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  1. We'll Take a Cup of Happiness...

    Monday, December 31, 2012

    By Samantha DeRose

    Happy New Year, ya’ll.  I obviously didn’t write a piece on Christmas Eve as I was just beginning to shop and, well, getting gifts for the kids seemed to bump the blog to the back burner.

    New Year’s Eve is a tough time for my family.  We lost my brother 4 years ago on New Year’s, so not an easy day to write.  Since my last blog was memories from awkward holidays gone by, I’ve decided to share some holiday memories of my brother.

    First and foremost, my brother was an amazingly talented and gifted gift unwrapper.  My mother, always prepared, had most of our presents purchased and wrapped long before Thanksgiving.  My brother, without fail, would always find mom’s best hiding spaces.  With scissors and tape in hand, he would lead me to the secret place, carefully unwrap the gifts, exposing the glorious contents of the boxes for us to revel in, and neatly wrap them up again without a leaving one iota of evidence that the gifts had been revealed.  Of course, I’d ruin our secret by saying something to my mom like, “You know what I really want this Christmas?  That new game, Simon,” with a smirk on my face giving away the fact that I had yes, seen the gift, and henceforth, my brother would pummel me for being too obvious and vow never to allow me to accompany him in his excursions again… until he forgot by the following year’s unwrapping adventure.

    Christmas c. 1981…was the Christmas that my brother drove (in the big white car that he had inherited from a deceased neighbor) my friend, Sue, and me Christmas shopping at The Willowbrook Mall.  Sue, always a big saver, had stashed away all of her paper route tips (in singles) and had about $500 to spend at the mall.   As we were riding up the escalator above the fountain, Sue thought it would be the perfect time to count her dough.  As she pulled the wad of 500 singles out of the back pocket of her Sergio Valente Jeans (I in my white capezios and my brother donning his Member’s Only Jacket), the entire wad fell over the side of the escalator and into the bubbling fountain below.

    Thinking very clearly, my brother led us the wrong way down the up escalator (only tripping one or two old ladies) and made a dash for the fountain.  He spotted the wad of cash floating precariously close to the drain as Sue cried at the thought of  a year’s worth of paper route tips being sucked into the Willowbrook fountain for eternity.  My brother, who had experience with fountains as family lore goes (he, at the young age of 4, emerged from the very same fountain with a wet pocket full of change one glorious shopping afternoon with my mom) ran to the drain, stretched halfway across the choppy mall waters, plunged his upper body into the depths of the fountain, retrieving the sopping paper route money.

    That day, we shopped and shopped, Sue paying with her soggy bills at every register.

    Christmas c. 1987.  I had arrived home from college and began shopping, once again, on Christmas Eve.  (Clearly, I am not my mother’s daughter, and clearly, this whole procrastination thing has spilled into other aspects of my life).  Anywho, I arrived at my mother’s house for Christmas Eve dinner rather late.  My brother was sitting at the back table in the kitchen with my cousin, Susan, her friend, Mary, and a guy that Susan had met at her job who had no place to go for Christmas Eve.   At one point, most of the family, with the exception of the aforementioned party, had sauntered off to First Lutheran for the Christmas Eve candlelight service.  Upon arriving back home again, we were greeted with, “Mary, It’s George!  Don'tcha Know me!  Help me, Mary!  I’m George!  Mary!”  In our absence, my brother fed the co-worker countless shots of Sambuca and had the guy reciting lines from It’s a Wonderful Life at the top of his lungs.  To say that my mother was less than pleased would be an understatement.  Though the phrase, “Mary, Don'tcha know me!” survived as a classic Christmas cry betwixt my brother, my cousin, and me for years to come.

    Christmas c. 1985… We were sitting around my mother’s house after the candlelight service at First Lutheran (again) with my parents’ friends, The Englers, our family friend, Uncle Fred, Uncle Fred’s miniscule brother, Henry, my brother, and my best friend, Marygrace.  Somehow, the conversation turned to Al Jolson and Uncle Fred’s tiny brother (seriously, the guy was the tiniest little Korean War vet you'll ever find), Henry, (who never said a word other than, "This Bud's for you, Art!" every time my father gave him a beer), rose from his seat and belted out singing, “Mammy!” at the top of his lungs.  My brother, Marygrace, and I shot each other a wide-eyed look at the same time that I was swallowing a mouthful of (spiked…don’t tell my mom, I was only 17) eggnog.  I’m not sure if one can choke to death on eggnog, but it certainly felt as if that was happening.  As the nog filled my lungs and I was unable to talk, breathe, or communicate, my brother sat laughing to the point that only a whistling noise was coming from his mouth.  At one point, Mr. Engler realized that I was, indeed, in distress as I ran around from person to person noiselessly pointing to my throat. I ran into the kitchen followed by my still whistling-with-laughter brother, Marygrace, and Mr. Engler.   As I stood hunched over the kitchen sink, Mr. Engler punched me in the back and up came the nog into the sink.  My brother, hovering behind me had ceased the whistling and said, “Look.  It’s a whole carrot!  Don’t you chew your food when you eat, you pig?”

    My brother & me dancing at Marygrace's wedding

    Christmas c. 1990 ... How I wish I could find the photo!  My brother thought that it would be a great idea if my sister, he, and I reenacted a nativity photo.  My siblings with towels on their heads playing the part of Mary & Joseph, and I swaddled and stretched across their laps as our dear Lord and Saviour forced my father to snap a nativity scene that had my Lutheran mother crossing herself and saying countless Hail Mary's (even though we're Lutheran and don't cross ourselves or recite Hail Mary's) for several weeks.  I know the photo still exists, but I don't want to go to my mom's house and dig through their stuff or the Hail Mary's will start all over again.  Oh.  I forgot to add... just before the photo was taken, my brother thought that the picture wouldn't be complete without a halo for the Baby Jesus, so he improvised by placing one of my mother's dinner plates behind my head.  That's when the Our Father's started in addition to the Hail Mary's.

    L-R Mary, Joseph, Jesus

    Christmas c. 2003... One of my BFF's was dating a guy that she didn't want her family to know about.  Right before Christmas, the guy gave her a life-sized chocolate Santa.  My panicked friend, not wanting to throw it away yet not wanting to explain to her family where said life-sized chocolate Santa came from, showed up at my door with the life-sized chocolate Santa and said, "Here.  Get rid of it!"  I, not wanting to have a chocolate Santa of that size in a house with 2 little chocoholic young boys, brought it to my mother's house next door.  Upon entering, my mother said, "Now what the Hell am I going to do with that?"  Without batting an eye, my brother said, "I'm on it!  I know just what to do with a life-sized chocolate Goon Goon."  (You see, when my brother was just a boy, the mall Santa gave the little lad a fright and for some reason, my brother called Santa Claus "Goon Goon" thereafter).  We began to consume as much of Jolly Old St. Chocolate Nick as we could, but after getting thought both feet we realized that eating the entire thing in one sitting was an impossible feat. That was when my brother dug out some recipes and made countless batches of homemade chocolate almond butter crunch toffee, chocolate chunk cookies, chocolate covered popcorn, chocolate covered Oreos, you name it.  Soon enough, life-size chocolate Santa was no more.  My brother.  The problem solver.  

    A much smaller Goon Goon

    In addition to renaming St. Nick “Goon Goon,"  I have countless memories of Christmas laughter with my brother that will forever be in my heart and mind. 

    To my family and friends, I am grateful for the love and laughter that you’ve brought to my life. May the happiest memories forever remain in your hearts & minds.

    To my big brother, Chip, the richest man in town, thank you for more smiles and laughter than you’ll ever know that you gave to us… the best presents anyone could ever ask for.  When I became a teacher, you would always say to me, whenever we heard a bell ring, in your best ZuZu voice, "Look, Daddy!  Teacher says 'Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!"  I know you've got yours, my friend.

    Happy New Year!

  2. 3 comments:

    1. I hope he enjoyed this blog.

      A good new year to you.

    2. record51 said...

      Miss him so... Know he is smiling down at us...

    3. She So Funny said...

      Me, too, Mayr. Thank you for bringing so much joy and laughter to his life, my friend. I love you! ~Sam

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