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Flight Plan

12 / 25 / 1998

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Photograph by Bob Gentry 8/5/99

A Thought for Today

A mutual transgression is the safest secret in the world. And so it should be.


Nan writes;

“Dear Rod:This is the best time at Christmas. The rush is over. The visiting is over. Now is my time to relax, listen to my Rod McKuen music and feel the love and warmth of the Christmas tree lights.

I am re-reading "Finding My Father" again and love it as usual. I never get tired of it. The story is so honest and beautiful. I feel as if I knew your mother. And the love between her and your father. Do you ever intend to tell the world of this wonderful story in a film. It is an important story.

The part about you and Billy selling all your mother's worldly goods and re-furbishing her house is one of my favorite parts of the book.

What are your plans for this story? Much love, Nan”

Dear Nan, Thanks. I’m pleased you like “Finding My Father.” Shortly after it was first published the book was optioned for a film but nothing came of it.

I’d love to see The Christmas Story as a short television film. Someday, maybe. Meanwhile here it is from the 1998 Christmas Day flight plan. Thanks again, Nan. Greetings of the season, Rod

A CHRISTMAS STORY from "Finding My Father"    

Being a night person, most of the time Mom worked the swing shift in North Las Vegas, first in Lincoln Snyder’s soda fountain and later as a barmaid at the Northside Tavern; but once in awhile she would trade shifts, which meant that if it was summer and there was no school Billy and I would be free to go where we wanted to without much supervision. Our favorite place was the city dump..

If it was a weekend and there was no one around we would play on the tractors and cranes that moved the rubbish and debris. During the week we’d slide on our bellies past mounds of refuse, hiding from the attendants, who would always try to chase us away.

One Christmas Eve one of the bartenders got drunk and couldn’t report for work the next day so Mama worked a double shift. It was wonderful. We had the whole day and evening to play at the dump and it was our idea of a real Christmas. What treasures we found that day. A floor lamp, an easy chair with half the stuffing gone, an old box of somebody’s discarded toys, old clothes, and more bottles than we could possibly carry to the market to redeem for the meager deposit.

Sometime during the afternoon it occurred to us, as a surprise for Mom, to redecorate the house with the furniture and odd bits of bric-a-brac we’d found at the dump. Billy had a red and yellow wagon and we must have made twenty trips, lugging all our goodies home. Of course, to make room for these treasures, we had to move all the furniture and trunks already in the house out into the front yard. While we were doing this, someone came by and thought we were having a rummage sale. I couldn’t believe it when Billy came running in to tell me he’d been offered $5 for Mama’s dresser. What a source of newfound money!

In just over two hours we were able to sell all the furniture we’d moved out on the lawn, plus the curtains from the windows, pots and pans. And Mama’s doilies. We even sold the oilcloth off the kitchen table for twenty-five cents.

It would be dark soon and so we had to complete our refurbishing before the light faded. I don’t think either of us ever worked so hard. In the end we were both so tired we fell asleep on the torn and soiled, but pretty, satin bedspread we’d replaced on Mama’s bed after selling off her comforter.

You can imagine her surprise when she came home from working two long shifts serving drinks to merrymakers and refereeing bar bouts between Christmas drunks.. Perhaps ‘surprise’ is not the correct word. I’m not sure what is.

Mama was too tired to spank us but she screamed and cried a lot. Though at the time we couldn’t understand why. She had the new floor lamp. Even if it didn’t work it could probably be fixed. And, our latest kitchen table was larger than the old one. I had nearly mashed my thumb while hammering a two-by-four in place to replace a missing leg. It now listed a bit, but the angle wasn’t so bad that utensils and plates would likely slip off.

The curtains were very different from the old ones; while there were only three windows in the living room, there were now twice that many curtains on them. I distinctly remember Mama having said many times that she’d like to get rid of that old junk in the house. ‘Just for a change.’ Well, now she had her change. We hadn’t yet found a replacement stove, but there were more than enough pots and pans left over from the sale that could be used if and when we did.

Mom continued to look dazed, but she came to life again when she started to sit down on the new davenport. It collapsed completely under her, all three sides falling away. It was then that I handed her the envelope containing the money we’d received from the sale of the old furniture: $71.30. It had been planned as a Christmas gift all along, and Billy had written in crayon on the outside of the envelope, To Mama, Merry Christmas from The Katzenjammer Kids.

Mama didn’t speak for a long time, but when she did she just looked up and said, "Merry Christmas." And it was.

-from "Finding My Father," 1975, 1976.

notable birthdays               EPIPHANY, France • HOLIDAY, Scotland
Issac Asimov
o Jim Bakker o Bill Bradley (football) o Tia Carrere o Jason Evers o Dick Feller o Cuba Gooding Jr. o Julius LaRosa o James Melton o Roger Miller o Lucretia Mott o Robert Nathan o Sally Rand o Joseph Stalin o Renata Tebaldi o Christy Turlington o Vera Zorina
Rod's random thoughts As the world renews itself, the shape of thought should offer contrast.

Celebrate yourself – but the universe first.

Smiles surprise people.


We pass the signs
           the seasons
and the signposts now
at such a speed
that pausing to reflect
on what direction means
grows harder year by year
and yet your God and mine
daily holds His breath
expecting us to listen
and to care about each other.

Across the fields
beyond the highways
and each ocean,
I reach out to you
hoping I’ll be welcomed
by another outstretched hand.

For each day
in the yerar just starting
and all those days in years ahead
I wish you love and reason
                in your life
and most of all
the feeling and reality
of our friendship.

from “The Beautiful Strangers,” & “The Rod McKuen Book of Days," 1981
© 1975, 1976, 1981, 1988, 2000 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan
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