When my brother, Davey Crockett, moved to Kentucky, our mother was concerned about the state of his Christmas tree - to wit, she believed him incapable of decorating a tree or even purchasing decorations.
I had a more optimistic view, but I was ignored - as usual.
She calmed down after he married my sister-in-law, Glinda the Good Witch - so called because she transformed him into a better and happier man. It's magic.
In light of her worry, we sent ornaments each year in his Christmas care package. This year, Grandmama wanted to send an "Our First Married Christmas" ornament, so, dutiful daughter I am, the children and I set out to purchase one.
"Do you have any 'First Married Christmas' ornaments?" I asked the sales clerk.
He showed us several.
"Let the children pick one," I said. "Davey will think it's cute."
They chose a heart-shaped one that doubled as a locket, with space for an engraved message and a photo. The children decided to have Davey and Glinda's monogram and wedding date engraved on it.
They picked it; I paid for it. I could pick it up the next day.
If only it were that simple.
When I arrived for pick up, I was shown the engraving plate. Being it was correct, I gave the go-ahead for it to be glued into the locket.
It didn't stick.
As the saleswoman applied the extra-sticky tape, she told me about someone who purchased the same ornament, but kept it on hand daily because they were comforted by it. How sad, I thought, that their spouse died so early in their marriage.
The plate properly applied, she boxed everything up and said, quite kindly, "I'm sorry for your loss."
" ... it's a memorial ornament."
I must have blanched, because she opened the box and showed me - on the front of the locket was verse to the effect the loved ones we lose never leave us.
"I specifically asked for a 'First Married Christmas' ornament," I said.
I was thinking something to the effect of "no, I absolutely can't send this ornament to my brother and sister-in-law, what will they think if I do?" but didn't want to be one of those problem customers at Christmas, so tried to maintain my composure. I probably didn't do as well as I wanted. I'm almost certain I was twitching.
She showed me a second ornament, identical in every way, except the front said "Our First Christmas." It was quite nice. I may have been stunned into silence, which just goes to show how upset I was.
The saleswoman offered to pull the plate off one and put it on the other. However, no dice, because of that extra-sticky tape.
They could re-engrave a plate for the "First Christmas" ornament, but it would take another day.
"I've got to send it to Kentucky!" I wailed, crossing the line into problem customer territory.
In that case, they could have it done tonight.
I called Grandmama on the way out. "We can't send the package today. Instead of a 'First Christmas' ornament, I was accidentally given a memorial one."
A long silence, then "what?"
"It says something like 'we never truly lose loved ones.' Not 'Our First Christmas.'"
"You can't send that to them, Glinda will think we don't like her! Davey might think we're trying to say he's dead to us because he married her!"
I assured her it was being handled, we would only have to wait one more day before sending the package.
She'll never get over her ornament phobia now, but at least I got a column out of it.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)