Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
A Hollywood producer contacted me this week to ask if any of my Christmas stories might be used for a television special.
To be blunt, I was not in a Christmas mood.
To be blunter, my experience of Hollywood enquiries over the years is that they prove to be mostly annoying smoke.
So. No. To Christmas and Hollywood.
But the producer is actually a good guy - with admirable values and a string of successful films to his credit.
So. Well . . . then, OK.
I would give the project some thought.
Here’s what happened next . . .
Today was hair and beard cut day.
I admit it’s been awhile, and I was getting mountain-man shaggy.
A look I like – because it fits in with living in the mountains in winter.
A look my sweet wife does not like – because we’re going up to Salt Lake City in a few days to attend the grand opening of an Italian restaurant owned by a famous Italian chef, and no other mountain men will be present.
Italians are sleek, not shaggy.
After getting properly trimmed by Alberta, and looking about as sleek as I am ever going to look, I stopped by the grocery store to get a pint of coffee ice cream to almost take home.
The ice cream will not make me sleek, but only happy, and happiness is a prelude to high-quality ssleek in my book.
There is a spoon hidden in my car for emergencies – such as making sure the ice cream will not get all the way home in its carton – just inside me.
True, this will not help much with sleek as far as my wife is concerned.
She doesn’t know about the spoon, but that’s another story for another time.
City Market is the grand emporium of Moab, a small town of 5,000 people.
It’s our one big all-purpose supermarket and civic center.
If you want to know what’s happening in the culture or in the community, City Market is the place to find out.
I entered in a good mood, coffee ice cream on my mind.
Two steps inside the door my mood changed to dismay.
Potted poinsettias, ropes of tinsel, Santa Claus images, wreaths - the works.
Two full aisles of special Christmas season merchandise.
No, No, No I thought. Too soon!
I wandered down the aisles surveying the madness.
The sweet stuff caught my eye.
Nine sizes and flavors of candy canes.
Five sizes of chocolate Santa Claus figures.
An edible shot glass made of striped candy cane candy.
And a five pound Hershey bar packaged for Christmas.
Dear God . . . this is crazy . . . it’s still ten days before Thanksgiving.
I drove home in such a dark mood that I forgot to eat the ice cream.
Which is now hidden in the back of the freezer.
And my evening has been spent grumpily reading essays and stories.
The one’s about Christmas . . .
But . . . slowly . . . slowly . . . as I reviewed what I’ve written over the years, the mood of the season seeped into my mind and spirit.
The funny times, the sad times, the lonely times, the magic times . . .
Memories . . . memories . . . and I laughed and cried and thought:
Fulghum, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s not City Market’s deal, it’s yours. So what if the Christmas stuff is available ten days early? An extra ten days gift-wrapped in the trappings of longed-for peace and foolish joy?
What’s wrong with that? Take it when it comes. An extra ten days of bright red poinsettias in the house? What’s the problem? And the candy canes are fresh now. And you’ve never had a candy cane shot glass. Or a five pound Hershey bar. Finish reading your Christmas writing. Enjoy the memories. And tomorrow, when you take the material into town to the Fed-X, stop off at City Market and lay in some early supplies for Christmas. Keep an open mind. Get a head start. Besides, you’ll never know how much of a five pound Hershey bar you can eat between town and home until you try . . .
And so I did that.
Now I’m back from town and City Market.
With three small poinsettias – the clerk said I was the first to buy and it was a good thing to do because the plants would not be store-tired.
With two boxes of candy canes – plain and chocolate-mint flavored.
With a bag of Christmas gummy bears – in red and green.
With a candy cane shot glass – just add vodka.
And with a five-pound Hershey bar, seasonally boxed.
And, no, I did not try to eat any of the Hershey bar.
Just too much to absorb on top of the pint of chocolate ice cream . . .
But the zinger I found, and I quote the label, was “The Super Dooper Reindeer Pooper.”
A brown plastic reindeer wind-up toy.
Included in the box was a handful of cola and butterscotch flavored jelly beans. (No artificial flavors.)
A product of Ireland.
The toy will excrete the jelly beans after they are properly inserted – instructions included.
The reindeer has a red nose and is smiling.
This gizmo was placed on a shelf at child’s-eye level.
In a family supermarket.
Oh how I wish I could be a fly on the wall when a kid picks this thing out and pleads with his mother to buy it . . .
Of course I bought one.
My wife was speechless when she found it on the kitchen table.
“Merry Christmas, dear, let me demonstrate the reindeer.”
And I laughed.
No, not really.
Remember, Jesus was born in a stable where there were sheep and donkeys.
Maybe even a reindeer or two, who knows?
Which means there was lots of manure around.
It may be that the true smell of Christmas is not balsam fir, but manure.
Not the sweet essence of apple pie – but the earthy smell of a barn.
And a child of our time might as well have at least a small reality check in the midst of all the mysterious twists of Christmas madness machine.
By the way, the Super Dooper Reindeer Pooper works quite well.
But we’ll need a new supply of jelly beans . . .