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A Clumsy Christmas Eve Remembered

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Posted 09-19-2011 at 12:48 AM by Jeff Westover

We have so many crazy memories of Christmas Eve that it is hard some times to account for them all. A neighbor next door to me reminded me of a moment I failed to tell anyone about -- because it was a bit embarrassing.

About ten years ago my son asked for a drum set for Christmas.

A wise elf admonished us early in our marriage to always clear a wishlist to Santa with Mom first -- if Mom didn't approve, Santa wouldn't deliver.

There was just no way my son was getting drums. He was eight, all boy, and prone to, uh, enthusiastic activities. We had not one but two little girls under the age of three and life was chaotic enough.

No drums. Mom said no. I said no. And Santa never heard the request.

But a neighbor did and a few days before Christmas, as they cleaned out their basement in advance of a house move, he brought us over a set of used drums. This good man was a musician with years of experience and when I saw he brought over a set I mean it was a set of at least nine drums -- and a couple of cymbals.

I about cried as we unloaded them.

We had at that time a large travel trailer that belonged to my sister and I had used it for years to stash stuff. Santa apparently used it too because I always found stuff out there on Christmas Eve night.

It was a bitter cold Christmas Eve and all the world outside our cozy home was glazed over, a blanket of white covering our yard and our street that Christmas. From the inside looking out it was perfect. From the outside, though, it was treacherous.

And as I made my way to the trailer, sticking that warm key into that frozen lock something happened and my feet went out from under me and before I knew it I was on the ground -- well, the ice -- sliding under the trailer. Between my weight, the slope of the driveway and sheer inertia it was the kind of fall you see in a movie, like Christmas Vacation or Home Alone. I thought it would never end. Not only did I get underneath the trailer but I spun around on my butt and my legs poked out the other side of the trailer.

Seeing that I was only going to be outside for a minute I had not worn a coat. Silly me.

I wasn't hurt but I was a bit ticked off and more than a little cold. I reached up with one arm and so slick was the ice underneath me that I was able to pull myself back out in front on the trailer with one angry tug of my arm.

I finally stood up and had the presence of mind to stand on one step of the trailer, which had no ice on it, and after a bit of a struggle I was finally able to open the door.

I was hoping that going into the trailer would mean at least a slight relief from the cold but the trailer was in full storage mode and it was colder than I was. Slowly and carefully I started making the trek into the house with the drums, unsure of where I would put them after Santa had left his haul behind.

Well, I guess the little slide on the ice did something for my appearance because my wife took one look at me and laughed out loud. I was in no mood to be merry. I just continued to work, carefully walking/sliding back and forth between the trailer and the house.

On one of my return trips to the house I carried the largest drum, a big bass drum with chrome hardware on the sides. I misjudged the trailer step because I couldn't see it and down I went again. The same ice that had greeted me before was going to see me again. I knew what I was in for.

Because I had been there before I dropped the drum and sent my arms flailing in an effort to stop my forward progression and as I did so the big bass drum rolled out the side of the trailer and stopped after hitting the neighbor's fence, a low thud introduced it to the cold night air and any of my neighbors who might be up.

I didn't see it but I learned later that this is when a light when on at the neighbor's house next door. Evidently they were deep in a winter's slumber and there arose such a clatter that they rose from their bed to see what was the matter.

Well I guess what they saw was me hitting the deck, very vocally this time evidently, though I don't remember saying anything myself. My vocabulary that night was less than exemplary especially after my foot caught first the cymbal closest to me and it too came out the trailer door and with it's stand found its way to the ground right next to me.

Well, it was right next to my ear and it made such a noise that I felt I was in the middle of a performance of the 1812 Overture.

I leaned over to somehow shut it up but because it was on the ice and I was on the ice everything moved and the noise not only didn't stop it got worse.

When I finally stopped it I thought I could hear rustling coming from next door but I wasn't sure because it dawned on me that someone could call the cops at any moment. So I got to my feet and somehow gathered the cymbals and the bass drum and shuffled them into the house, huffing and puffing and spitting mad. According to my wife, she had to stop me from spearing the drum with the music stand.

I went out to the trailer again to get the final two small drums and the last cymbal and stand that went with it. As I struggled with these in my arms -- trying to stand on that ice -- I fiddled with the keys to lock the trailer. As I did so I lost my footing again and everything fell out of my arms and the cymbals went crashing over the short fence behind me where they landed on the neighbor's drive and either bounced or slid or rolled under their car.

I left them there for a minute while I hustled the drums into the house.

My wife heard everything. She couldn't see a thing because of the garage but she could hear it all. Me grapplnig with the keys, me dropping the drums, me sending the cymbals flying and me swearing at it all, cursing with all my might the cold, the drums, Santa Claus and anything else I could think of.

She was in hysterics. Which did nothing for my mood. I tramped out of the house and over to my neighbor's driveway -- their house was all ablaze now -- and I crawled under their car to get the last cymbal.

I finally got it all in the house, cleaned everything up, was pampered by my wife and soothed by a cup of hot chocolate by the warmth of my fireplace and it soon too became a funny Christmas memory to me.

And it was one I forgot all about.

Until this week...when my neighbor, turning nearly blue in the face, tried to get through her side of the story at a block party.

A month or so ago the Bishop at Church asked us to organize a block party on every street and to invite all of our neighbors as just a way to get together and touch base with everyone. (In this economy and during these tough times he feels this is important). So we did.

Now this neighbor is very private. Other than that occasional bit of butter or gallon of milk we rarely see each other as we go about our lives. We might wave at each other as we get in cars and such but we don't really have much of a friendship. They're there for us and we're there for them but life just hasn't given us much of an opportunity to become real friends.

So we're at this block party the other night and someone brings up the fact that winter is coming and we're all soon going to be shoveling snow. The topic of snowblowers comes up and another neighbor is explaining his plans to get one and promising to keep everything clear for the months ahead.

Someone asked my quiet neighbor what her plans were and she slowly started to smile. She explained that she had only one shovel and knew exactly what to do with it. She said she planned to take every bit of snow and ice from her yard and dump it into mine -- and then to watch the show. Then she told the story of seeing me stuggle with the drums on Christmas Eve those many years ago.

By the time she got done telling her side of the story -- which I had never heard -- her face was red and tears were streaming down her face.

My kids thought it was the funniest thing they ever heard because I once slipped on a two-inch patch of ice on my driveway while getting out of the car after church one Sunday. They think I'm the biggest klutz in the world and this story just, well, iced it for them.

So now I have this reputation.

And my son never learned to play those stupid drums. They caused all the chaos I feared and for years they were a source of agony in our home.

We're big into music and we've got not one but two pianos. We sing. The kids play recorders and once upon a time I played the piano, a clarinet, a trumpet and the trombone. But never the drums.

I tried desperately to give them away to another neighbor whose kid wanted a set for Christmas. But both father and mother in that home politely declined.

Why couldn't I have been that brave?
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