“Don’t come crying to me because your he-man macho-dude mighty-hombre denim ‘weekender’ work shirt couldn’t handle drying on permanent press.”
Not a recent purchase.
I think it was December 2009; funny how I can remember so many details of that morning but I have to calculate and organize other events since to guess the year. It was a cold, rainy Sunday morning, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and although it was early you could still get breakfast at McDonald’s and visit someone at the hospital.
My friend had been in rough shape for a few years. He had had one working kidney that was not his own, and now it was failing. After forty-odd years of treatment his juvenile diabetes seemed determined to manifest itself in every area of his body, all at once. And he was in the hospital again, as he had been since just after Thanksgiving.
I brought him a couple of Sausage Burritos. It was his favorite on the two or three times a month we met at McD’s for breakfast. I can remember how they smelled as I tucked the bag under my jacket to conceal them from the nurses, but I have no idea what I ate that morning. The nurses didn’t jump on me for bringing in contraband. Maybe they had reason not to be bothered.
He was awake when I came in, which was not always the case; kidney dialysis really seemed to knock him flat.
It’s hard to talk in hospitals. All you want to say is “I wish I could make you better,” and all they want to say is “I wish I were well.” Everything else we usually talked about—the Giants, the Mets, our mutual acquaintances, our town—all seemed to shatter against those two immovable statements. I wish I could make you better. I wish I were well.
On the way home I stopped in the dollar store. I don’t remember what else I bought, but I got the plastic reindeer. I don’t know why. It was a dollar. Do I need a reason?
It was an air freshener too, see?
It originally came with something vaguely cinnamon scented. That didn’t last long, but he’s an official decoration now, trotted out annually with the rest of them.
I got home that morning before my wife was up, then we had coffee and went to church.
My friend was not in the hospital the next Christmas; he was in a nursing home, with virtually no kidney, no gallbladder, and one less leg. The Christmas after that he was gone.
He never saw that silly plastic reindeer, but every time I take it out, every time I look at it, I remember that morning and I see him.
Merry Christmas, pal. Miss you. Wish I could have made you better. Wish you could have gotten well.
Almost got the details worked out, but it looks like we may have some more free Fred fiction for you for Christmas! Yes, it’s another Christmas miracle.
It’s a sequel to this past summer’s novella, “The Summer of Adventure!” featuring further drama with Henry and the rest of the Kingslips. Right now it’s still in the drafting stage, but the publisher is jake with me running it, so we should be good to go. But like Santa, with whom I have much in common, I’ll be pulling late hours making sure that Christmas is on time. Because as we know from all those Christmas specials on TV, if the big man doesn’t schlep down from the pole, Christmas is cancelled.
And as we used to say in the old Smith Corona Super 5 days, “Every time an end-of-line bell rings, another angel gets its wings.”
Anyway, more information as it becomes available. And a very Freddy Christmas to you all!
No, not a double entendre or even a sequel to this cinematic masterpiece:
We’ve been enjoying the honeycrisp apples every fall since they started migrating our way. They are one of the few items in the produce section that seem to be tastier when larger. And they are large this year:
I ate one all by myself* a few weeks ago. It took quite a long time, and afterward I felt like I had swallowed a cannonball. But every bite was a delight. You can get that feeling of apple fatigue from a raw Granny Smith, which will not taste so hot and only serve to illustrate the difference between a cooking apple and an eating apple.
I haven’t done enough research to know why the honeycrisp is the Aaron Gibson of apples, but I can say that they come in handy.
My delightful wife agrees with Alton Brown that stuffing is evil, at least when actually shoved into the turkey and cooked. It may soak up a lot of raw turkey liquid but fail to get hot enough nestled in the cavity to kill any horrible bugs. So she sticks an onion, an apple, and some celery in there to give the bird some added flavor and some structural integrity. Usually that takes one medium onion, three to four stalks of celery, and one apple. This year it took one medium onion, three stalks of celery, and less than half a gigantic apple to fill up a sixteen-pound turkey.
Other uses for a giant honeycrisp include:
- emergency tuffet substitute
- guest pillow
- replacement bowling ball
- spare tire
- home for the Sprat family
- Macy’s parade float
So you see, it’s good to have some of these big apples around, even in the Big Apple. I hope you find some in the store, and are feeling muscular the day you do.
*And I went potty all by myself too! ‘Cause I’m aaaaaaaaalllll growed up!
1. We always look for patterns in the hope of making sense of things and being able to plan ahead. When everything comes together, whether by planning or serendipity, it is very satisfying.
2. Persistence pays off. But some fights you just can’t win. If at first you don’t succeed, try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try again.
3. Sometimes the thing you want most is juuuuuuuust out of reach. Patience is a virtue, but not all things come to those who wait.
4. And some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.
5. Too much chocolate is bad for you. And licorice is lousy.
6. Watching things blow up can be fun.
7. You can make fun of someone else who is stuck in the Easter Bunny Hills, but then you have to be open to being made fun of by someone who has shot ahead to the Sugary Shire. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.
8. Call it luck or statistical inevitability, but it’s great when things fall into place they way you want them.
9. To really form an addiction, there has to be just barely enough of a payoff.
10. It just keeps getting harder. Even when you think it can’t, it can.
Noted psychologist and mental health scholar Lucy Van Pelt was, I think, the first to diagnose the problem Post-Christmas Letdown. Her interest in the subject was sparked by her failure, annually, to get what she really wanted from Santa Claus for Christmas (real estate), but as she researched and conducted interviews she was able to determine that a crucial element to the phenomenon was that “the hoopla is over.”
Of course, her work has finally led to the entry of Post-Christmas Letdown in the Fifth Edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (colloquially, DSM-5).
Although the name Post-Christmas Letdown (or PCL) stuck, Van Pelt has been scrupulous in demonstrating that the condition can occur following any highly anticipated event in which the subject has invested time, effort, and emotional capital. Thus, it covers subsidiary problems like Post-Birthday Letdown, Post-Wedding Blues, Post-Prom Disillusionment, Post-Columbus Day Disorder (very rare), Post-Carnival Blahs, Post-New Year Hangover, Post-Reunion Breakup, Post-Birth Misery, Post-Mardi Gras Funk, and even Post-Thanksgiving Wallow.
The last (PTW) is unusual, because most Americans are immediately thrown into preparations for Christmas* and are unable to focus on the blank slate ahead of them, that barren landscape that is so discouraging following the lush festival behind. But as a victim this year of PTW, I must confess that sadness is no laughing matter.
Like many Americans I had a frantic and emotionally charged Thanksgiving weekend. Many elements combine after such a period to form the basis of PTW, not merely caloric guilt, reminders of family and friends far away, exhaustion from celebration, or being a Chiefs fan. It is the expenditure of that emotional capital that leaves one feeling bankrupt at the end of the festivities.
This year it was a particularly frantic weekend, and I feel like I owe the bank some emotions.
I know I will pull out of this, but I hoped to raise awareness of the little known PTW syndrome. Please be kind to someone you know who may seem lackluster following Thanksgiving. He is probably worn out physically and mentally, and his pants are too tight. Thank you.
*The frenzy of the Christmas season brings its own set of problems, of course, which Van Pelt addressed at the 1990 APA annual conference in her seminal paper, “Involvement and the Christmas Spirit: Cheer Up or I’ll Slug You.”