Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays to All

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the station,
The passengers were resting from their trek cross the nation.
Meanwhile out on the plains, awaiting the stage,
Was Shamus McGraw, in a terrible rage.

McGraw was an outlaw who lived by a code:
Everything was fair game when met on the road.
But if his quarry escaped, McGraw let him be,
With one small exception, Clayton McGee.

McGee was Ranger. His code was the law.
His job was to bring down the likes of McGraw.
He questioned known friends and McGraw's family
Including his sister, the fair Emily.

"Not fair!" said McGraw. "This isn't right,
To bring a man's family into the fight."
McGee crossed the line, so now McGraw waited
To rescue his sister and see himself sated.

When the stage was halfway betwixt station and town
Shots rang out and the coachman was down.
Then McGraw rode in, his expression grim
For another gang got to the coach before him.

In the twilight he recognized the surly Black Bart
Whose ruthless violence was honed to an art
Though generally not one to shoot for the kill,
McGraw thought of his sister and shot with a will.

Though he was outnumbered, seven to one,
McGraw rode in heedless, firing his gun
He shot down Black Bart and routed his gang
Then rode back to the stage, with barely a pang

McGee might arrest him, or he might be dead
But Emily's safety was the only thought in his head
Imagine the look on the face of McGraw
When McGee hailed him hero and brother-in-law.

"Take the gift," said the coachman, when he was able.
"Talk to the Ranger. Put your cards on the table.
"If not not for you, friend, I might now be dead.
"So put thoughts of a new career into your head."

On the night before Christmas, Shamus McGraw
Was sworn in a Ranger, no more an outlaw.
They toasted his bravery and the new Mrs. McGee.
No one noticed the coachman, no one except me...

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Holiday Short

Twas the week before Christmas
And at the North Pole
Santa's fitness regime
Was taking it's toll

Saint Nicolas was cutting out
Cookies and cake
Ms Claus was down with it
She had less to bake

And all the privations
They put on themselves
Were extended, by Santa,
To all of the elves

But the hard work they put in
Throughout the year
Kept the elves in shape
Without exercise gear.
They didn't need fitness plans
Or the Atkinson diet
But if Santa kept this up
They'd be starting a riot.

Twas Rudolf that thought
Of a quite clever plot
For getting the goodies
Without getting caught

While Dasher and Dancer put
Santa through his paces
The elves buckled up
And it was off to the races

With the rest of the reindeer
They took Santa's sleigh
To buy pepperkaker at a
Bakery in Norway

Then they hit Danish and
Fine French bakers
Made a stop in Pennsylvania
And bought cookies from Quakers

When Santa was panting
Hardly able to speak
They returned with enough bake goods
To last them a week.

Of course Santa knew
But not one bit did he seize
For he knew Christmas Eve
He'd get all the goodies

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Season of Gifting

"When you stop believing in Santa Claus is when you start getting clothes for Christmas."

 I never stopped believing in Santa. I can remember sitting at the bedroom window (whichever of my cousin's bedrooms my sister and I were sharing that year), after everyone else was fast asleep, looking for Rudolph's flashing nose in the sky. As I write this, I have finally put together why I sometimes saw that light with the proximity of an international airport. 

Later, I was one of Santa's helpers, putting out the stockings that my cousins, sisters and I filled for our parents. After all, why should we (the kids) get all the fun Christmas morning. I knew for years that Santa didn't fill the stockings himself. He delegated that task to Mum, Auntie Yang, Nana and possibly my Dad and Uncle D. It wasn't tough to figure out when the adults kicked us out of the living room and told us that even if we didn't want to go to bed, they did. 

Believing in Santa Claus didn't stop me from getting clothes as presents. My children, by the way, don't believe in Santa and they love clothes as gifts. They especially love gift cards they can take out to buy their own clothes. Santa has smartened up that way. With the exception of hand knitted sweaters, Santa's taste in clothes can be questionable to say the least. That's why I developed an allergy to acrylic and polyester.

My Nana was the biggest culprit. The sweaters she bought me were always a size too small and more often than not sported horizontal stripes. You do not put a teenage girl, who is self-conscious about her weight, in horizontal stripes. Add the itchiness of early acrylic yarns and garish colours, you have a recipe for gift that will never be worn past Christmas day. 

So I told Nana I was allergic to acrylic. Polyester shirts also made me itch. I then quickly pointed out that hand-knit sweaters were different because they were meant to be worn over tops. At the time, 100% cotton tops were either relatively plain or Indian muslin. I was happy with either. My "allergy" later kept me out of stretch polyester uniforms. 

Nana also taught me about re-gifting. All her grandchildren learned the cardinal rule: Never give Nana a gift you wouldn't be able to use yourself. Those presents were like boomerangs, inevitably (and sometimes immediately) returning to the presenter.

My father taught me another important lesson. Don't give magazine subscriptions as gifts unless you are sure the recipients want them.

For decades, my uncle and my father gifted each other National Geographic. This was the perfect gift because they both enjoyed the magazine and it isn't a cheap subscription. Of course, I really appreciated the tradition because I loved stealing the maps and pouring over them, imagining epic trips to places near and far.

No one was nearly as enthusiastic about being given a subscription to Readers Digest. Yet, sure that this would increase his chances of winning the big prize, my father gifted subscriptions to practically everyone. His sister had to tell him to stop... several times. She was the only one to be that direct. Not that Readers Digest is a terrible magazine, but each subscription came with incessant mailings urging readers to buy more because "You could already be a winner."

I told Dad that I'd rather have a subscription to Writer Magazine. For a couple of years he bought me that. But I still got Readers Digest.
“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
 Socks are safe, but some of the best gifts I've given and received have been books. However, like bath products, you do have to know the tastes of your recipient or, as with my Nana, you can expect the present to come back to you.

My mother and father were usually easy. I knew what they liked because I grew up surrounded by their books. I took great delight in introducing my mother to the mysteries of Charlotte McLeod and Sue Grafton. It got a little problematic when she'd buy the latest release before I had a chance to give it to her for Christmas or her birthday.

Giving my father books was like taking coals to Newcastle. He was constantly ordering books for himself and subscribed to two Western Romance book of the month clubs. Fortunately, like Dumbledore, he believed one couldn't have enough socks.