Originally created 12/25/96

Bill Kirby: Batteries not included - another holiday tradition

Christmas told the merriest tale.

- Sir Walter Scott

We had just finished opening gifts Christmas morning when the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor Callahan.

"Merry Christmas," he said, cheerfully. "Could I borrow some double A batteries?"

"Sure, come with me," I said, leading him out to the garage.

I spotted some hanging from the pegboard above the workbench. "These should do," I said. "What do you need them for?"

"Toy train engine," he said grinning. "It's sort of a Christmas tradition in our family. The youngest male child gets a toy train engine. But he's expected, in turn, to give it to his best friend. We just didn't have the batteries."

"That's good," I said, slapping him on the shoulder. "Christmas should be a time of of happy family traditions.

"No, that's bad," said Callahan, "I ate too much popcorn this morning."

"Popcorn?" I asked.

"It's another family tradition," said Callahan. "We don't get to open our presents Christmas morning until we've eaten all the popcorn that was strung around the tree."

"Sounds like a good tradition, though," I offered.

"Oh, no," said Callahan, "it's bad. The toughest job is stringing the popcorn. Our family tradition is that that oldest female in the house has to spend Christmas Eve popping popcorn then stringing it with a needle and thread. One year, poor Aunt Gladys didn't get finished. She just fell asleep, popcorn in her lap, needle and thread on her fingers."

"That's bad," I said.

"No," said Callahan, "that's good. "Because no one trusts her to stay awake to string popcorn, she now has to spend Christmas Eve with her older sister, Myrtle."

"Well, then, that's good," I said.

"No," said Callahan, "that's bad. "Myrtle's huband Walter is the best shot in the county, and our family tradition says Christmas dinner has to be something that was shot on Christmas morning."

"Well, it's good you've got the best shot," I said.

"No, that's bad," said Callahan. "The last few Christmas Eves, Walter's gotten into the eggnog, and is no shape the next morning to be handling firearms. We secretly take all the bullets out of his gun."

"That's bad," I said,

"No, not really," said Callahan, "that's good. Everyone got tired of waiting to eat, anyway, so now we get grocery food, instead."

""Well, that's good," I said.

"No," said Callahan, "that's bad. "We can never sit down to Christmas dinner and eat, until the youngest female member of the family brings in a plum pudding she baked from scratch. But, as you know, our children are too old. They've all left home and moved away to start Christmas traditions of their own."

"That's bad," I said.

"No, that's good," said Callahan, pulling a toy train engine from a bag and inserting the borrowed batteries.

"Guess who that makes the youngest male in the house these days?" he said grinning.

"Well, that's good," I said.

"You're right," he said, handing it to me. "Merry Christmas."

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