SOME OF THE BEST
25 December, 1998
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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan
A Thought for Today
You get a lot more if you’re willing to
settle for a lot less.
Being a night person, most of
the time Mom worked the swing shift in North Las Vegas, first in Lincoln
Snyder’s soda fountain and later as a barmaid at the Northside Tavern; but
once in awhile she would trade shifts, which meant that if it was summer
and there was no school Billy and I would be free to go where we wanted to
without much supervision. Our favorite place was the city dump.
If it was a weekend and there was no one around we would play on the
tractors and cranes that moved the rubbish and debris. During the week
we’d slide on our bellies past mounds of refuse, hiding from the
attendants, who would always try to chase us away.
One Christmas Eve one of the bartenders got drunk and couldn’t report for
work the next day so Mama worked a double shift. It was wonderful. We had
the whole day and evening to play at the dump and it was our idea of a
real Christmas. What treasures we found that day. A floor lamp, an easy
chair with half the stuffing gone, an old box of somebody’s discarded
toys, old clothes, and more bottles than we could possibly carry to the
market to redeem for the meager deposit.
Sometime during the afternoon it occurred to us, as a surprise for Mom, to
redecorate the house with the furniture and odd bits of bric-a-brac we’d
found at the dump. Billy had a red and yellow wagon and we must have made
twenty trips, lugging all our goodies home. Of course, to make room for
these treasures, we had to move all the furniture and trunks already in
the house out into the front yard. While we were doing this, someone came
by and thought we were having a rummage sale. I couldn’t believe it when
Billy came running in to tell me he’d been offered $5 for Mama’s dresser.
What a source of newfound money!
In just over two hours we were able to sell all the furniture we’d moved
out on the lawn, plus the curtains from the windows, pots and pans. And
Mama’s doilies. We even sold the oilcloth off the kitchen table for
It would be dark soon and so we had to complete our refurbishing before
the light faded. I don’t think either of us ever worked so hard. In the
end we were both so tired we fell asleep on the torn and soiled, but
pretty, satin bedspread we’d replaced on Mama’s bed after selling off her
You can imagine her surprise when she came home from working two long
shifts serving drinks to merrymakers and refereeing bar bouts between
Christmas drunks. Perhaps ‘surprise’ is not the correct word. I’m not sure
Mama was too tired to spank us but she screamed and cried a lot. Though at
the time we couldn’t understand why. She had the new floor lamp. Even if
it didn’t work it could probably be fixed. And, our latest kitchen table
was larger than the old one. I had nearly mashed my thumb while hammering
a two-by-four in place to replace a missing leg. It now listed a bit, but
the angle wasn’t so bad that utensils and plates would likely slip off.
The curtains were very different from the old ones; while there were only
three windows in the living room, there were now twice that many curtains
on them. I distinctly remember Mama having said many times that she’d like
to get rid of that old junk in the house. ‘Just for a change.’ Well, now
she had her change. We hadn’t yet found a replacement stove, but there
were more than enough pots and pans left over from the sale that could be
used if and when we did.
Mom continued to look dazed, but she came to life again when she started
to sit down on the new davenport. It collapsed completely under her, all
three sides falling away. It was then that I handed her the envelope
containing the money we’d received from the sale of the old furniture:
$71.30. It had been planned as a Christmas gift all along, and Billy had
written in crayon on the outside of the envelope, To Mama, Merry Christmas
from The Katzenjammer Kids.
Mama didn’t speak for a long time, but when she did she just looked up and
said, "Merry Christmas." And it was.
- from "Finding My Father,"
Today it belongs to Jay Leno:
is marrying a man 30 years her junior; they met over dinner – he was
delivering Meals on Wheels. For those who’d like to send the couple a gift
the registry is the gift shop at Cedars of Lebanon.”