Thursday, December 30, 2010

Observations From the Christmas Road - Part 1

My family just got back from a ten-day road trip. Altogether we spent about 38 hours driving. Actually, the boys spent about 30 of those hours asleep, so it was pretty easy for them. That is a lot of concentrated time on the road. I know that many people who drive for a living see far more highway than that in ten days, but it seemed like a lot to me.

I took my little writer’s notebook with me and recorded a lot of random stuff I saw and heard (just like my Childish Adult friend Chris). There are no big revelations or insights here. Just the flotsam and jetsam of road trips. [Ever notice that you hardly ever see flotsam without its pal jetsam? Those two are like the Laurel and Hardy of the seldom used vocabulary world.]

Here is a little nugget from a Cracker Barrel somewhere in NC. Heidi has the impression that Cracker Barrel has the cleanest bathrooms on the road. We never ate a single thing there on this road trip, but I’ll bet we stopped at a CB at least a half a dozen times. I did buy a cup of coffee one time.

I finished my business before Heidi, and I was wandering in the retail area. I have to say I love looking around at that stuff. There are the old TV sitcoms on DVD, musical instruments that almost really play, CD collections of country singers and books with old timey wit and wisdom. My favorites are the toys. I had some of those very same toys when I was a kid. You know, like Slinkeys and jacks and Barrel of Monkeys. The really timeless stuff.

Well there is this little kid, maybe six, playing with a toy gun. It is a musket, the kind that you can cock. It gives a really satisfying click when you pull back the hammer and if you had those little round stick on caps it would make a loud bang and let out a cloud of smoke just like a real gun. I know. I used to have one just like it. I got it for Christmas once.

I was tempted to tell the kid about the little sticker caps (which you can probably only get at CB) when I hear his mom tell him to, “Put that thing down and get over here before you break it!” She is a large woman with dyed black hair and a lot of makeup. It looked like she was getting ready for a stage production.

The little guy pulls the trigger, I mean come on – he had already cocked it. It would be like leaving it there on the shelf loaded. Every boy knows you just can’t do that. “I said get over here. NOW!” shrieks Mom. He flinches at the sound of her too loud words. He puts it back on the shelf and walks over to her.

“I’m telling Santa on you. I said to put it down.”

“No, Mama. Please don’t tell Santa!” he cries in desperation.

“It’s too late. You didn’t put that toy up when I told you to. I’m telling Santa.” She walks away like it’s a done deal. Santa is going to know and that’s that.

“Mama! I’m sorry. Please don’t tell Santa on me!”

Heidi came out at that point and I told her to look at those two. I told her the story when we were walking out of the store. I felt like tattling on that mama. No, I know it wasn’t in the Christmas spirit, but I felt like giving her the hardest noogie ever, one that would mess up her perfectly sprayed hair and leave a pink mark on her scalp for a long time. I felt like telling Santa on HER.

Evil Santa

I mean, really. The kid did what his mom told him to. Almost immediately. Mom was obviously just looking for a reason to tell Santa, looking for a reason to push his Santa button. What kind of relationship do those two have? Is it all about power? And what kind of way is that to use the Santa thing? Is Santa some all-knowing being that only grown-ups can talk to when they want to punish or threaten their kids? Is Santa some kind of omniscient being who holds all the cards, doles out presents or holds them back in order to punish the unworthy ones who don't do exactly what their mamas say within one second of the command? What is she going to do when he finds out that Santa isn’t real? Is it the same for every holiday season? Is she going to tell the Easter Bunny if he doesn’t jump to at every command in the spring? Is she going to tell the Leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day?

I mean it’s Santa, right? Good old Santa.

More later.


Chris Hass said...

Cracker Barrel is a treasure trove of writing ideas, wouldn't you say? We stopped by a CB for breakfast on our way to STL. My favorite part is playing the game at the table with the golf tees. This year I finally figured out how to win that game/puzzle every time. I was awfully proud! Muluken wanted me to teach him but I explained that this would defeat the whole purpose of playing.

We were looking around at all the junk they have bolted to their walls - guns, photos, old signs, tools of all sorts.

"Do you figure an antique collector would have a field day in here or what?" I sarcastically asked Tricia.

"I don't think it's real," she answered, either missing or ignoring my intended sarcasm.

I can't wait to hear what else you took notice of during your travels. I'll share a quick one of mine...Tricia and I were in a bookstore browsing for gifts. I came across an over-sized book titled "Nude Hollywood Stars." It was really heavy looking and maybe even a little old. I have to admit, though, I was curious. If it were in the back of the store I might have cracked it open just to see. However, it was on display right there at the entrance. Sure I didn't know anyone at this random STL mall but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I later met back up with Tricia and asked her to go look for me and report back. All I can say is that she at least didn't smack me.

Teresa said...

I am just as amazed at this "Santa is watching" (imagine a booming, sinister voice there) phenomenon. Upon seeing all of his gifts under the tree Connor's first response was "I must have been really good! But some kids aren't good so they don't get any presents." I can only guess at where he heard these words but it knocked the wind out of me. Here he is faced with a pile of toys and trinkets that supposedly somehow represents him as a person?!? What about families that can't afford the kids grow up thinking that they are just that bad that they don't deserve some gifts? It is a very cheap shot to use Santa in such dirty ways...