After I rolled down my car window by the side of the road, the trooper's trained eyes spotted the 128 deflated balloons on the floorboard left over from a church Christmas party. He put two and two together.
"All right, buddy, what's your story?" the trooper wearily asked. I saw him go for his ticket book, but I stayed calm.
"What's my story?" I said, my voice a high, tight squeal that sounded as though I had just been trying to dispose of 128 helium balloons. Which, of course, I had.
I thought for a minute, then proceeded to tell him my story, my words slowly becoming less cartoonish and more comprehensible as the timbre of my voice returned to its pre-helium status.
My story began (I explained to the trooper) a few weeks ago when the first pumpkins of Halloween signaled the arrival of the Christmas season, and with it my Christmas spirit.
By the time the Thanksgiving turkey was just bones, I had been humming holiday music for weeks: from the sacred carols to the novelty songs, with everything in between that told of winter wonderlands, frosty snowmen, silvery bells, pretty paper, silent nights and drummer boys.
Was Rudolph's nasal glow a source of great personal shame? Had a reindeer made a widower of Grandpa? Did Mommy risk her marriage by kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night?
Too bad for them, but great news for those of us who get to hear the songs. Say, why don't we go caroling right now?
(The trooper shook his head, so I continued with my story.) Well, you get the idea. I love Christmas.
Not just the holiday or the holy day, but the feeling, the sentiment, the rush, the warmth, the very first time I get to say "Merry Christmas" to a friend or a clerk or a stranger.
I love the cards my wife creates each December with the photos of the grandchildren, molding seven little lumps of clay into art. I love Christmas stamps, wreaths on cars, festive red-and-green sweaters that people pull out of closet hibernation.
I am drawn to overlighted houses like a mad moth. I can't do the job myself for lack of skill and fear of electricity, but I envy families who turn their homes into meter-spinning billboards for Thomas Edison's brainchild.
What else? The church plays and musicals. Reading from Luke 2. Wassail and fruitcake. The web of Santa's helpers that spreads out from the North Pole to every party and mall.
Charlie Brown's pitiful tree, Nativity scenes, heavenly hosts, shepherds quaking, wise men traveling, elves working, angels getting their wings.
Grinch and Scrooge. Donner and Blitzen. St. Nicholas, Kriss Kringle, Father Christmas and the Jolly Old Elf.
Handel's Messiah, stockings, checking lists twice, giving, getting, returning, regifting, parades, decking halls, candy canes. And a partridge in a pear tree.
Chestnuts roasting, glasses clinking. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Happy holidays! Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter! Ho ho ho!
Blue Christmas, white Christmas, hard candy Christmas, the night before Christmas, Christmas Eve. Peace on Earth, good will toward men.
All those expressions we hear no other time of year: hark, noel, crche, holly, jolly, yule, figgy pudding, nog, swaddling, manger, lo, sugar plums, nutcrackers, poinsettias and frankincense. Yes, even bah humbug!
The trooper looked at his wristwatch and sighed.
"So that's your story?" he said. "I pulled you over because your car was bobbing up and down; all that helium, I suppose. Speaking of which - no, I don't want to know. I see a lot of cars weave, but there's no law against bobbing, I guess, and it is Christmas.
"You can go. Be careful, though, helium pushes out oxygen from the lungs, you know. After all those balloons, it's a miracle you're not dead."
"Yes, officer," I said, my voice nearly back to normal. "A Christmas miracle."
He sighed and walked back to his car. I heard him exclaim something ere he drove out of sight, but I can't repeat it here.
Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.