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The Cold Finger of Christmas

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 18, 2000

One afternoon, when our youngest son was even younger, he came in from playing in the snow. He tugged off his snow armor, creating small snowdrifts on the floor as he did so. He kicked his boots into a corner and walked away from the pile of clothes, completely oblivious to the mess he had just made. He approached me and said, "You know what, Dad? When my hands are cold and I put my finger in my ear, it makes me think of Christmas."

As is so often the case when dealing with this child, I didnt know what to say. I couldnt say that I had ever noticed the same effect. But, after thinking about it for a while, I decided that there are things that make me think of Christmas and sometimes Christmas makes me think of other things. It is most likely that one memory triggers another until they are all mixed up. Trying to figure out which ones are Christmas-related and which are simply winter-related is not easy.

For me, the first snowfall of the season is a special memory-triggering event. It has to be a specific kind of snowfall, a snowfall that occurs when the ground is still bare. The flakes come floating slowly down. They come from a cold, gray afternoon sky, dropping silently, as big as quarters, but light as feathers. They are the kind of snowflakes that a kid would try to catch on his tongue. I recall doing this in the late 1950s, when I was very young. I was catching snowflakes on my tongue when a responsible adult, or maybe one of my brothers, warned me that the snowflakes were radioactive and that if I didnt quit eating snowflakes I would get "radioactivity" and die. Well, that took the fun out of that. I did not stop to consider that my success rate at catching snowflakes was so low that I would likely have frozen stiff long before I had consumed enough fallout to do me any harm. I quit trying to eat snowflakes and started worrying that I had eaten too many already.

The "Cold Finger of Christmas" also reminds me that at some point I am going to have to do my Christmas shopping. I am, generally speaking, not a good shopper. I like to think of myself as a generous person, but choosing meaningful gifts for my loved ones seems to be a monumental task. I have my better days at shopping, but Yuletide is not one of them. I tend to freeze up when I go into stores. My mind goes even more blank than normal. I forget why I came into the store and invariably walk out with something unfit for proper gift giving.

The Mall of America in Bloomington is the ultimate shopping experience for some. To me, it is entirely different. When I went there the first time, I went with an open mind, determined to make it a good experience. My wife and I got out of the car and walked in the door. She stopped at the first display to admire a plastic tree full of scarves and said something like, "Arent these pretty?" My verbal response was, "Mmmm-hmmm," while at the time I was thinking, "We are going to die here." I was panicking. I thought, "There are over three-hundred stores in this place and if we spend even five seconds at each display then it wont be long and I will just be a pile of bones wasting away and being kicked down the escalator like a beer can by a bunch of kids in baggy pants with their caps on backwards."

Well, it didnt turn out so bad. My wife sat me down and bought me some candy and took me on a ride at Camp Snoopy. Eventually, I calmed down and survived the day, but it was a near thing as far as I was concerned.

I hope that the "Cold Finger of Christmas" is good to you and reminds you of happy days. Merry Christmas!

Wayne Pike

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