O Wholly Nightmare

By

Each year as the holiday season comes, I’d like to be able to tell stories to my friends about how my family gathered together and “roasted chestnuts on an open fire,” decorated Christmas trees that would have made Martha Stewart drool with envy, exchanged heartfelt gifts and sang O Holy Night to celebrate the holiday season.

But I’d be lying. When we roasted chestnuts, I forgot to pierce the shells, and the chestnuts exploded; on another occasion, our dog got tangled in the wires of the Christmas lights and dragged it half way across the living room before anyone could untangle her; Dad’s gift giving was something else entirely; and we usually sang off key.

Our holiday stories will never make anyone feel warm and fuzzy and wish they could celebrate with us. No way! But they are our stories – original and true.

Anyway, one of the favorites is about my father. He was a practical man, but then again, why not just say he would have given Scrooge a run for his money and probably beaten Scrooge – no contest. One year he attempted to gift my mother with a jack hammer, a front end loader and a dump truck for probably the most memorable Christmas gift that anyone could receive – or maybe even give.

But, I’m getting ahead of my story. First, let me tell you about the birthday gift he gave my mother for her October birthday. For years, she wanted a concrete patio for their farm home. Like I said, Dad, who was notoriously frugal, to gently use a euphemism, said, “What’s wrong with sitting in the yard?”

She continued to drop many not-so-subtle hints for a patio. Eventually, she convinced him and, on an early October day, he secretly had a construction crew come to their home to build this patio and surprise my mother who was attending a weekend Christian Women’s Retreat. No doubt, he figured this gift would cover many birthdays to come.

After my mother had left for her ladies’ retreat, the building crew arrived with all the materials to construct this patio – lumber to build a frame, tools for leveling and smoothing the concrete and, of course, the concrete.

After the finishing touches were put on the patio, much to my father’s delight, some concrete was left in the truck. The workers needed a place to dump the remaining concrete…and to clean the truck…and the driveway needed repair…and my father was delighted to have what he saw as a bargain basement driveway repair.

As I said, my father was careful with his money and since he had paid for the entire load, why not just spread it in neat rows across the driveway; he would smooth it and, in that way, he wouldn’t have to pay to have the potholes in the driveway patched.

Now here’s where the gift story gets a bit murky. Dad claimed the patio crew poured three small rows across their driveway. He then decided “to grab a quick cup of coffee” and rest “a bit” before starting to fill the potholes. When he got back to his project, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had even taken a nap, the concrete had set.

The driveway, or lane, now had three significant speed bumps, unknown, of course, to my mother. Often, Mother drove in their long lane at the same speed as she was driving on the road, but managed to slow down by the time she approached the garage.

As an added surprise, when she got home, she hit the speed bumps at about 35 miles per hour, according to my Dad, who was waving to signal her. She lost control of her car and tore out about 100 feet of a trellised grape arbor laden with Concord grapes ripened to a beautiful, deep purple.

She then overcompensated and veered to the other side of the lane and landed on her new patio with her car wrapped in vines, scratched with wire, and stained purple with smashed grapes.

Dad called me that night and in a hoarse whisper said, “Your mother is really mad at me. When she got out of the car, she said, ‘what the H-E-double hockey sticks happened?’ But she actually said the ‘H’ word to me. Hell must have been heavy on her mind, what with her just coming from her church meeting.”

Okay. So I laughed instead of offering sympathy. I told him she’d love the patio once she recovered from the surprise. Then he said, “This is going to cost me some more money as the weight of the car cracked the new patio when the car came to a stop on it…and she expects me to pay for repairs on the grape arbor and a new paint job on her car.”

But, wait, I’ve digressed. I started to say how the crew with the jack hammer, front end loader and dump truck was a Christmas present for my mother. She had adamantly refused to have the speed bumps remain in the lane. She said she’d driven that lane for too many years and would never get used to them. So, by Christmas, Dad had the speed bumps removed and told her the “bump removal” was her Christmas present.

But, to save their marriage, and maybe even his own life, Dad did get Mom wooden patio furniture for Christmas in addition to having the speed bumps removed. Never ceasing to be frugal, Dad purchased the furniture unassembled in a box stamped with large letters saying, “Some Assembly Required.”

But, that’s another family Christmas story.

About this writer

  • Each year as the holiday season comes, I’d like to be able to tell stories to my friends about how my family gathered together and “roasted chestnuts on an open fire,” decorated Christmas trees that would have made Martha Stewart drool with envy, exchanged heartfelt gifts and sang O Holy Night to celebrate the holiday season.

    But I’d be lying. When we roasted chestnuts, I forgot to pierce the shells, and the chestnuts exploded; on another occasion, our dog got tangled in the wires of the Christmas lights and dragged it half way across the living room before anyone could untangle her; Dad’s gift giving was something else entirely; and we usually sang off key.

    Our holiday stories will never make anyone feel warm and fuzzy and wish they could celebrate with us. No way! But they are our stories – original and true.

    Anyway, one of the favorites is about my father. He was a practical man, but then again, why not just say he would have given Scrooge a run for his money and probably beaten Scrooge – no contest. One year he attempted to gift my mother with a jack hammer, a front end loader and a dump truck for probably the most memorable Christmas gift that anyone could receive – or maybe even give.

    But, I’m getting ahead of my story. First, let me tell you about the birthday gift he gave my mother for her October birthday. For years, she wanted a concrete patio for their farm home. Like I said, Dad, who was notoriously frugal, to gently use a euphemism, said, “What’s wrong with sitting in the yard?”

    She continued to drop many not-so-subtle hints for a patio. Eventually, she convinced him and, on an early October day, he secretly had a construction crew come to their home to build this patio and surprise my mother who was attending a weekend Christian Women’s Retreat. No doubt, he figured this gift would cover many birthdays to come.

    After my mother had left for her ladies’ retreat, the building crew arrived with all the materials to construct this patio – lumber to build a frame, tools for leveling and smoothing the concrete and, of course, the concrete.

    After the finishing touches were put on the patio, much to my father’s delight, some concrete was left in the truck. The workers needed a place to dump the remaining concrete…and to clean the truck…and the driveway needed repair…and my father was delighted to have what he saw as a bargain basement driveway repair.

    As I said, my father was careful with his money and since he had paid for the entire load, why not just spread it in neat rows across the driveway; he would smooth it and, in that way, he wouldn’t have to pay to have the potholes in the driveway patched.

    Now here’s where the gift story gets a bit murky. Dad claimed the patio crew poured three small rows across their driveway. He then decided “to grab a quick cup of coffee” and rest “a bit” before starting to fill the potholes. When he got back to his project, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had even taken a nap, the concrete had set.

    The driveway, or lane, now had three significant speed bumps, unknown, of course, to my mother. Often, Mother drove in their long lane at the same speed as she was driving on the road, but managed to slow down by the time she approached the garage.

    As an added surprise, when she got home, she hit the speed bumps at about 35 miles per hour, according to my Dad, who was waving to signal her. She lost control of her car and tore out about 100 feet of a trellised grape arbor laden with Concord grapes ripened to a beautiful, deep purple.

    She then overcompensated and veered to the other side of the lane and landed on her new patio with her car wrapped in vines, scratched with wire, and stained purple with smashed grapes.

    Dad called me that night and in a hoarse whisper said, “Your mother is really mad at me. When she got out of the car, she said, ‘what the H-E-double hockey sticks happened?’ But she actually said the ‘H’ word to me. Hell must have been heavy on her mind, what with her just coming from her church meeting.”

    Okay. So I laughed instead of offering sympathy. I told him she’d love the patio once she recovered from the surprise. Then he said, “This is going to cost me some more money as the weight of the car cracked the new patio when the car came to a stop on it…and she expects me to pay for repairs on the grape arbor and a new paint job on her car.”

    But, wait, I’ve digressed. I started to say how the crew with the jack hammer, front end loader and dump truck was a Christmas present for my mother. She had adamantly refused to have the speed bumps remain in the lane. She said she’d driven that lane for too many years and would never get used to them. So, by Christmas, Dad had the speed bumps removed and told her the “bump removal” was her Christmas present.

    But, to save their marriage, and maybe even his own life, Dad did get Mom wooden patio furniture for Christmas in addition to having the speed bumps removed. Never ceasing to be frugal, Dad purchased the furniture unassembled in a box stamped with large letters saying, “Some Assembly Required.”

    But, that’s another family Christmas story.

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