The Weird Christmas Year Part 1

Pat's CornerAstute followers of this column will remember that I have often given anecdotes and such from a conveyor PLC programmer’s perspective because I spent many years doing that kind of work. As I have heard it said, you write about what you know. Another little detail of this work is that 99% of the time you have to spend multiple days out of town living in a hotel room and spending 12 or 15 hour days in some factory or warehouse. Those who are familiar with the material handling industry also know that often customers want to get little (or sometimes not so little) projects installed and running during a holiday shut down period if the calendar cooperates. I have had my share of getting on the “planes, trains, and automobiles” carousel on December 26th, but I have been fortunate that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have never been tainted with such obligations. Upon further reflection, I have been fortunate in life so far that I have never had to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day away from where I called (or used to call) home. Until this year. The Weird Christmas Year. 

My daughter is a chemical engineer (proud Purdue parents: Boiler Up! Hammer Down!). Did she get a job near home or at least in the “industrial east”? No. This past spring she landed a job in southern California. She now lives in North Hollywood, CA. For various reasons not worth going into here, she did not have the time off available to come home for Christmas this year. She works in a manufacturing plant that runs 24/7, so she needed to be there the week between Christmas and New Years because most of her veteran co-workers already had the week off scheduled. When this became known in the late summer, my wife informed me that we were going out to LA for Christmas because there was no way that “our daughter is going to spend Christmas alone”. The seeds of The Weird Christmas Year were sown.

Fast Forward to Dec. 9th: We are not part of the crowd that puts up decorations the day after Halloween or even the day after Thanksgiving. We wait until the first weekend of December the way Mrs. Claus clearly intended. My wife is in charge of all things decoration and like every other year, the basement closets get emptied of the boxes and totes containing her cornucopia of ornaments and decorations. Then the Christmas music playlist begins. Because my wife is the youngest of 9 children (by a lot), her siblings are very much “baby boomer” age. Her father was a Marine in WWII and her oldest brother was a Marine in Vietnam when she was born. She was raised with very traditional Christmas music: Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, etc. And this is the only music that gets played in our house (well, I sneak in some Mitch Miller and Vince Guaraldi at times). There is no Mariah Carey, no Wham! This Christmas, and definitely no snow homies chillin’ with tha Kringle at his Ice Crib. 

Well, the other thing to know about my wife and her many siblings is that not one of them can carry a tune. They all know this and will freely admit it. There is video evidence of a few of her nieces and nephews at their 2nd birthday parties bursting into screams and tears sitting in their high chair trying to escape the dissonance of Happy Birthday being sung. My wife loves to sing along with the Christmas music, but she cannot hit a note. I will try to explain this in words: If the note being sung by Perry Como happens to be one of the white keys on the piano, my wife is singing a note from one of the black keys and vice versa. She cannot tell she is off and she will freely admit this. I would not have it any other way. 

However, this year was different because we did not get out the tree and its myriad of ornaments. All of the decorating was done in the first ¼ of the music playlist. We did not even make it to Ella scat singing Let it Snow. The Weird Christmas Year had taken root. 

Continue to Chapter 2...

Let it snow,