Al Batt: No tinkering with tradition

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I never get as many Christmas presents as I expect.

That’s too bad.

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I never expected I would.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. Talking back to the weather gains me nothing, but I’ll continue to do it. If I have to shovel any snow, we’ve received a lot of snow. Aristotle said, “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the oyster stew was stirring

I’d almost made it.

I’d been on my best behavior for a painfully long time.

There were presents bearing my name under a tree clamped firmly into a red and green tree stand that offered support and water. Despite the water, the tree shed needles at a furious pace. It was Christmas Eve, the last night of the year I had to be a cut above my usual self. There was one last obstacle to overcome. Dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnn! Oyster stew.

Eating oyster stew was a Christmas Eve tradition. My father loved oyster stew. Traditions could have been things he’d endured when he was a boy and he was determined to make sure his progeny suffered through the same traditions.

The milk-based broth was subtle and the little oyster crackers were delicious. I could put a dab of butter on a cracker and turn it into a healthy food option. I was a Platinum Elite member of the Clean Plate Club, a status I’d earned by my concern for starving children everywhere, but I disliked oysters and believed the first human who’d considered one worth eating did so because he couldn’t find a pizza place.

My mother knew I didn’t relish oysters and put just a few in my bowl. She reminded me I needed to eat them. I counted them first. The supply far exceeded the demand.

I stared at the stew, wishing it away. If the movie “Jaws” had existed, I’d have heard its theme music. There were rumors of gifts going back to the North Pole because a foolish youngster had refused to polish off a bowl of oyster stew.

Knowing it could be worse—a haggis, squid, kimchee and lutefisk stew, for example—I spooned a bite-sized oyster into my mouth and attempted to swallow it.

My body set up a roadblock. My throat closed, refusing to accept delivery. I rose to my feet and jumped up and down until the roadblock had been overcome and the oyster swallowed. It went down hard, but it went down. I repeated the procedure until every oyster had been vanquished.

Christmas was merry and memorable, and I received wonderful presents. I also got a lump of coal. It had been given in jest. I think.

I’d have gotten gifts even if I hadn’t finished my oyster stew.

But why tinker with tradition?

I’ve learned

My family used to hibernate until they started wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.

Never make snow angels in a dog park.

No one can find a spider like someone who is terrified of them.

Moss always grows on the north side of the compass.

Nature notes

The feeders were bustling. “You eat like a bird,” an aunt was fond of saying when I picked at my food. I was trying to locate and disarm anything good for me, but I didn’t eat like a bird. A chickadee may eat 35% of its weight in food each day and a blue jay 10% of its weight. Generally, the smaller the bird, the greater the percentage of its body weight is its daily food intake.

It was 20° and house sparrows were taking baths in a birdbath. The members of this avian polar bear club plunged in, flew out, shook off the water and warmed up. I’ve heard of instances when a bird suffered from bathing in freezing temps. That might have been due to the steam produced by a birdbath’s heat or perhaps the birds were ill. I see songbirds bathing in naturally occurring water in winter. There is usually no steam to worry about there. Birds have instincts and anatomy on their side.

My memory is excellent. I talked to Dennis and Larry. I mentioned the time we’d birded Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, a place that preserves the past in heirloom seeds. Larry remembered our birding adventure. Dennis didn’t because he wasn’t along. I remembered him being there. Maybe my memory is too good.

Meeting adjourned

“Appreciation can make a day, even change your life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”—Margaret Cousins.