circumstance itself, blew hot and cold; He was all caprice, chance, crapshoot. Christmas charts the wobbly course of the American Family Wolff, going to and fro on the continent, up and down the greasy pole. When we had a chimney, He slid down it. When we had a roof, He might land on it. So here’s how Christmas past was for us, and how it was unforeseen.
Upside: of Noel, yuletide cheer, good will toward man, mistletoe, holly, the wreath, the candy-cane, a sugar-dust of snow, sleigh bells, Dancer, Prancer and Blixen, Tiny Tim, the roast turkey and cooked goose – Speak, memory! Let me jiggle recall’s little glass paperweight and watch the snowflakes spread, settling on an ear-muffed cub with wool mittens clipped to his snowsuit; he’s dragging a sled. A blue spruce is tied to the sled and a collie pup, Shep, races circles around the boy and the boy’s freight, burying his muzzle in the powdery flakes. Mom and Dad are giggling, tossing loosely packed, talcumy snowballs at each other. In yonder red barn-boarded farmhouse (with all modern appliances, copper pipes, and wired to code), carollers are rehearsing. Mom and Dad and Shep and little Jeffie pause to cock an ear to ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas’. Dad – not one teensy bit tipsy – pours hot buttered rum from a battered stainless steel Thermos; the good cheer steams atmospherically from a mug.
‘Merry Christmas, dear,’ he says.