December 22, 2022 at 4:13 p.m.
The boy promptly reissued the expletive.
“That does it,” declared the mom. “I'm calling Santa right now.”
She surreptitiously dialed her husband’s number.
“Santa,” said the mom when the boy's father picked up, “Tommy has been saying naughty words again. What’s that? You want to talk to him? Here he is.”
She handed the phone to the terrified youngster.
“Hello Tommy,” said his father, disguising his voice. “What’s this I hear about you saying bad words?”
Tommy, near tears, blurted, “I said @#&$ but so does Daddy!”
The Yule season is upon us once again, and we are again looking over our shoulders, worrying if Santa noticed our latest misdeeds. Never mind that we didn’t give him a second thought last summer when we openly wallowed in warm-weather wantonness.
Christmas comes at a time of year when we are squirming in the icy grip of winter. It’s a season when the sun has all but abandoned the Northlands, and Mother Nature is openly trying to bump us off with her blizzards and her deep, deadly cold.
It’s somewhat of a paradox that Christmas is a season of sharing. We are in effect saying, “I have more than enough to get me through to next spring; here, have some of mine.”
This was never so clear as when I was a kid growing up on our dairy farm.
There’s nothing like climbing into a hayloft during subzero weather and being overwhelmed by the summer-like fragrance of alfalfa hay. The rafters of our cavernous haymow would be festooned with sparkling cobwebs that were as elegant as the finest Venetian lace thanks to the frosty condensation of our cows’ breath.
As we doled out hay to our hungry Holsteins, I couldn't help but recall how we had baled that alfalfa beneath a blazing summer sun. I had thought Dad was torturing us by making us toil in the insufferable heat. It didn't occur to me in that moment that the forage-based calories we were storing would sustain our cows – and therefore my family – throughout the long cold.
But some of the greatest torment I endured as a kid involved being forced to participate in the Christmas program at First Lutheran Church.
We would rush through chores and milking on the evening of the Christmas program. That wasn't so bad, except my seven siblings and I all then had to take baths.
Taking a bath wasn’t so bad except we then had to don our Sunday duds – which had negative insulation value – and pile into our ice-cold station wagon and drive to church. As we rumbled through the inky countryside, I would gaze at passing farms – distant islands of light and warmth in a cold, dark universe – and secretly wish we were celebrating Christmas by staying home and watching “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
I would trudge to the front of the church with my classmates and sing (I mostly lip-synced) traditional Christmas tunes. That wasn't so bad. After all, how often does one get to voice such lyrics as, “Rum pum pum pum?”
There was a reward at the end of it all in the form of a Hershey bar and a box of Cracker Jack. These delicacies were wolfed down during the ride home. Any body heat that had been lost during the evening’s ordeal was thus replaced by candy calories.
The great philosopher Charlie Brown once agonized, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Perhaps an answer can be found in the movie “The Polar Express.”
Each child who rides the Polar Express receives a gift. Santa has a comprehensive system that keeps track of who has been naughty or nice; he is keenly aware of every child's shortfalls. Even so, Santa gives his gifts freely, reinforcing the season’s core message of sharing and forgiveness.
That’s one other greatest lessons I learned as a kid about this season: Even though I had only grudgingly participated in the Christmas program, and even though I didn't sing very much, I still received my sugary treats. There’s hope for every little boy, even those who say a bad word to their mom and then tattle on their dad.
What's not to like about a season like that? Have a happy Christmas and may your Cracker Jack prize be a secret decoder ring.
Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].