Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Impossible As It May Seem

In my book, the gold standard of road music cruising is the Bodeans, so when "Good Things" comes on the radio, I am as happy as I can be driving east in winter.

Sunlight fall down on the fields
Sunlight fall down over me
Work all day, be all that I can be

The Back Street Boys' "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" is a guilty pleasure song (and co-written by the omnipresent Swede, Max Martin, to my surprise), while hearing Rod Stewart's whiny "You're in My Heart" reminds me of eating breakfast in Vico Equense, Italy where Rod's greatest hits played every morning as I ate breakfast, the sole occupant of the dining room overlooking  Mount Vesuvius.

Once I get far enough out in the sticks, I see seasonal signs, one misspelled, reading "Christmas candie is here!" and the other at Thomas' Store proclaiming, "Old-fashioned Christmas candy." Growing up, Mom always ordered a tin of Jingle Bits, an assortment of hard candy, from the milk man. Milk who? Look it up, kids.

A church sign reads, "Slow down! Keep the Christ in Christmas" and I am left to wonder if the two are related. Cause I'm all about the first and at odds with the second. Come on, Christmas long ago became a pagan holiday for plenty of people, nothing more than a winter celebration falling a few days after the darkest and briefest day of the year.

Candy-making and cookie-baking are on the agenda at my parents' house on the Northern Neck, so I'm surprised when I walk in to find a nephew from Maryland there to help my Dad set up their new mondo TV.

There's a line in White Christmas when Bing Crosby's character says, "I know it sounds crazy, Al, but you're working for crazy people." There was a point today when I said to my nephew, "I know it sounds crazy, nephew, but you're related to crazy people."

You see, the reason my parents wanted a bigger TV is because my Dad moved their chairs - their "thrones," their stations from which their worlds emanate - further from the TV because it made the room look better (Mom's words). So in pursuit of feng shui, they discovered that their octogenarian eyes required a larger set because it would be too simple to merely return the chairs to where they and their predecessors sat comfortably for 30 years.

I call this "eccentric as you wanna be" and leave it at that.

After a fried chicken lunch, my nephew announces he intends to head down to the dock to "sink a pole" so I join him, doing nothing more than lazing on a bench while he relentlessly casts a line and schools me about.lures versus bait. We keep hearing fish jumping, but he never catches anything.

Given the gorgeous afternoon, we're both completely happy to do nothing more than talk while we squint into the sun for an hour.

Back at the house, he and Dad start talking about the fish that got away and I overhear Dad offer him his surf rods, an unspoken acknowledgment that he won't be doing any more surf fishing in this lifetime. Just as I'm getting a little choked up about this, Dad launches into one of his trademark tales, as always, tailored to the subject.

He informs nephew that one day he and his buddy are out at the ocean's edge when he spots a school of bluefish in a feeding frenzy. "They'll bite anything when they're feeding like that," Dad tells his buddy and then pulls the pop top off a can of PBR and attaches it to his fishing line like a lure. Moments after tossing it in, he reels it in with a blue on the line, his point proven.

I tell him I'm amazed I've never heard this story before and not the least surprised at his making use of the nearest beer can. "That's nothing," he says. "People used to make bracelets out of those things!"

Is anyone really surprised that pop top jewelry was a thing in the late '70s?

In between baking three kinds of cookies wearing a red and green Christmas apron over bike shorts, I 'm asked to make fudge as a gift for my aunt from my Mom. When I inquire if we're making old-fashioned fudge, the kind she'd taught me to make as a child, she laughs, saying she long ago switched to making microwave fudge.

What? No soft ball stage? No endless stirring? No two-hour cooling? Horrors! I refuse to participate in such a travesty.

Instead I insist we make real fudge, despite it taking half the day. Over the course of the afternoon, Mom winds up sharing a story of how when she was in junior high school, they used to have parties where kids would get together to do three things: make fudge, make taffy and pop popcorn.

How wholesome can you get? Sounds like something out of a Judy Garland movie to me.

The fudge turns out so lusciously it could have made a shy junior high kid popular. Dozens of cookies are tucked into bags and containers, but only after Mom and I differ on how Hershey Kisses should top peanut butter cookies.

The funniest part is her reminding me, "We have this same disagreement every year."

Whatever. Smells like Christmas tradition to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment