Noel Time, a Story…Again

Well, bless you, Coach, as in JB Leftwich, columnist and journalism mentor extraordinaire.

You see, one of the grateful moments of my short and oft interrupted life in journalism was to write a weekly column on the same newspaper, The Lebanon Democrat, while JB was writing his weekly column on another day of the week. Even when i had no hair…again…i learned from Coach about writing for a newspaper.

One thing i learned was if you have a column for a specific season and it is well received, keep submitting/posting it that particular season every year. JB did that with a column about his mother’s fruit cake (again, Leftwich family, please correct me if i got the kin or the dessert incorrect in my memory).

So on Thanksgiving, i re-posted my column about smoking a turkey. And now, i’m re-posting my column about a dark day of the Christmas season. i know it has been appreciated because my close friend, Pete Toennies, guffaws each time he reads it. Sometimes, i am embarrassed by the story. Sometimes, i wonder why i have told anyone about that dark day. Then, i recall what occurred. i start laughing. It is a good story.

i cutsied it up a bit last year and called it “No, Noel, No.” with a couple of photos edited to make my rather silly point. But it was the same column.

The saga continues. The “NOEL” sign in the original story was made of 1×2 pine, was much larger, had holes drilled into the wood for the lights, and weighed considerably more than the current version. But a couple of years ago, some of the lights on the original went out and it was just too complicated to replace the lights in the series. So i constructed a more manageable sign. i was very meticulous and before drilling the one hundred or more holes, i decided to check it out and just stapled the light strings on the front. i showed it to Maureen. She decided she liked it much better than the more regimented one with holes drilled in it. Since she is the one who has an eye for design (and it was one heck of a lot less work), i agreed.

So i put the sign up last year.

That’s when i noticed i had two different strings of white lights. The first string was “white;” the second string was “bright white.” There’s a difference, you know. i didn’t.

Now i should change them out to match. But you know what? It sort of looks like i made it. So it’s staying this way, at least for this Christmas season.


The “NOEL” sign was created in memory of Col. Jimmy Lynch. My father-in-law at the time asked me to help put his up in Paris, Texas in the mid-1970’s. There is another story in that adventure for later. But i loved the sign and made my first one in the early 1990’s.


Notes from the Southwest Corner: An Embarrassing Christmas Moment

As I have noted previously, I am in Tennessee for Christmas, not in the Southwest corner. The below events, however, did occur near San Diego.

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 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 being different and 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 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.

And may all of you have a most wonderful and amazing Christmas Season, and please, please, please (as James Brown would implore) remember the reason this all occurs every year.

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