Thursday, June 25, 2009

Christmas Season 94
3 January, 1995

The Christmas Season in Misconception Bay was full of activity. People hustled and bustled about to finish off their Christmas shopping, and the lighting of the Christmas hedge in the center of town was a big draw once again.

The Women's Auxiliary of the Gerbil Lodge had a cookie exchange this year. They have done this in the past where a list is passed around ahead of time and the women would indicate what type of cookies they would be baking. However, due to an oversight, this list was not sent out and no one knew what the other women were baking; so they just baked their favourite cookies. As it turned out everyone baked short bread cookies and everyone received short bread cookies. That is, everyone except Marg Johnson baked short bread cookies. Marg baked her famous hot crossed Christmas buns with green and red crosses. Many people have asked her why she bakes hot crossed buns which one would normally associate with Easter. Marg says that she remembers reading somewhere that Mary and Joseph served hot crossed buns to the three wise men the morning after they visited the Christ Child, and so hot crossed buns must be a traditional Christmas food item. Some people have pointed out to Marg that Joseph and Mary had to stay in the stables and would not have access to a kitchen and thus they could not make the hot crossed buns that they supposedly had served to the Magi. Apparently the article did not delve into where Mary got the buns; but surely there would have been a corner store that she could have picked them up, even on Christmas morning.

A notable cookie participant was Grace Trugood. No one knows how old Grace is, not even Grace herself, but she tells people that she was born when Sir Wilfred Laurier was Prime Minister but before Earl Grey was appointed Governor General. That would put Grace somewhere between ninety and ninety- eight years of age. Regardless of when she was born, Grace can still get around, though she did have to give up driving two years ago. It's not that her license was revoked, it's just that she can not remember where she parked her car.

This year Grace also made short bread cookies, but unfortunately on the day that she was making the frosting, she had misplaced her eye glasses. Fortunately, she had made the frosting so many times she knew the recipe by heart, so luckily she did not have to read anything. Unfortunately, the recipe called for vanilla and Grace could not read any of the labels on the bottles; fortunately the vanilla came in a fairly distinctive bottle; unfortunately so did the concentrated chicken bouillon and so that went into the frosting instead of the vanilla. Fortunately, she only had to use a little, but unfortunately the phone rang while Grace was making the frosting. Fortunately, when Grace had finished her conversation she remembered that she was at the vanilla stage of the recipe, only because she was still holding the 'vanilla' bottle. However, unfortunately she could not remember if she had just taken the bottle off of the shelf or was about to replace it back onto the shelf, so just to be on the safe side she added what she thought to be more vanilla, but which of course in actuality was concentrated chicken bouillon. Fortunately for Grace, due to a medical condition, she had no sense of taste, so she did not realise that when she taste tested the frosting (old habits die hard) how absolutely awful the frosting tasted. Unfortunately for the other women in the cookie exchange, their sense of taste was alive and well, though after eating one of Grace's cookies they had wished that their taste buds were ineffective.

The men of the Gerbil Lodge had their annual tool exchange. Officially the rules are that the participants draw a name from a hat and that name is their exchange buddy; they are suppose to buy a new tool and give it to their exchange buddy. The tool exchange in actuality is a tool return where everybody returns the tools that they had borrowed throughout the year. In many cases during the tool exchange the same tool could be returned to one person, who would return it to the person who they had borrowed it from, who may return it to another person and so on. As a matter of fact, Jim Herringchoker returned a cordless drill that he had borrowed from Mayor Hollar, who returned it to Farley Bake, who returned it to his brother Clam, who passed it on to Jim Brown; from Jim the drill went to Mike McFadden, who gave it to Mable White, who handed it over to Art Shoo. After Art, the drill travelled to Nick Walker, then to Red Black who finally ended the return path by giving the drill to it's rightful owner which was Jim Herringchoker. Now Jim knew when he gave the drill to Mayor Holler that the drill was his to begin with, but if he had not given it to Mayor Hollar, the mayor could have accused him of not returning the drill that he had borrowed. If the Mayor had not received the drill back, Farley Bake could have pointed the finger back to the Mayor and so on down the line. In Misconception Bay loaning a tool out involves some form of a leap of faith that the tool will be returned during the Christmas Season. There are a number of people in town who own two of every tool, one to use and one to loan. Needless to say when someone buys a new tool the first thing that they do is to clearly mark their name on that tool.

Normally the tool exchange goes off without any problems as everyone seems to remember exactly who they had borrowed a particular tool from; this year however there was some confusion when Cal Wood, a new resident of Misconception Bay and the newest member of the Gerbil Lodge, did not realise the true nature of the tool exchange and actually bought a new tool for his exchange buddy. When his exchange buddy received the new tool he knew that it was not his and assumed that he had borrowed it from someone else, but for the life of him he could not remember who it was, but knowing that the tool will eventually find it's way to it's rightful owner he passed it off to somebody else, who also confused passed it along and so forth, eventually somebody noticed that the tool did not have a name on it. Knowing that the custom in Misconception Bay is to immediately put your name on a new tool, he assumed that the only person who would not know to put his name on a tool would be the new guy in town, so he gave the tool back to Cal Wood and advised him to put his name on the tool otherwise it could get lost.

Another pre-Christmas event was the annual children's Christmas Pageant. A good number of the children participate in the pageant, usually filling in as shepherds, angels, live stock and casual observers. For the last thirty or more years the Christ Child has always been portrayed by the youngest child of the Gilchrist family. For the most part this was fine, Joe and Mary Gilchrist have had twelve children throughout the years with a two to three year span between births. So for many years the Christ Child was an actual infant. After Mary had her twelfth child she decided to close the baby factory, as they now had enough children to have two full strings of hockey players. A common sight around town during the winter season is the Gilchrist children out on the pond behind their house having a hockey scrimmage. So, as the tradition dictates, little Billy Gilchrist, being the youngest of the Gilchrist clan, was this year's Christ Child. Some people remarked that maybe they should use some of the Gilchrist grandchildren as little Billy is now thirteen years old and is quickly approaching puberty. It was a rather interesting sight to see the infant Jesus walking down the aisle under his own steam and attempt to sit in the manger. It was also interesting to note that Joseph and Mary were played by two five year old children. Other than having the Christ Child almost three times the age of his parents the children's pageant was enjoyed by one and all.

Christmas Day rolled into Misconception Bay this year. Actually rolled in is a good way to described how Christmas arrived. The night of Christmas Eve was clear and bright, but just after midnight fog started forming out on the open water. By the time day broke this fog had turned into a thick fog bank that had rolled into Misconception Bay. To call this a thick fog would be an understatement; this fog was so thick that some of the fishermen who had spare fog horns mounted them onto their cars so that they could safely drive around town without running into any other cars. Captain John Able, who at eighty-two is the oldest person working the waters, said that he remembered another Christmas many years ago when a fog thicker than this year's had settled into town. According to Captain Able the fog was so thick that they could not tell day from night. This was before the prevalence of digital clocks when the only time piece in Misconception Bay was the town clock which of course nobody could read because of the fog. Apparently the hardy folk of Misconception Bay simply went along with their business as usual. However, because nobody knew when it was night people simply slept when they were tired and got up and worked when they were not. When the fog had lifted the denizens of Misconception Bay discovered that because nobody was keeping track of the days they had lost two whole weeks. In order to catch up the mayor ordered everyone to live each day as two days. So, the dutiful residents had two bedtimes, two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and went about their normal business two times each day until all of the extra days had been used up.

Not to be out done, Sam Ketchum, who at ninety-four is the oldest person not working the waters, remembered a Christmas when he was a boy when a think fog descended on the town, unfortunately a sudden cold snap hit at the same time and the fog froze in mid-air. As Sam told it, people had to use ice-picks to cut their way through the frozen fog. By Spring when the fog had started to melt there was a vast network of tunnels connecting all of the buildings of the town. These tunnels were so extensive that they included fixtures for gas lighting and enough height and width that a man on horse back could easily pass a fully loaded four-in-hand team of horses. Sam, not wanting to be known as a fibber, assured everyone that they could see proof of these infamous ice-fog tunnels in the vast photo archives that were produced during that time. That is, if the ensuing flood that occurred when all of the frozen fog had melted had not taken away the one and only building that had housed the archives.

This Christmas was special to Bonnie Jean Herringchoker. While attending Christmas church services with her parents, Bonnie Jean, who had just turned five in November, kept glancing at the person sitting in the pew behind her. Normally Bonnie Jean is well behaved and never stares at strangers, except for this one occasion. The person that caught the attention of Bonnie Jean was a somewhat portly old man with long white whiskers and dressed in red. Every time that Bonnie Jean looked at the old man he would give her a wink which produced a giggle and a smile from Bonnie Jean. At the end of the service Bonnie Jean stood up on the pew turned to the old man and said "Thank you from bringing me my presents, Santa." The old gentleman smiled and told her that she was most welcome and that because she was such a polite young lady he had an extra special gift for her. He then reached into the pocket of his vest, pulled out a bell attached to a string necklace and gave it to Bonnie Jean. He said that this was a special Santa bell that he gives only to children who are at the top of his good list. A short time later the old man confided in Jim Herringchoker that he had been working as a late night Santa Claus in the city; he was spending Christmas with relatives and that he had not had time to change as he was driving most of the night. For the remainder of the Christmas Season Bonnie Jean never let the bell stray far from her sight.

The New Year was rung in by Jim Brown, quite literally. Normally the arrival of the new year is announced by the ringing of the bell in the clock tower; the citizens of Misconception Bay all gather around the base of the tower just prior to midnight and wait for the stroke of midnight. This year was no exception, due to the mild weather most of the town's population had made their way to the center of town where the clock sits. People were anxiously counting down the seconds to the start of the new year. The tradition in Misconception Bay is that a few seconds before midnight you take a deep breath and then at midnight when the clock strikes you let it out with a yell. The reason behind this is that you are welcoming the new year with air from the old and that somehow the supposedly good fortune of the previous year will be carried over to the next. Nobody knows where this tradition began and to the best of anyone's knowledge it happens only in Misconception Bay. So, just a few seconds to midnight everyone present drew in a deep breath, but when the clock hands reached midnight the bell did not sound. People looked around at each other wondering what the problem could be, thirty seconds passed, then sixty; everyone was still holding their breath, though a few were starting to go a little blue in the face. The Mayor was looking around desperately for Farley Bake the Municipal works supervisor; not seeing him the Mayor shoved Jim Brown towards the clock tower and because he was still holding his breath waved frantically at Jim and then at the clock tower. It took Jim only a minute to realise that the Mayor was trying to tell him to see if he can figure out the problem. Jim rushed to the tower door, and was almost laid out flat when he discovered that the door was not open. Of course, this discovery came to him when he slammed face first into the door, he almost let out his breath but not quite, only about half. He fumbled with the door and then charged up the front stairs and then back down the front stairs when he remembered that the bell could only be accessed by the back stairs. Up the back stairs he ran and finally reached the bell. By now Jim was clamping his hand over his mouth in a desperate attempt to keep from breathing. He quickly scanned the inner workings but was not able to discover why the bell did not ring. By this time Jim had been holding his breath for over five minutes and his brain decided that it had enough of this lack of air situation and decided that it would have to take action against this, and thus Jim fainted. When Jim fainted he was standing in front of the bell and as people do when they faint, he fell forward. Unfortunately for Jim, but fortunately for all of the people outside who were still holding their breath, Jim's head struck the bell with enough force to ring the bell. All those standing outside heard the bell ring, yelled "Happy New Year!" and then doubled over trying to get fresh air back into their lungs.

Well that's all of the Christmas Season news from Misconception Bay, where the men are men and going out with the buoys is something totally different.

(c)copyright 1995 BJ MacGowan

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