“Missing Stockings” by Chad Robert Parker
The first Christmas story alludes to the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many of the Christmas traditions we celebrate today by recognizing Christmas on December 25th, however, have more origins going back to the Christmas story where Santa Claus began. It started with a man sneaking treats into kids socks hung over the warmth of the fireplace, if I’m not mistaken. Celebrating Christmas as a newlywed with my wife from the Philippines means we are learning each others’ traditions. I wanted to be sure Christmas Stockings were a part of that tradition.
I staked out a few stores and found the Stockings to fill with nuts, candies, popcorn, and the like, along with oranges, pomegranate (which she has never tried), and a filipina twist, mango. But I ran into one problem. My last minute Christmas shopping was not going to work this year.
We have been rather busy and always together. I found my one perfect opportunity to go to the store yesterday when I had a day off from work and after I dropped her off at her job. To my surprise the stores I had scouted out before, however, had already pulled the stockings from their offerings. So for Christmas Eve I will be creating makeshift stockings to put all of our goodies into. Merry Christmas!
Update: Christmas Eve, on the 4th attempt, I happened by a store with the perfect $1 stockings to go along with our humble Christmas Day. Stockings will be hung after all (fireplace not included). Merry Christmas!
“2 guys, 1 turkey,” by Chad Robert Parker
My brother and I did Thanksgiving together last year. Yup, just two single guys. By the title you might be wondering which one of us was the turkey, but we actually went all out and had a full on turkey dinner. At this point in the story there are surely some who feel bad for us, thinking you would feel lonely in that situation, but I have fond memories of last year. We had a great time giving thanks!
Turns out my brother and I are decent cooks. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, orange rolls, cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, pies, and I’m sure I’m missing something. Oh yes, the turkey. I was in charge of that. I had cooked up ham before and pot roast, but I had only ever helped with the turkey. I figured I knew the gist of cooking it. I never even thought I could buy the wrong turkey. No, it wasn’t a live turkey with feathers still on it, or a spoiled carcass or anything crazy like that. It was actually already cooked and then frozen again.
Turns out a pre-smoked turkey is really good and it only takes an hour’s baking to revive it to great succulent, steamy, peal-off-the-bone-meat. Yeah, it cost us a little bit more but it was a good meal. We had more than any two guys could want. I would do it again, that way, but I’m ready to enjoy a spectacular Thanksgiving with more family this year, including my wife from the Philippines. This will be her first experience with the Thanksgiving Day cooking adventure. We’re leaving the turkey to the experts. We’re bringing the pies! Happy Thanksgiving!!
“Freeze ’em out,” by Chad Robert Parker
The prank I remember most as a kid was when my oldest brother rolled up the biggest snowball he could carry to my dad’s hot tub. My dad proclaimed that he wouldn’t dare. My brother says he didn’t intend to dump it into the tub at all, but between chuckling, my dad startling him, and gravity’s effect on the slippery ball of coldness it splashed in, created a wave, and left both my dad and my brother’s jaws on the floor. My brother ran for his life and my dad locked all of the doors, freezing him out in the cold hours of the night.
We grew up knowing that my dad did not like to be the butt of practical jokes. We also didn’t test others in the household much either, as it usually was taken as a show of disrespect. In college I discovered that others saw it quite the opposite, like more of a sign of respect, even interest, or love.
Some girls in a neighboring apartment complex played the best prank on us one time, when they packed our front door with snow in the middle of the night. They even had a good start on our back entry-way before we caught on. Whether it be a classic piece of cold ice down the back or having your car plowed in, ice sure can be just the trick to inconvenience anyone, enemy or friend.
My brothers and I took a lesson from our youth. We realized that we could go back and forth all year long trying to best each other or we could prank our pranksters by not pranking them at all. That’s the funny thing about pranking. You can stop someone in their tracks without even going through all of the hassle and effort of literally freezing them out. The mere threat of danger is often worse than the prank itself, and we made sure to mention every possible prank the girls could expect might be waiting for them at their door, or otherwise, on any given day. It was fun holding that proverbial bucket of water over their heads.
“Haunted Asylum,” by Chad Robert Parker
My first year in college I went to a haunted house that was closed down the next year for questions of safety. You see it was held on the grounds of the mental hospital and some of the patients were involved in participating as ghouls, ghosts, and spooks of all kinds. I remember it being much like any other haunted house where they were not allowed to actually touch you, but I also remember feeling some concern that the one with the chainsaw (even without it having a chain on) might be mentally ill rather than a staff member.
I was a freshman and my roommates were all upperclassmen. Good thing we brought a few girls to scream and hide or the attention of these masqueraders would have surely been directed on me. As it was I rather enjoyed watching the girls run from these certifiably insane people. I’m not sure what the political correct term is when you are being chased like that. My friend chose to yell, “get these crazies away from me,” which only seemed to increase their fervor. I wouldn’t say it was a traumatic event, but the event achieved its motive of terrifying the crowd. I wondered how many other instances like this occurred. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Your mind runs wild when you think of what frightening behavior people might be capable of.
Like I said, they closed the draw down the next year. Yeah, I for one was disappointed I couldn’t go again. I heard they might open it up, again.
“School Daze,” by Chad Robert Parker
My family moved when I was five years old and I transferred schools in the middle of Kindergarten. The second program focused on the phonetic alphabet and the first program focused on whatever the opposite of that is called. I learned the letters in the first school, but the second school wanted to focus on the sounds. Confused? I was.
My new Kindergarten teacher would put me in a chair everyday and then place headphones on my ears. I had never interacted with a computer quite like that before. It didn’t register at first that I was supposed to be following along and writing something on a page rather than waiting for the audio story to begin.
First, the voice gave me an instruction to write my name at the top of the page. I was curious to see where this was going. Then it proceeded to instruction number two, three, and four about the sounds of letters. By this point I was yawning and my teacher would come by and wonder why I hadn’t completed the first step. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no dummy. I may not have known very many of the other answers even if I had tried, but I knew how to put my name on the page. I just didn’t see the point in it.
Why do a boring assignment when not doing it would result in me being sent to the coloring table every day.
I spent my Kindergarten class time becoming an artist.
“My turn to drive,” by Chad Robert Parker
Driver’s Ed was a comedy of errors. Most high school students in my car had driven on a farm many times over. For me Driving School was my first chance behind the wheel, so most of the errors were mine.
My instructor had many quirks I had heard about. I knew he did not believe in deodorant and his odor accelerated with the stress of teaching driving. He had a habit of picking his nose and flicking the boogers out the window. What I didn’t know is he took it for granted that some kids had never paid much attention to driving. Coming from a large family, and usually avoiding the drama of fighting over the front seat, I was a back seat learner.
My first mistake was asking how to turn the turn signal off. My instructor showed me by jerking the steering wheel just to change lanes. I figured out later that the steering wheel was not the only way to get the turn signal to turn off.
My mimicry of one of my peers didn’t go unnoticed. He squealed tires pulling into a parking spot but parked perfectly within the lines. My attempt was not so good. I was practically sideways.
My friends describe the time I came to a “T” in the road. The instructor did not say “right” or “left” when I asked for his directions. I ended up going straight, only I skidded to a stop just before launching off the road. They tell me they were afraid every time it was my turn to drive. Luckily for them I was better than my older brother who literally jumped railroad tracks when he failed to slow down for a hill. Luckily for small town Indiana the Parker boys escaped Driver’s Ed without greater incident.
“A waterfall of fish” by Chad Robert Parker
In my family the running joke is that we don’t want to go fishing, we want to go catching. I’m not the best fisherman. Usually it is a good activity for reading a book or pondering the great mysteries of existence. I have spent many trips not catching one fish. I have also had a few trips, usually to the ocean, where the trip was more geared for success. My favorite trip was very much the latter.
My family made a trip to Yosemite National Park. We enjoyed fishing in the pools along the little streams trickling down the mountain. The water was so cold and clear and the air so crisp. The fish would group into the larger pools and hide under the ledge of the banks. We caught some fish throughout the day this way. And then we found the gold mine. Every day the Park would stock not just the streams but the fish pond. Yes, we parked ourselves right outside the stocking truck. Those fish came out acting like it was feeding time and we reeled them in one after the other. While I was very young at the time and would cherish more of a challenge now, that trip still stands out as my best fishing trip.
“Smell of the fresh outdoors,” by Chad Robert Parker
I went on lots of campouts with my parents. My dad was my Scout Leader for many years. My youngest brother is several years younger than me. I’m not sure how often he went camping before our skunk sighting. But the way he reacted had me wondering if he had too much of the California city life.
He was jumping up and down trying to say something to get our attention. Our backs were to him while we were enjoying conversation and the warmth of the fire. At first we ignored him, but then he got louder. I think he was shocked to find that the animal he thought was a cat was indeed a skunk. I was shocked to find him freaking out. I thought we were going to get sprayed for sure. The skunk scurried off without incidence. My brother finally got the words out, “skunk, skunk, skunk.”
We had a good long laugh over that one. Many campouts have followed. I trust my brother knows what to do if there is another skunk, or at least what not to do. Maybe we just had to get the city out of him.
“Clown Party,” by Chad Robert Parker
My favorite birthday was not my own. When I was in high school my youngest brother was still quite young. Whether he wanted a clown party or not, I don’t remember, but as an older brother I was to take center stage. How hard could it be to entertain kids seven years old or younger?
I was not much for tricks but I always liked juggling. Nothing special, but I could juggle a few basketballs, some pins, and eat an apple. I know what you are wondering–no, not at the same time. Why is it that you automatically expect jugglers to add one more ball, or one more spin, or one more element than whatever ridiculous feat they are accomplishing? Here’s looking at you America’s Got Talent. Never mind, I get a little sidetracked, as jugglers often do. Back to the object at hand:
Some children seem really amused with juggling. Others? Not so much. I remember one child in particular staring blankly and picking his nose. When I finished a couple bites of my apple trick he disappeared and by no coincidence so did my apple. By the time I moved from that trick to the next he was gnawing on my apple in the distance.
I got a kick out of how proudly he displayed the remainder of his birthday party favor when his mom arrived.
“Grocery Getter” by Chad Robert Parker
One morning I woke up to find my car was missing. It appeared that the culprit had to be a Mountain Dew drinker as the only thing that remained in my parking spot was a crushed green can and a mess of soda spray. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I thought about knocking on all my neighbor’s doors at 7am that morning to see if anyone had seen anything. I remembered one of my neighbors could very well be carrying a vendetta if he suspected me at all of making the phone call to the cops regarding his raucous domestic dispute with his wife. He had splattered a Mountain Dew slushy against my door that night, after all. Just about the moment I decided I better call 911, I realized where my car was.
I often had walked those few blocks to the grocery store and back, if I had just a couple items to grab. Only it was raining the night before and now I suddenly remembered I drove to the grocery store on this occasion. Yes, that’s right, I walked back without my car and didn’t even remember it until I was in panic mode the next morning. I was only slightly late to work. My boss let me off with a good laugh over the excuse.