Monday, December 24, 2012

Twelve Drummers Drumming

The other day in the car we heard someone reading O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi on the radio. Even though the prose is very purple and the outcome well-known, I listened with a sort of morbid fascination all the way up to the part where Jim leans back on the couch, puts his hands behind his head, and says, "Dell, let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs."

In our family, we have our own Christmas legend with an ironic twist. It involves my grandfather, a shotgun, and a tuxedo. One year the only gift my grandfather wanted was a shotgun. His older brother, Herb, wanted a tuxedo to wear to the cotillion he was attending with his girl, Elsie.

Both boys got their wishes, and Herb hung his tux on the door to keep it wrinkle free until the party. My great-grandfather sat down with his younger son and told him that the shotgun was not toy. It was never to be loaded or aimed in the house, and if that rule should ever be broken, my grandfather would lose it forever.

What boy could resist lifting such a weapon to his shoulder and squinting down the barrel in firing position? Not my grandfather. When his father was out of the room, he did just that, and unaware that it was loaded, he was stunned when he pulled the trigger and unloaded two shells of shot right into Herb's tuxedo, cutting the pants off at the knees.

Yet another foolish child who most unwisely sacrificed the greatest treasures of the house.

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