Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, the official start of the Christmas season is upon us and nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like the traditional Erwin Christmas Parade on the first Monday in December and the memories of my dad’s yearly Christmas parade rant.
Now don’t get me wrong, the old man loved the holiday season as much as the next guy, but he never could adjust to being a downtown merchant being forced to leave the office a few minutes early on a Monday while the town prepared for the night’s festivities by blocking off main street.
In Dad’s mind, Mondays were for working and Saturdays were for parades, and parking in the back of the building or walking those three blocks to his house were simply not options he was willing to consider, which made parade day in the office the worst day of the holiday season.
Another one of my dad’s favorite Christmas pet peeves was getting those on his Christmas list the dreaded pair of socks on Christmas day. As my sister can attest, once you reached the age of maturity, which was age 18, in his book, the days of the free ride came to an end. You were an adult and if you needed to borrow a few bucks he kept a record of it and expected to be paid back in full or you would suffer the consequence on Christmas Day.
Now, in all fairness, he would always warn you about the socks you would be getting just in case you decided to ignore your monthly statement that he would, in fact, mail to your house. Over the years I received my share of socks on Christmas Day, but on those days when I avoided the sock gift, watching my sister or my own children receive socks for Christmas was an absolute hoot to watch and well worth making the trip to Dad’s. Despite the fact my kids were warned they would be getting socks after scoring a big birthday gift or owing the old man money, watching them learn the hard way never got old.
Speaking of learning the hard way, my youngest daughter, Sarah, was the queen of the sock gifts. Sarah always considered herself the favorite grandchild of my father and, true or not, she could absolutely swindle the old man out of anything. No matter what Sarah wanted, he found a way to give it to her.
Every year for many years, Sarah traded a birthday and a Christmas gift for Duke football season tickets on the 50-yard line, of course, because she convinced him that no granddaughter of Larry Parker should have to slum in the end zone seats with the general public. Upon turning 16 she convinced the old man to loan her money for a down payment on her first car, forever sealing her fate as the grandchild with a pair of socks under the Christmas tree.
Sarah played the old man like a fiddle, assuming he would forget or overlook the fact she owed him bigtime. But, true to form, the old man never budged. A promise made is a debt unpaid, as he liked to say. And if he promised you a pair of socks for Christmas, you were getting a pair of socks for Christmas.
As we all know, once we lose someone we love, the holiday season is never quite the same. We learn to adapt and adjust, and we learn to love the holidays as much as ever. To all my family members and dear lifelong friends who will be missing someone this Christmas, this column is dedicated to you with heartfelt blessings of peace, comfort, and a warm pair of socks under your tree. Mr. Parker lives in Erwin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.