Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Penwasser Christmas

He sees you when you're sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
It's behavior like this which got Mr. Mraz arrested.
 The following is a repost, sort of.  Actually, it’s more of a condensed version of a post I foisted upon you two years ago.  And then again last year.  I figured that, since nobody read it in 2010, I may as well give it another try in 2011.  But, after reading it, I realized it was too long and whittled it down.  It’s probably still too long.  Sorry.
  The following is a true story (as far as you know) of a Penwasser Christmas set in the late sixties/early seventies.  Sometime around then.  Give me a break.  It was a long time ago.

    Christmas was always a big deal at our house.

    Starting immediately after Thanksgiving, we began the big run up to the most wonderful time of the year, not counting Flag Day.

"I don't know what the frik
Muslims do for Christmas. "
    And felt sorry for the Jewish kids.

    As much fun as getting ready for Christmas was, December 25th was actually what we were all waiting for.

"Included at no extra charge, a color wheel
with all the primary colors!
Plus green."
    As the clock struck nine on Christmas Eve, our parents scooted us off to bed.  Warned to stay there all night, we were cautioned not to surprise Santa as he placed gifts under our aluminum Christmas tree.

"Hey, you people even think
the Partridge Family could sing.
And Liberace isn't gay."
    OK, we bought it.  Then again, we believed in the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, and that a nun could fly.

    We tossed and turned all evening.  To pass the time, we mortified our sister by making fart noises under our armpits.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord
this blessed Christmas Eve.
    As midnight approached, we heard the sound of movement downstairs.  Instantly calling a halt to the armpit symphony, we strained to hear what was happening.

    “Santa’s here!” my brother, Gary, gasped.

    Straining my ears, I heard the muffled sound of rustling paper.  Even so, I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on.  It was only when I heard a sharp bang followed by a string of colorful holiday expressions of goodwill that I knew the magic of Christmas had arrived.

    Reassured, I happily closed my eyes.

    What seemed like seconds later, I was rudely awakened.  “C’mon,” Gary excitedly cried, “Santa Claus came last night!”

    He seemed genuinely surprised.  Where had he been all these weeks?  Of course Santa Claus came last night!  Who’d he expect, Nixon?

    We bounded downstairs to a dazzling rainbow of presents beneath our garish tin pole.  Quickly diving into the pile, we were brought up short by a shrill, “Nobody opens anything until your father and I get there!”

    Thus admonished, we nervously perched on the edge of our avocado and gold couch.  It seemed an eternity until our parents trudged like zombies into the living room.

    Coming out of her narcoleptic daze, Mom gushed, “Wow!  What happened?  Did Santa come?”  (Amazingly, she sounded as shocked as my brother.  What was it with these people?  Did they all have brain damage?).

    Oblivious to her amazement, my father silently nodded.

"Hand it over nice and easy, fat boy.
Nobody needs to lose a finger here."
    Instantly responding, we dove under the tree in a giddy paroxysm of joy.  We were a brood possessed, we were seized with the spirit, we were seagulls descending on a box of French Fries.  

    After we had torn open our presents, our parents announced that it was time for church.  After all, what says Christmas more than sitting uncomfortably on wooden pews and splashing each other in the face with water from the petri dishes disguised as holy water fonts?

    Despite the fact that Snooki makes more appearances at Mensa meetings than the Penwassers at Mass, we were “going, goddammit!”  So, after exchanging footie pajamas for swanky “Dad N Lad” ensembles and hideous frocks of a color not found in nature, off we sped in the family Batmobile to Saint Stanislaus.  

    Upon arrival-five minutes late-my father ushered us into the very last pew.  “That way,” he whispered, “we can beat the traffic.” 

"Are you sure Bethlehem is that way?
You stupid bastard,
why don't you ask for directions?"
    The service was tolerable.  There were a bunch of mumbled carols, a Christmas sermon about how Baby Jesus didn’t get coal, and the obligatory offering for starving Chinese kids.  “The ones who aren’t Commies,” Father Karl sternly added.  That was about it.  Oh, and Phil needed the Heimlich maneuver to get that communion wafer out of his throat. 

    Before you could say “Dominus Nabisco,” we were knocking down old Slovak ladies to get out the door.

    Once home, we joyfully returned to our toys, although now we wanted to see how creative we could get.  For instance, G.I. Joe didn’t fare too well in the Vietcong EZ Bake Oven.  We also discovered that, if you removed the rubber suction cups, toy arrows sharpen up real nice.

    Meanwhile, Mom merrily prepared the “Holiday Feast.”  The star of the show was, of course, the turkey, which had been mummifying in the oven the past two days.  Its aroma filled the house with flavor and its burning grease flooded the kitchen with smoke. 

"And Icelanders eat sheep heads.
Makes you appreciate me a little more doesn't it?"
    Besides the turkey, dinner featured food you’d never see any other time of year.  For instance, I can’t imagine any egg nog keggers at a Fourth of July picnic.

"Did someone say 'blood' pudding?"
    When presented a choice of turnips, squash, candied yams, egg nog, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce (always from the can), marzipan, sweet potato souffle with mini-marshmallows, the horrifying blood pudding, mincemeat pie, and the ubiquitous fruitcake, we usually preferred white meat, Hungry Jack mashed potatoes, and marshmallow snowmen.
"No, seriously.  How about that blood pudding?"
    After which, we flung dinner rolls at Karen and the dog.

"What good is a 'kung fu grip'
if that damn oven melted my junk off?'
    Sufficiently gorged, we retired to the living room to strap Karen’s Barbie to “Revolving Color Wheel of Death” while Mom hosed down the dining room.  Dad, on the other hand, attired in his festive tee shirt and tighty-whiteys, plopped in front of the television and scratched his back with a fork.

    As afternoon dragged toward evening, our eyelids grew heavy.  Our early morning rampage had finally caught up with us and, chocolate-fueled frenzy notwithstanding, we were sliding closer to sleep.

    Through lidded eyes, I remember my father lurching toward the kitchen.  Before I lapsed into a food coma, I heard a faint, “Boy, I sure could use a turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip.”

    Followed by a harsh string of colorful holiday expressions of goodwill as he found one of our pointed wooden arrows.

    “Hey,” Gary mumbled as he drifted off to sleep, “Santa’s back.”

    Let’s see Kwanzaa match those kind of holiday memories.
Because we gotta have something to do between Christmas and New Year's.


  1. Lmao, that armpit photo really made me laugh Al, this post did in general though obviously. Here's hoping that you and your awesome family have an equally as awesome Christmas, New Year and hell a Kwanza too.

  2. You went right to town right after the thankfulness was through, we usually did too, but can't say I have did armpit music near christmas, at least that I can recall haha

  3. I remember this from last year, but I enjoyed it even more this year! My parents used to go to midnight mass.

    1. I added new pictures and edited it some to make it shorter. I'm glad you enjoyed it more.

  4. Ahh the joys of Christmas; Going to Church for the one and only time that year, eating food that you generally only eat once a year (unless you celebrate Thanksgiving) and seeing what you can melt in an E-Z Bake Oven. That does sound like a pretty merry Christmas.

    1. Don't forget Easter.
      While not as crazy festive as Christmas, there's still chocolate.
      Lots of chocolate.

  5. I always felt sorry for myself this time of year. Now I'm glad I don't celebrate Xmas. Thanks, Al.


    1. When I was young, I felt badly for the Jewish kids. Now? Their party goes on for a whole week. On December 25th, we stare at each other and ask, "So for this we got all dressed up?"

  6. One of the cruelest things ever devised was separating kids from their toys by going to church on Christmas morning. We weren't allowed to even open presents until we came home from church, which meant church at the local mission at 5:30 AM.

    1. We were truly "twice a year" Catholics.
      You can guess the other time we went.

  7. I read this with the voice from the movie "A Christmas Story". It turned out perfect that way. Thanks for the laugh again!
    Merry Christmas

    1. Every time I see that movie I laugh.
      That, and Christmas Vacation.

  8. Replies
    1. My childhood is full of them.
      And neighborhood bullies.