Posted 11-27-2004 at 08:37:25
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I've talked about hard times before. Most of us have experienced them and with Christmas rapidly approaching, I'm starting to get that familiar, panicked feeling that comes from having three kids and trying to prepare for a "nice Christmas". I tend to miss the old days, when the kids were little, and my Christmas budget averaged about three hundred dollars. And that included buying the ingredients for a holiday meal with all the trimmings.
Three hundred dollars spread out over three pre-schoolers was a lot. Especially since the kids tended to disregard the gifts and play with the empty boxes!
With small kids, half the fun of Christmas comes from the imagination. Leaving out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, telling Christmas stories of how Santa wriggled his way in through (lacking a chimney) the range hood vent. Explaining that "yes, baby, even though we moved since last year, Santa will still be able to find us."
Christmas is about kids, and food, and since my in-laws come to visit every year at Christmas, it means family. I am one of the fortunate ones who get along very nicely with my husband's mother and father. They make it very easy, so needless to say I look forward every year to their visit. It was during one of those visits, back in the early nineties, that the "Hoover incident" occurred.
My mother-in-law, Fay, and I were out looking at Christmas lights on Christmas night. It was really just an excuse to escape the house for awhile, leaving our husbands with three little kids that were hopped up on sugar and climbing the walls.
We turned a corner into a upscale neighborhood in Sarasota, admiring what 'real money' can allow a person to do when it comes to decorations, and that's when I saw it. A seventies model Hoover upright vacuum cleaner in mint condition, sitting alongside the curb amidst the trash cans and empty boxes that spoke to an affluent Christmas event.
"Do you suppose..." I asked Fay, "...that he gave his wife a new vacuum cleaner for Christmas?"
I eyed the house, thinking that even in upscale neighborhoods, men still had trouble with choosing gifts for their wives. It was the only thought that made sense. The only reason someone would put such a perfect specimen of housekeeping technology so callously on the curb like that.
"It sure looks that way." She agreed.
"What do you want to bet that his lifeless body is shoved down into one of those cans." I said and we both giggled.
"I'm taking it!" I announced, after we both got over our brief bout with silly hysteria.
"You might as well!" Fay declared. "It looks a lot better than the one you've got at home."
I chose not to be hurt by that remark. Fay and I have never stood on formalities. My old Hoover was held together in more places than one with duct tape, and if you were careless and bumped it into a piece of furniture while it was running, it would belch a cloud of dust fit to choke a horse. The switch had long ago stopped working and it had to be plugged in and unplugged in order to make it run properly.
So, under cover of darkness, I crept from the truck and snatched that old vacuum and carried it home. As I explained how and where I got it to Fred, he wrinkled his brow.
"If I had given you a vacuum for Christmas you would have..."
"Killed you? Yes. Deader than a mackerel."
He winked at his father and they shared a moment of complete understanding of the fine art of gift giving to wives.
I plugged the cleaner in and it hummed as though it were brand new. Fay and I shared a grin over my good fortune and with no further ado, I carried my old Hoover out to the curb, setting it unceremoniously beside the trash cans and empty boxes.
Later that night, while sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee, a truck pulled up to the curb, and sat there idling. There was no movement for several moments and then there was a muffled giggle, and the passenger door opened and my old Hoover was yanked from its resting spot.
I smiled, listening to the giggling coming from inside the truck and the rattle of the muffler as the truck pulled away, thinking that everything is relative, even old Hoovers, and wondering if the inhabitants of the truck were suspecting that Fred's lifeless body was stuffed into one of the cans on the curb.