Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the Ninth Day before Christmas

We all want consistency in our parents; but we treasure and remember the surprises.

Today, for instance I was remembering Pop on a certain Christmas Eve, probably the Christmas Eve of 1954 or so because we were still living down on Penn Street, and I had to be old enough for Doc to have taken it to mind that I was old enough to need a pogo stick. For the record I didn't weigh enough to be able to make that pogo stick work for at least several years after I got it.

Anyway, Pop is hopping on the pogo stick in front of our house on Penn Street sometime after Midnight. It takes him a few tries; but eventually he gets up to being able to maintain a string of about ten pretty good hops. This I know because I was watching from the second floor window.

Mom, meanwhile, is hissing at him from the open door of the house. "Get in here you damned idiot. You're drunk. You're going to fall and break your neck." Mostly she's not happy with the spectacle because Midnight Mass is about to let out down at Holy Saviour Church and the neighborhood will be filled with quiet upstanding neighbors shortly. This I know because it was one of Mom's favorite stories concerning what I'll call the Christmas Eve follies.

We had that pogo stick for a long time because it was practically indestructible. It was made to last of heavy gauge metal; and it had a spring that was so stiff that it took a real jump by someone weighing at least a hundred and forty or so pounds to get it to work at all. When you mounted that thing you either jumped on for real or you wouldn't depress the spring enough to get any kind of a bounce.

To get up to even a few continuous bounces was very hard. I never got beyond six or seven bounces; but then I never tried the thing after a dozen or two shots of Canadian Club, which would have alleviated the concern that I would break my neck and thus made me more daring. The heads of the simpering nannies at the Consumer Product Safety Commission would explode if someone tried to sell a similar toy today.

To imagine Pop healthy enough and athletic enough to get up to ten or so continuous bounces on a pogo stick is probably impossible for those of you who didn't see him do it. But I'm here to tell you that there was a time when he made that thing work for him. I've often wondered how many continuous bounces he would have gotten up to if Mom hadn't coaxed him into the house just after he really started getting the knack of the thing.

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