Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Christmas Story in June

Yesterday when I was writing about birthday hijinks, I remembered another story initiated by my birthday celebration. The same week I got the surprise party from our clients, my project manager and good friend decided we should have our very own celebration since we had kitchenettes in our hotel rooms. We went to the store; bought a bottle of my favorite vodka; went back to her place; and made martinis. The two of us without alcohol involved is bad enough. We can get into all kinds of trouble because we egg each other on and have the same sense of humor.

It all started during our first martinis when she expressed a desire to repay my dad for a bunch of bootlegged Bob Dylan CDs he had made for her at my request. As I was mixing the second martinis, I asked her if she remembered the leg lamp in A Christmas Story. I told her about this gift I had seen online and wanted to get for him, but it was too expensive. Hoping she would chip in, I brought up a website that sold leg lamp replicas and that's when the trouble began.

She loved it so much that she decided to get one for her husband for Father's Day. Since she was willing to do it, I changed my mind about it costing too much. They were only $70 and definitely worth the price. As we were checking out, we were presented with the option to have the lamp shipped in a crate exactly like the one in the movie. We debated the pros and cons over our third martinis. The crate was $150, but weren't we already laughing hysterically at the mere thought? The shipping cost came to $80. But only because the crate was so heavy. And we had already decided the crate was essential. We made our purchases and congratulated ourselves on being generally awesome.

The next morning, dreams and reality were fighting over my state of consciousness, when reality landed a drop kick to my gut. I shot out of bed with the realization that the previous night I had spent $300 on a gag gift. I called my coworker who told me she woke up the same way, but got on line immediately and canceled her order. Since she was on her way to the client's office, I couldn't use her laptop.

Not having one of my own, I called my then boyfriend in Denver and begged him to cancel the order for me when he got to his office. With his commute and the time differences, it shipped before he could cancel. When I called, they said I could return it for a refund but I would still have to pay the shipping fees. This left me to decide if I wanted to pay $300 for a lamp or pay $160 for no lamp. I told them I appreciated the help, but I would go ahead and keep it. He then said he had received another order to the same city that had been canceled earlier and asked if I knew anything about it. I confessed the incident and we both laughed. I decided to make the most of it and prepare my mom for the arriving present.

I vaguely described the situation and told her it was an expensive present that I couldn't return and implored her not to lecture me if she ever found out how much it cost. I didn't tell her what it was. My family is cuckoo for gifts, mostly the watching others open them part. I figured I had already ruined the surprise for my brothers when begging them to chip in. The least I could do was let my mom enjoy the fun. I called her and told her something was being shipped to dad and I needed her help to keep him from figuring out what it was until he opened it. I told her she would have to cover up the box when it came, but to call me so we could share the joke.

I called her a week later when I didn't hear from her. She told me she did get it, but she didn't call me or cover it up because it was in a wood crate that hid what it was. She giggled and announced they knew it was Italian because it said "Fragile" on it in big letters and paused for my reaction. I didn't quite know what to say. She explained that it looked just like the crate that gets delivered in A Christmas Story. More silence from my end. Exasperated, she described the leg lamp delivery scene to jog my memory. The only thing I said was, "And you still don't know what it is?"

"No!" She laughed. "But, it says Fra-GEE-lay on it just like that scene, so we can't stop repeating it." It finally dawned on me that there was no way they would guess the expensive present was a leg lamp. I suddenly laughed wishing I could be there when he opened it just to see my mom's face. I asked her to call me so I could at least hear the reactions. She agreed and we left it at that. Unfortunately, my mom's mom passed away a week later. I went back to Oregon for the funeral. The silver lining was that it meant I would be in town for Father's Day.

The time finally came for my dad to open his gift. My brothers brought it into the room with my mom chanting "fra-GEE-lay" in the background. She tried to stop them from laying it down on its side and pointed to the "this end up" printed on the box. I interrupted and told her to trust me, it would be all right. They got the crowbar out and took the lid off. When my dad started digging through the excelsior, my brothers repeated lines from the movie and threw chunks of it over their shoulders, while my mom exclaimed, "They even have straw just like A Christmas Story!"

I knew when my dad found the lamp because he stopped digging; took a couple of steps back from the crate; looked at me; and laughed harder than I had ever heard him laugh before. My mom, couldn't stand the suspense, so she reached into the box and pulled out the leg. At that point, she started laughing and my brothers reenacted the scene complete with stroking the leg up to the thigh in a creepy imitation of Ralphie. It was an amazing shot of humor after a weekend of grief, which may have accounted for the extra hilarity. It has even become a part of our family traditions as we have "just the place for it. Right in the middle of our front room window." The neighbors wait for it to come out every year.

It turns out $300 was a bargain for the amount of joy we got in exchange.

1 comment:

  1. I am loving all these stories. I can imagine your family laughing and it feels like I am right there with you guys as I am reading. You are a great writer, Miss Jennifer!