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Thoughts turn to Christmas, shoeboxes and woodpeckers

Echoes From the Loafers’ Club Meeting

What do you want for Christmas?

Peace on earth.

Ahhh, that’s nice.

Or an annual membership to the Beef Jerky of the Month Club.

Driving by Bruce’s

I had two wonderful neighbors — both named Bruce — who lived across the road from each other. Now we’re down to one Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I learn something new almost every day. Just by stepping on the bathroom scale, I learned that my new eyeglasses weigh five pounds. I was gobsmacked.

I’ve learned that the best Christmas gift comes wrapped in a smile.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

At church, school and while visiting the local Santa, the kids received a brown paper bag of goodies. In the bag were peanuts in the shell, a delicious apple that wasn’t and hard candy — very hard candy. There was ribbon candy that was difficult to eat and cylindrical sweets with the image of a Christmas tree on each end. The candy was hard enough to be used to patch a sidewalk. It was so sticky, that after eating a single piece of candy, I had to lick my fingers for three days. It all sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But it was wonderful.

Putting it away in a good place

My mother put things away in good places so she’d always remember where they were. Then she’d forget where she put them or that she’d even had them. Long after her death, I found Christmas presents that mother had meant to be given to others. I made sure each one found its way to the intended recipient. Sometimes I guessed who that was. It didn’t matter who got the gifts. It was the giving that mattered.

I hope you find Christmas gifts not only in your hopes and dreams, but also in your memories.

Today’s short tall tale

The couple had been married for 65 years. They shared everything. They kept no secrets from one another except for the shoebox in the closet. She’d warned him never to open or ask about that shoebox.

For all those years, he’d never mentioned the shoebox once, but then she became ill and the doctor said she wouldn’t recover. In an attempt to brighten her day, the man took the shoebox from the closet and carried it to his wife’s bedside. She agreed that it was time he learned what was in the box. When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and $42,620 in cash. He asked about the contents.

“Shortly before we married,” she said, “my grandmother told me that one of the secrets of a happy marriage was to never become angry when my husband gave me a terrible Christmas present. She said that when that happened — and it would — I should keep quiet and crochet a doll until my anger and disappointment subsided.”

Only two dolls were in the box. He was pleased she’d been angry with his gifting only twice in all those years of marriage.

“But where did all this money come from?” he asked.

“Oh, that?” she said. “That’s the money I made from selling all the other dolls.”

Nature notes

A flock of Canada geese flew over our house on Sunday. It surprised me. My job requires some air travel. The most expensive days to fly are Monday, Friday and Sunday. The cheapest days to become airborne are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Why is a goose flying on Sunday? But what is money to a goose?

I watched downy woodpeckers foraging on trees. Lovely and tiny, the sexes have different strategies for searching for food. In winter, male downy woodpeckers forage primarily on small branches and weed stems, while the females tend to stick to larger branches and trunks. Males keep females from foraging in the more productive spots. When researchers removed males from a woodlot, the females responded by feeding along smaller branches. Downy woodpeckers eat foods that larger woodpeckers cannot, such as insects living on or in weed stems. They hammer at goldenrod galls to extract the fly larvae inside. Downy woodpeckers readily visit yards and gardens. They frequent suet feeders.

I put seed into the feeders. A chickadee flew in before I’d finished. I don’t think the world could have too many chickadees. The black-capped chickadees were singing. Not their signature “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call, but a two-toned, whistled “fee-bee” song that means spring is coming and they are in love. Perhaps they are whistling “Merry.”

Meeting adjourned

My wish for all. All is calm. All is bright. All are kind. Merry Christmas.