I’ll admit it right up front, although it’s probably pretty painfully obvious. I am a hopeless romantic and a certified Maudlin Weenie when it comes to sparkling magical times like Christmas.
I love almost everything about the Cool Yule. I can even stand shopping as long as I know exactly what I’m looking for, I know exactly where to purchase it, and I know I can be in and out in less than eight minutes from pull-up to takeoff.
I love the wonderful heartfelt seasonal feel-good melodramatic movies at this time of year, too — classics like The Christmas Story (1983), It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), Terminator 2 (1991), etc.
I even love to hum merrily along with all the cheesy Christmas songs in the malls. Except for Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, which, when I hear any three consecutive notes of that unfortunate ditty, causes me to run screaming into the nearest record store hell-bent to destroy every Irish Rovers CD I can find. Luckily, since the Irish Rovers never actually sold any decent records, there never are any there, thank goodness. It wouldn’t be good getting arrested this close to Christmas, even if you are doing a good deed for music lovers everywhere.
And how could I be so lucky as to have had two Christmas-loving champion decorators in my life. My Mom created a magical world at home when I was growing up and now my long-suffering wife does the same for our home as I slide steadily down the other side of life’s steep hill. Starting in October and ending in February, dozens of tubs containing hundreds of shiny, sparkling goodies appear from the basement and suddenly all around are the thousand points of light — one for every smile of the season.
But we’re talking about a Maudlin Weenie who used to load up the better-half and the two rotten kidlets into the old Dodge Caravan for an engaging and enthralling annual three-hour tour called “looking at Christmas lights.”
This thrilling adventure consisted mainly of continually scraping foggy iced-up inside car windows and fielding many Christmas questions like: “Dad, can we go home now?”
And speaking of dads, I remember one year in particular when my own Dad brought home something that would shape every Christmas to come. It was Christmas Eve and he had been at work downtown and he stopped at Builder’s Hardware when a crazy toy caught his eye in the store window. He couldn’t resist surprising us with the Big Loader that year.
Big Loader is a clever little battery operated dump truck that goes around a track picking up a load of tiny black marbles, going up a little hill and dumping them into a hopper, and then turning itself around, transforming back into a front end loader again. Heading back down the track to pick up the same load and go up the hill again and start all over. … Over and over again in a marvelous display of ingenious repetition and delightfully perfect perpetual motion.
He loved that inspired little toy, and he knew that even the biggest humbug grinch couldn’t help but smile, opening a crack that let a little Christmas in, and that every kid, young and old, would send the delighted giggles our into the air of our home, sprinkling laughter like confetti.
Every year Dad would proudly dig out the Big Loader box, setting up the track on the card table, snapping it together, then pressing the button and watching the big-little dump truck do its amazing tricks. He would stand there watching with a grin and a shake of his head, and I knew it was officially Christmas.
The years flew by as they like to do and suddenly the toy wasn’t so much of a loader anymore and it didn’t act so big. And a few years ago Christmas was coming and I was missing Dad and missing Mom and I was even missing Builders Hardware and I found myself wondering what it was going to be like when the Big Loader wouldn’t work anymore.
And lo and behold, as so often happens, you find what you didn’t know you were looking for when you’re busy searching for something else. I was fully engaged in one of my eight-minute shopping blitzes, reaching for a Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure, when I spotted it.
I had never seen one in a store before, and I’ve never seen another one anywhere else since, but there it was. Big Loader — a different coloured dump truck and track in a different box, but the exact same clever, perpetually busy toy that had captivated my Dad all those years ago. There was only one on the shelf and it was meant for me, of that I had no doubt.
Now every year, in the middle of the magical sparkling wonderland at our house, it’s my job to set up the Big Loader. And I stand there with a grin and a shake of my head and the family knows it is officially Christmas.
So I think I’ll go put the Kristin Chenoweth Christmas CD on the stereo, grab a Pot of Gold chocolate or two, sit by one of our beautiful Christmas trees and turn on Big Loader, and just sit and watch and be really thankful for a while.
It’s my wish that everyone can have their own version of Big Loader this Christmas and every Christmas, and, like me, have a lot to be thankful for.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer and filmmaker. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.