My buddy Al wrote a Christmas story to remember last week in his blog at http://bananascrackersandnuts.com/bcnuts/. He gave me permission to put it here this week. Enjoy
I awoke to find myself in the less-than-bustling metropolis of Comstock, Michigan. No, I hadn’t been on an all night bender — it only felt that way. I had been on a fifteen hour drive with Vigi to visit her family for Thanksgiving and I did all of the ‘aiming’ for the final seven hours. It was our last chance to make the trip before winter closed in and I looked forward to spending a holiday with a house full of people once again.
Since the kids moved out and scattered around the country raising their own families, the peace and quiet I longed for while they were growing up had become deafening, especially around the holidays. Besides, things were getting kind of crazy at the radio station and we were sloshing our way through the middle of a financial rough patch at home; not the greatest timing with Christmas just around the corner.
After the obligatory slide show and catching up on several years of National Geographic, I was more than ready to prowl two of my favorite haunts in town — the only two haunts in town. It felt good not to be sticking to a schedule for a change and, in my absence, Veege could visit with her folks without being concerned about keeping me constantly entertained. After meandering through the aisles of the local Meijer’s ‘everything store’ I headed over to the one place that was an absolute, positive, don’t miss any time we made the trip: The Kalamazoo Air Zoo.
They had vintage aircraft from World War II and Korea through present day classics hangared there and many were still operational. On the right day, you could even catch a glimpse of a local pilot putting one of those two-thousand horsepower beauties through her paces! They had everything from flight simulators and a pink [believe it or not] P-40 flown by a very talented pilotress, to a mighty gull-winged Corsair — the plane that makes my heart go thump and has held the kid in me hostage ever since I first saw the movie Flat Top. You could actually walk up close enough to get a whiff of grease and oil mixed with just a hint of musty leather.
No tour of The Air Zoo was complete without a trip to the gift shop. I entered expecting to see the usual models, banners, books and displays — but what to my wandering eyes should appear but a shiny Corsair, perfect scale to the gear! She was carved from mahogany and painted in such painstaking detail that you could almost hear the roar of her engine. She was gorgeous! She was, also, $139 and I couldn’t afford to spend the price of a post card at that point.
I was unusually quiet for the last two days of our visit and most of the ride home. I am never quiet. Never. ”All right, what’s wrong?” Vigi finally ventured. ”Shows, huh?” ”Not if you’re a mime,” she answered. I told her all about the Corsair and explained that it wasn’t so much that I wanted it but that I couldn’t get it. We both had good jobs and worked hard. We weren’t extravagant. It’s not like it was a car or a boat or something — just a stupid airplane model that shouldn’t even require decision making. She reminded me that the financial rough patch was only temporary, and I stopped my whining. In my generation guys were supposed to do better than that for their families; the little airplane became a symbol that continued eating at me — and she knew it.
The remaining few weeks until Christmas sped by. Our ‘rough patch’ was beginning to smooth out and I had, at last, put the whole episode with the Corsair behind me — mostly. Christmas morning, the two of us did our usual Santa thing but when the ripping and tearing of brightly colored paper had ended, there was still one more present under the tree. She smiled and handed it to me. Unlike the others, I opened this one carefully unveiling a plain brown box. I was puzzled. Slowly I opened the flaps marked “This Side Up” — and what to my wondering eyes should appear but THE shiny Corsair! The one from The Air Zoo!
That incredible lady actually pirated all of the money from her change jar, where she had been dumping stray nickels, dimes and quarters for years, contacted the curator of The Zoo and ordered one very important Corsair for one grumpy old man. So many times through the years Vigi has lighted a torch when she found me in a dark place — and that Christmas, she did it again!