Below is this year’s edition of my NOEL sign story with additions from years past. The sign is unchanged from last year. Next year, i plan to rearrange the lights to more closely align with the letters.
Christmas decorations are going up a bit early again. It seems to me back home growing up, we cut down our tree on Wynn “Papa” Prichard’s farm about a week before the big day, decorated it that evening, hung the stockings, hung a wreath on the door, put some lights around the door, and took it all down the day after Christmas. In our neighborhood today, about one-quarter of the houses have blow-up dolls, reindeer statues, lights enough to provide electricity for a small city among other amusements. The decorations here went up a week ago and many will likely remain well after the New Year.
Considering all that because i wanted to get it out of the way. And so begins the Christmas season. And with that, i offer my traditional repeat of a column i wrote for the Lebanon Democrat about a gazillion years ago. Merry Christmas with this year’s version of Noel:
Have you ever had one of those days when everything turned into an embarrassment? I had a champion day like that several years ago.
It started innocently while I hung our outdoor decoration, a home-made “NOEL” sign from the eave of our garage, hoping to get it up before my wife’s friends arrived for their Christmas dinner.
Maureen and her six friends have been meeting monthly for dinners for 15-plus years. They had this December dinner catered, did it up right. It was Maureen’s turn to be hostess.
It was dark when I began. I was at the top of my step ladder attaching the second of two wires from the sign to a hook secured to the eave when the ladder lurched and toppled. I grabbed a metal ornamental grating above the garage door.
There I hung, my arm intertwined with the “O” of the sign. If I tried to drop, the sign could catch my arm and do some pretty bad stuff.
I yelled, but Maureen had Christmas carols at top volume and didn’t hear. I tried to think of what to do while simultaneously wondering how long I could hold on. The dog wandered underneath, occasionally looking up as if I was a very strange person hanging there.
After several minutes, a neighbor’s son and friend pulled into the driveway several houses away. As they emerged, I swallowed my pride and yelled “Help.”
At first, they could not discern who was calling. Then they spotted me and came to help. The dog decided to protect me and began barking threateningly. The boys hesitated. I assured them the only danger was being licked to death. They finally righted the ladder and helped me down.
I thanked them profusely and then studied whether I should tell Maureen or not. Now that I was back on solid ground, I decided it was too funny not to tell her. She was incredulous and not particularly amused.
I did not realize my embarrassment for the night was just beginning.
While Maureen made final arrangements for her dinner, our daughter, Sarah, and I went to a local spot for supper. The little place was an oasis of sorts in Bonita, where there were only Mexican, Italian, and fast food restaurants. The attraction was different, having a wide-range of ales and beers for golfers finishing a round across the street.
When we arrived, two couples were at tables and three guys sat at the bar. As we neared the end of our meal, the largest of the guys at the bar walked to the door and then turned back. I noticed his eyes seemed glazed. Then he walked back to the bar.
Suddenly, this guy and the one on the other side grabbed the guy in the middle off his stool, slammed him into the wall and started pummeling him with their fists. The three male diners, me (instinctively) included, approached from one side and two cooks approached from the back. Sarah had retreated to the door with the two lady diners. I grabbed the big guy. He spun and fell backward, slamming us into our table, knocking it over with shattering glass. It gave me some leverage, and we spun to the floor with me on top and knocking the wind out of the big guy. The other two diners helped me hold him until he calmed down. The cooks had quelled the other assailant. The two left quietly.
Even though the waitress wanted us to not pay our bill, we paid and left for home. On the way, I talked to my daughter about what I should have done (directed her outside before joining the fray) and what she should do the next time if she were ever in a place where a fight broke out (get out and away and not come back until she was sure it was over). i admonished not to spoil her mother’s dinner party, adding i would tell her mother after the guests had departed. Sarah nodded.
I was feeling pretty good as we arrived home. Then Sarah dashed out of the car, ran into the house and yelled to her mother in front of the caterer and her six friends dressed to the nines amidst fine china, Christmas decorations, and haut cuisine, “Mom, Dad got in a fight in a bar.”
Some days, I just can’t get a break.
May your holiday season be embarrassment free.
Later this week, we will head back for a beautiful, albeit cold, Christmas tradition on Signal Mountain. i’ll think of all my friends as we fly east, sit by the fire, enjoy the children enjoying Christmas, having a scrumptious Christmas dinner, opening gifts of course, and being hopeful for peace on earth. As i have done in the past several years, i send you my Christmas greetings. May all of you have a most wonderful and amazing Christmas Season, and “Please, Please, Please (as James Brown once sang remember the reason for the season,