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Oleander's Holiday Invasion

Carl Larsson, 1904

Folks, Iola Humboldt’s family invaded us for the Christmas holiday.  Her grandson came on December 23 with his wife and two boys, one 12 and one 10.  Her niece arrived Christmas Eve, bringing a cat named Matilda and a dog named Ranger.  We didn’t have much room at the inn, so to speak, but we squeezed everyone into our little bungalow, except for Ranger, who stayed in the manger—our tool shed with the floor covered in straw.

An avalanche of presents cascaded from under our little tree.  We brought all three leaves for the dining table out of the basement, and so much food spilled from the kitchen I thought we might all founder.  After dinner we read The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, even though he didn’t steal Christmas.  Iola’s grandson read from the Good Book about the shepherds and their flocks by night, the star in the east, the baby in swaddling clothes.  Before bed, we read The Night Before Christmas.   Soon, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, not even Matilda the cat.

Christmas morning came to us Hereins in Here-ville.  Iola and I found the stockings we’d hung by the chimney with care.  Ours were full of oranges and apples, since we still remember the Great Depression.  The niece, a college student, found the iPod her parents had given her to slip into hers.  The rest of them found candy, more than I could have eaten in a year.  The great-grandsons devoured most of it in a few gulps.  Then they ripped into presents like an army of invaders.

They received an army, too.  Soldiers, and computer games with soldiers to load onto the grandson’s laptop.  And warriors from some fantasy game they like, and superheroes and foam dart guns.  We had armies and arsenals.  Pretty soon those boys found targets—ornaments on the Christmas tree, mistletoe hanging from the light fixture.

The grandson’s wife tried to settle them down.  “Remember the holiday,” she said.  She sat in front of the upright piano to sing carols.  “O little town of Bethlehem,” she began.  Sounds of rocket fire sputtered from the mouth of the 12 year old.  “How still we see thee lie.”  Machine gun sounds, the booming of cannons, exploded from the 10 year old.

She kept singing.  But by the time she started “Silent night, holy night, all is calm …” she threw up her hands and took herself for a liar.  Both boys whistled down missiles, took gunshots to the heart and toppled over onto the couch.

“Peace on earth!” yelled the grandson.

But the niece had just let Ranger in the house, and he found Matilda, and they chased each other between the legs of the dining table, and the cat caught the tablecloth in her claw and down came the breakfast dishes with a crash so loud the boys were silenced.

“Good will to all,” I said.

“God bless us every one,” said Iola.

Folks, those are wishes we can all use, what with missiles and rockets and tanks ranging the earth, and with everyone fighting like cats and dogs, whether in Here, Kansas, or all the Holy Lands themselves.

Folks, I wish for peace in Here and peace on earth!