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Overheard at an ornament swap

Ah, the post-holidays daze. When rocking around the Christmas tree means you’ve stepped on cedar sprigs stuck in the living room rug. When you vow to “do things differently” next year. When the not-so-jolly bills come in.

Before we completely move away from the merriment, though, I have a story to share. It’s actually my friend Amy’s story, but I will try to do it justice. It all started at an ornament swap I attend every year. This was an event that fell during my main week on the December party circuit, smack dab between a progressive dinner and an open house. Maybe that’s why I left a tray of Mexican cornbread that I was supposed to bring at home on the kitchen counter. At least I remembered my ornament.

Well, it was sort of an ornament. It was on the big side, and in no way round like ornaments used to be.  For all practical purposes, I guess it was a plaque. But these days farm-housey plaques are ornament enough to get frozen after three steals during the grabbing game we played. Good thing I bought two during last year’s after-Christmas sales. (And could keep one for moi.)          

So, all the church ladies are at the gathering and we’re full of sausage balls and cupcakes when the blonde on the couch tells a story about a squirrel in a chimney. It’s pretty good, but the funny girl next to her (that would be Amy) decides to one up her.

“Speaking of squirrels …,” she begins, widening her eyes and nodding her head like Southern storytellers are wont to do. “Do I have a stor-ree!”

I could tell this was going to be good, so I hushed up the chatter going on in the ladderback chairs behind me. By then Amy was putting it in context.

“Oh, it was Christmas, and it was the 80s. I was in high school. You know, the big hair era.”

Of course, we knew.

“We were living on Hog Chain.” (That’s a road.)

“Mother had gotten ahold of a copy of Southern Living and decided to decorate the whole den — and I mean the whole den — with real stuff,” Amy told us. “She put a string of pinecones all across the mantle. I think she threw in a pound or two of nuts, too.”    

We nodded.

“Well, one day Mother came home from work totally exhausted and walked into the den, and what do you think she found? The whole place trashed. Pieces of pinecones everywhere.”

Interesting.

“Well, I’m the hall monitor of the family, so Mother came to me and asked who did it. I told her it sure wasn’t me,” Amy recalled. That left a sister and brother who also denied the prank. Their mother, however, wasn’t convinced.

“She’d come home every day to the same thing,” Amy said. “The whole place just trashed. And every day we’d deny doing it.”

Then one night after the family was tucked into bed, Amy heard her mother scream.

“We all ran to my parents’ room in time to see Mother raise the window and fling something out,” she told us, pausing every now in then to add to the drama. “Daddy had felt something hot on his head during the night. He put his hand there and . . .

Well, we could guess the rest. Almost. In this story, the antagonist wasn’t just a squirrel. It was a flying one.

After the laughing died down a bit, Amy offered another tidbit. It seems her mother had felt something around her feet earlier when she got into bed that night.

“Didn’t pay it any mind, though,” she said, shaking her head with a laugh. “Didn’t pay it any mind.”

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.