Merry Stick-mas

After breakfast with a friend, I stopped at the closest Kowalski’s to me to pick up some salsa. I intended to do a lot of fiction editing this afternoon and really, editing goes best with chips and salsa. It just does.

As I approached the front of the store, I saw two parents gently arguing with their kid, maybe four or five years old. He was holding on (both hands) to a fairly unremarkable walking stick, something he had clearly picked up on their stroll to the store.

I should note that it’s a balmy 40 degrees today in Minneapolis, and with the sun grinning hard on everything in December, well, to Minnesotans, this practically counts as a summer day. Driving to the store, I passed hordes of joggers, parents pushing strollers, and hell, I think I saw a woman doing yard work. I do love that Minnesotans see the December sun minus accumulated snow and think, ‘Fuck it: I’m going rollerblading.’

Based on how they were bundled, this family had clearly walked to the store.

Dad tried to coax the stick out of his son’s hands, *promising* that the stick would still standing against the wall brick wall by the bike rack when they came out.

While his son said nothing, the pout and mistrust on his face revealed his faith in Dad’s words.

The stick! This stick is everything!

You’d think I spent 10 minutes watching this drama unfold, but all this occurred during the twenty seconds it took me to approach and pass this family, entering the store. I had the fleeting thought ‘Oh, just let him carry his stick inside’ but when I saw the carefully piled apples, jars precariously arranged, and precarious stacks of Christmas candy, I realized the parents’ wisdom.

Stick disaster lurked in every aisle.

As I searched for my salsa, I reflected about the time in my life when a treasure like a good stick was everything.

I once owned a small cedar chest, a cheap souvenir from when we visited Mt. Rushmore on vacation. It contained a feather, two unique pennies, the back of a cub scout pin which had broken off of something meaningful. I think I remember a piece of string that I intended to use for some future invention. Yes, I once owned treasures.

In the grove across from our childhood home, I would find amazing sticks from time to time and always relished my good fortune. Holding it in my young hands, I would marvel at how the stick was so straight, so powerful! Not a single knot or irregularity! Only the luckiest boy in the world could find a stick like that. I could use it for ninja fighting or when I played pirates with some of the other neighborhood kids.

“Where did you get it?” I imagined other kids would say with ill-concealed jealousy.

“Oh this?” I would reply casually, twirling the stick over my head and catching it with ease. “I found it.”

When I left Kowalski’s short moments later, I saw the stick propped against the brick building. Mom and Dad had won. At that moment inside the store, their son was fretting, worried that someone might steal the one treasure he owned in the world, the one possession he could say was truly his.

I got in my car, strapped myself in. Thought of my writing day ahead and reflected how much I love salsa. Wondered if I should have gotten cheese to melt over the chips.

I also thought about how lucky I am to not be shopping for Christmas presents today. I’m remaining in Minnesota for Christmas, the first time ever, and while I will very much miss my Huntley family, I need this break from traveling and gift-buying. My best friend is visiting. We will stay up late gossiping. We will reveal sad stories. Eat amazing food.

My many Minnesota friends are eager to celebrate with Ann, so with these friends we will make fires in my fireplace, laugh until we can’t breathe, and become friends all over again. I will try to force everyone to drink egg nog, though most people I know hate it.

I still have treasures in my life.

I hopped out of my car and approached the stick.

I carefully positioned four quarters around the base of the stick, arranged in a pattern so that the boy would know some stranger didn’t accidentally drop these coins. No, the boy is right — the stick is truly blessed.

I remember a time in my life when a quarter meant riches.

And four quarters?

Well, that was like Christmas.




7 Responses to “Merry Stick-mas”

  1. Jeffrey Fillion Says:

    Yup… LOVED IT. I still find wonderful sticks and bring them home. My art studio is my cedar chest… full of treasure that fills my imagination.

    Thank you for such a wonderful story.

    I don’t think for one moment that you are slipping at all.


  2. Alesia Says:

    So sweet. Thank you for sharing this lovely story. I’m sure the boy thought he was rich when he saw the coins. I sure would have at that age.

  3. Mike Templeton Says:

    Those 4 quarters represent what I’d like all Christmas gift-giving to look like: random, anonymous, unexpected treasure dropped in the path of passing strangers. Beautiful, King Edmond the Giver.

  4. L.C. Says:

    That is beautiful, Edmond. I wholeheartedly agree with Mike. :-)

  5. Lisa Ottens Says:

    There is a Bob and Tom Christmas song, I believe by Shawn Morey, where a little boy only asks for a stick for Christmas. Could this be the same?

    I highly doubt it, but it is a very funny song.!
    I wish all kids were as easy to please!

  6. Tony Says:

    And now the kid knows (what he no doubt believed in his heart) – he has a MAGIC stick! Blessed by a king who remembers magic sticks and other treasures.

  7. Patricia Logan Says:

    What a lovely, sweet post, Edmond

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