Posts Tagged ‘Walgreens’

Twelve new Christmas memories

December 31, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I’m gonna blame Christmas for making me lazy this past week. My family and I spent three days and two nights at my in-laws’ house for the holidays, and even after getting back, the combination of cheer and leftover seasonal junk food left me glued to the recliner.

Now there’s one day left in 2010, and I’m finally getting around to writing about Jesus’ golden birthday. That’s right, Our Lord turned 25 this year. Again. While 25 was a depressing birthday for me, it wasn’t for Jesus, because he knows he’s got the best seven years of his life still ahead. Dude loves the number seven, what can I say? Anyway, here are:

 

TWELVE NEW CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

1. It’s noon on Christmas Eve, and we’re driving down in a snow storm. It almost looked like we couldn’t be able to come at all, but skipping Thanksgiving proper and Christmas the same year would feel like a cardinal sin. Luckily, it’s warm enough that the snow is melting instantly as it hits the ground. We stop at a gas station, and Sarah and I head in to find a little junk to hold us until the in-laws’ roast is ready at 4 pm. I find some Dill Pickle Pringles, and Sarah’s full attention latches onto the impulse bin of Charm’s Blow Pops at foot level. I decide, what the heck, it’s Christmas, and I get her a Blue Raspberry sucker. When we get back to the car, I unwrap the Blow Pop, and Sarah is overjoyed as she holds it, takes a couple tentative licks then goes to town on it. Many productive minutes pass as Sarah enjoys the second lollipop of her young life, then we start to notice she’s putting it in her hair and all over her forehead. It’s a parental moment where you want to stop the problem behavior, but you can’t stop laughing, and your laughing only makes your giddy toddler go to further extremes. Sarah is most amused by the practice of jamming the sucker into the recesses of her neck. She is a streaky, sticky blue mess for the rest of the car ride.

2. Just before two, we decide to stop into a 24-hour Mom and Pop restaurant in our hometown that I’ve previously visited well over a hundred times, though this may be my first time visiting when not drunk or hung over. We still have that roast ahead of us, so we just order their amazing house salad — lettuce, red onion, pimento, bacon, provel, house cream dressing and homemade croutons — and potato skins. The skins are basically full-sized potato halves of the daunting Russet variety. Sarah has some fries and water, our waitress is tattooed and strange, and it’s just quick, fun family time.

3. Some might have received my proclamation that my family would start our holiday shopping on Christmas Eve as a joke, but this is what in fact happens. The snow is still swirling from the sky as we spend well over an hour stuffing a Wal-Mart cart with our entire haul of presents. We pick out a couple things that we want for ourselves under the guise of, “This is your Christmas present to me,” and we later get a big box of bargain Christmas cards from Walgreens. I used to have a cheat sheet listing which relatives received which bargain cards (“Grandpa = puppy in stocking, 2008,” “Tiffany’s sister = winking snowman, 2009,” etc.), but now I get to experience the rush of possibly giving the same relative the same card several years in a row. Will they call me out on it? They haven’t yet.

4. With the wife and kiddies asleep late on Christmas Eve, I go on an iTunes binge with some freshly purchased gift cards. I’ve kept a list of songs I want to get my hands on for months now, so the choosing is easy. The logging in is damn near impossible. I have three basic passwords I use, and none of them hits. I also somehow manage to mis-answer my security question three consecutive times, so my account is frozen for eight hours. I then create a new account and get locked out of it somehow. Bells are ringing. Silver, angry bells. But I get my music.

5. On Christmas Day, Tiffany and I each open a mound of presents for Sarah. I’ve just figured out where to put all the toys she already has, and now she’s doubled her plaything inventory. She gets an indoor princess tent, a bookcase with dozens of books to put in it, a stagecoach wagon loaded with Lego blocks, and three coats. The grandparents seem to have done the Toys ‘R’ Us equivalent of the old “Supermarket Sweep” TV show, and we love them for it. Days later, hanging out around the house, I’ll still be happening upon individual Christmas gifts given to Sarah. Thank you moms, aunt, uncles and dad.

6. This is my fourth Christmas at the in-laws’, and it’s the first time my brother Matt has met Tiffany’s side of the family. While eating roasted pork sandwiches and a cornucopia of hors d oeuvres (thanks for having my back, Dictionary.com), I get to hear Matt and my father-in-law talk excitedly about classical music and opera. One of my simpler joys in life is watching people from different corners of my social and family sphere interact with each other. This is no Christmas miracle, but it’s pretty unique in its own right.

7. After my mom and brother leave, our family Christmas moves downstairs, and the younger generation takes turns playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii. I beg out of participating — the broken ankle excuse will hold me for at least three more months, and I will use it when applicable — but Tiffany and her older sister tear up some Rihanna and such. The highlight of all this is watching my mother-in-law hold her own by dancing along to the Ike and Tina version of “Proud Mary.”

8. I spend several hours on Christmas night hanging out at Harrah’s Casino with two of my best friends and partners in crime from my single days. They rack up a huge bar tab in a restaurant just outside the casino while I binge-drink Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew and smoke cigarettes like I’m one of Marge Simpson’s wheezy sisters. Inside, we gamble. I bet small and play for hours on the same money. I turn my last three bucks back into $25 then make my friends go to the roulette table with me. They’re drunk by now, and the slowest, rudest dealer in history presides over our table. The time between spins is at least 15 minutes. None of the other roulette players at the table speaks any English — there was an Asian Concert* event earlier tonight — so my friends kill time and crack me up by loudly complaining about how much the dealer sucks and how much roulette sucks and how much it sucks that no one at the table speaks English. I win $40 on the next spin and am kept waiting another 15 minutes to cash in my chips.

9. Apparently, when you drink a dozen plastic cups of soda really late at night, you have a hard time falling asleep. The magic of Christmas does nothing to change this immutable law. I slide into bed around 3 am and am kept in an exhausted state of alertness until after the sun comes up. So it is to my great relief that my in-laws are enthusiastic about taking infant Silas upstairs and watching him while Tiffany and I sleep and lounge in bed until noon. It’s a great slow wakeup, lying there and talking and watching an episode of “Monk” on Netflix Instant.

10. One of Sarah’s gifts was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse instrument set. It had a drum, drumsticks, maracas, plastic finger cymbals, nonfunctioning harmonica (thank you for the broken harmonica, Disney, seriously) and a recorder. You know, like the kind they give you in third grade band class if you don’t appear to have any other inborn musical talent. Sarah keeps putting her mouth around the recorder and making trumpet fart noises into it, while I’m demonstrating and telling her to just blow into it. Finally, her grandma tells her to blow it out like her birthday candles, and something clicks. It’s beyond cute to watch that little girl’s eyes light up when she realizes she just accomplished what she’d been trying to accomplish.

11. The day after Christmas, I talk to my dad on the phone for the first time since September. Our relationship the past couple decades has been sporadic to nonexistent, but we jump-started our communication this year and got to know each other as adults. Which was a great gift. We talk for a half-hour, and it’s great to hear the excitement in his voice as he describes his Christmas dinner spent with two Harvard PhD’s and how he’s been eating nothing but natural health food the past few months and feels better than ever.

12. Sarah’s gift motherlode included a full snowsuit and an orange plastic sled, and when we get back home, I take her outside in the snow. There’s a small hill at the end of our driveway that leads down into the backyard. I put her in the sled, have her count to three, then I send her on her way. Her reaction is one of sheer delight, and she joyously demands to go, “Again! Again!” until her out-of-shape dad is wishing he hadn’t chainsmoked all those cigarettes on Christmas night.

*Asian Concert was the official name of the event. No actual performers were billed. I assume when you live in the Midwest, and you are Asian, you’ll show up to an Asian Concert regardless of who appears because there really aren’t any Asian Concerts booked in the first damn place.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

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Slackluster holidays

December 15, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The Christmas season is upon us. Only ten days left before I do all my holiday shopping at Walgreens really late at night on Christmas Eve.

Batman's inconspicuous skyflier.Christmas was never a big deal in my house. The peak of our family Christmas celebrations came when I was 11. Logs crackling in the fireplace, mounds of presents and full stockings of goodies. I remember my younger brother got the Batwing from the first Tim Burton Batman movie and the elusive April O’Neil action figure, the rarest in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of 1989 play products. I got turtles Leonardo and Rafael, if I remember right, and a shrink-wrapped cassette copy of Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out. Which, 21 years later, is still a great album. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Batman and TMNT these days, incidentally.

My family put up the same fake Christmas tree every year, and it was always a fun night of hanging branches and lights and digging through what was a pretty decent collection of ornaments. The unpacking of the ornament box always included a quick memorial for whatever old ornaments had ended up shattering just before or after the 11-month offseason the ornaments spent in the basement.

Sometime during my teen years, we kind of disbanded the formal Christmas celebration. Around Thanksgiving, my mom would ask me what I wanted, and I’d usually cash in for one big-ticket item that was bought and put into circulation way ahead of December 25th. No surprises, no waiting, no wrapping even.

Our holiday dinners were always spent with our maternal grandparents at Old Country Buffet, the college dining hall of the elderly. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I could count on waiting in line with the non-cooking masses and pigging out on mashed potatoes, gravy and dried-out chocolate cake with vanilla soft-serve on top.

After my grandparents passed, we went back to small-scale holiday family dinners at home, but I don’t think that Christmas tree ever went back up. I don’t think it survived the move when my mom traded up from my childhood house to a nicer home in a nicer neighborhood. The most I would observe Christmas, aside from the family dinner, would be to send out a round of holiday cards with smart-aleck writing inside.

There was one Christmas I had a girlfriend and came to her with the bright idea to not exchange presents and instead do something nice on New Year’s. After, unbenownst to me, she’d already bought me a nice watch*. She had to take that back, then on Christmas, I actually surprised her with a small present. She was not surprised and in fact had come prepared with a small counterpresent, a hardcover copy of the SNL book Live From New York. Which, 8 years later, is the only enduring thing to come out of that relationship.

Now that I’m married with kids, Christmas can’t help but mean something again. We have a larger built-in family that gathers for all the major holidays. My wife Tiffany, as I stated a couple posts ago, has problems with procrastination and organization just like I do. Our Christmas gift efforts to our parents and in-laws have been less than stellar the first three years, and I can’t be sure we won’t repeat the mistake this year.

But I can make the following pair of predictions for this Christmas – there will be lots of love and absolutely no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures.

*Which I had mentioned I wanted before I finally caved and got my first cell phone. What do I need a watch for when I’m carrying a phone? For the sophisticated look of wearing a watch? If you’ve ever met me, you know fashion sophistication and I don’t coexist unless I have to go rent something to wear in a wedding. The only remotely classy thing I have is a silk handkerchief monogrammed with my initials. My real initials: SBJ. At least I tell people those are my real initials when they ask me why I’m sporting a handkerchief with the initials SBJ.

Walker vs. Crutches? No contest

September 18, 2010

The physical therapy people at the hospital seemed deadly serious about their proclamation that they would not allow me to be discharged unless I had an approved assisted walking device. Nothing so conventional and unobtrusive as crutches, either. Crutches were not on the approved list. What I needed was a walker. And they were going to hook me up. I said sure, okay, whatever, and I fell back into a light, drug-addled sleep.

A knock came on the door a couple hours later. It was the hospital’s official walker dealer with my shiny metallic wheels. He had an info folder, and he’d taken the liberty of contacting my insurance company to find out how much of the burden they’d shoulder. Results were inconclusive, as was the sticker price itself, but he got me to sign here and here, and initial there, and he was off. I rolled over and went back to dreaming about running half-marathons or whatever.

Now, I would have imagined “Walker Salesman” to be a real Job From Hell. None of your peers take you seriously, you have to make cold housecalls in retirement communities to people who can’t hear you and are living on a fixed income, et al. Not true, it seems. This guy’s got the sweetest gig ever – a captive audience of injured, over-medicated marks who are led to believe their only option is his walker at some price to be announced at a later date.

Fast forward three days, and I can tell you, there’s no practical use to having a walker in your home. The thing is just plain cumbersome and not maneuverable. The getting up and down sucks, the getting through doorways sucks. Take that thing out the front door into the real world, and strangers and friends alike are guaranteed to laugh their heads off while reaching for their camera phones. No wonder old people with walkers seem pissed off all the time.

If you’re ever in my position, dealing with the surgical aftermath of ankle bone popped through skin, find a way to go the crutches route. Several major pharmacies and grocery chains will loan you crutches for a refundable $25 deposit, and they’re portable. If someone laughs at you for being on crutches, they’re automatically the lesser person. Plus you can use a crutch as a retaliatory weapon. You’d need a whole lot more coordination and cunning to beat someone senseless with a walker.

I think what turned the tide for me was lying in bed, nonfunctional leg elevated, and watching a viral clip on “Tosh.0” of a beautiful woman doing an elaborate salsa dance routine with a one-leg amputee who had nothing but one crutch as support. I knew I had to upgrade. I was struggling to use my walker to get from the bed to the heaping plate of delivery pizza in the kitchen, while this one-legged mega-pimp was making his Salma Hayek mambo dreams come true with a single crutch.

My father-in-law drove up yesterday to help with the kids while my wife was at work. I felt uncomfortable asking him to empty my pee jug, but I was only too eager to share with him my dream of crutching my way down the stairs and out to the street to pick up the mail like a normal human being. He was so enthusiastic he put on his cabbie hat and rushed out to Walgreens before I think he realized he was leaving his two small grandkids with an invalid who hadn’t shaved in five days. I held down the fort in his absence, walkering my way to the loveseat so I could feed and placate infant Silas and sing along to those godawful Barney songs with toddler Sarah.

The crutches are worlds better. That’s not to say being in this situation doesn’t still suck. My armpits are a sore mess, and each of my wrists sports a circular skin break the size of a hole punch where crutch steel has worn me away. But I did actually set foot outside in the daytime today. I crutched into the neighborhood barbershop and got myself a trim, and I picked up a footlong Cold Cut Combo from Subway. My wife was with me the whole time, and both legs were screaming at me when we were done.

I’ve been in bed ever since, injured foot propped up. And you know what? When you’re laid up, you have lots of time to read. I got a look at the small print in the walker paperwork. I have 30 days to return that piece of crap with receipt for a refund, for any reason. As far as reasons, you can’t get more all-encompassing than, “Your product sucks, it was forced on me, and I don’t even know how much it cost. Eat it, Walker Salesman!” Hopefully, he can take use my returned walker to convert some other motion-challenged hospital dischargee into a spiteful-assed bitch.

P.S. The one and only fun thing about the walker – Sarah loved to get in front of me as I was slowly walker-ambling up the hallway and throw all her 23-month-old strength into pulling that thing in her direction. She really exerted herself and had fun with it. Leave it to a little girl to make so cumbersome and obnoxious a chore into something downright cute for twenty seconds at a time.