SOME OF THE BEST
12 / 25 / 1998
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.
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. Im pleased you like Finding My Father. Shortly after
it was first published the book was optioned for a film but nothing came of it.
Id 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 Snyders 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 wed 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 couldnt 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
somebodys 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 wed 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 couldnt believe it when Billy
came running in to tell me hed been offered $5 for Mamas dresser. What a
source of newfound money!
In just over two hours we were able to sell all the furniture wed moved out on the
lawn, plus the curtains from the windows, pots and pans. And Mamas 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
dont 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 wed replaced on
Mamas 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. Im not sure what is.
Mama was too tired to spank us but she screamed and cried a lot. Though at the time we
couldnt understand why. She had the new floor lamp. Even if it didnt 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 wasnt so bad that utensils and plates would likely
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 shed like to get rid of that old junk in the house.
Just for a change. Well, now she had her change. We hadnt 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 wed 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
Mama didnt 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.