Harley Hay

Harley Hay: New Boxing Day tradition

It’s one of the five classic elements of existence – you know: earth, wind, fire, water, and chocolate. Out of that quintuple group of forces of Mother Nature, however, fire is perhaps the weirdest one and sometimes it can be the scariest. Especially in the wrong hands, like, say the evil mutant in the Marvel Comics called Pyro. But when it’s safely contained in your backyard firepit, fire can be a non-evil superhero like the Fantastic Four founding member called The Human Torch.

Okay so that’s a bit of a stretched simile just to mention the fact that Santa brought the fam damily a new firepit this Christmas. Santa had seen an excellent firepit in a flyer in November and it was even more excellent in that it was 50 per cent off on account of not everybody has an interest in purchasing a firepit in November. Well, Santa went to the store only to find the pit “out of stock.” In fact, according to the slightly grumpy sales person, there “wasn’t a single one in all of Alberta.” Don’t you hate it when flyers fib?

Two weeks later, Santa is in Edmonchuk doing some stuff, and as a last minute thought, drops into the-same-only-different hardware store there and sure enough – out of stock. The nice lady there however, looks it up and says, “But there are eight of them in our store in Leduc.” Santa happily stopped in Le-Duck and snagged one.

Question: how do you hide a box the size of a small refrigerator for a month in a full and busy house? Answer: you put it in your basement office and throw a blanket over it and say, “Don’t go there.” In fact, come Christmas morning, that was how the firepit was wrapped. Sitting under (in front of) the tree, a big lump of a blanket with a bow on top.

It was quite a hit, on account of we sure do like gathering family and friends around the old pit of fire. In fact, we’ve already gone through several backyard firepits over the years. The last two have been nice brass-type bowls which have had so many flamin’ infernos that holes have been burned right through the bottom. And last year, I started a new personal tradition.

I don’t know about you, but between Amazon deliveries, extreme generosity of family members, and getting embarrassingly spoiled at Christmas, we end up with such a pile of empty boxes that outside our back door there’s practically a cardboard Everest. That’s really why they call the day after Christmas “Boxing Day.”

So rather than fill the blue recycling bin to the brim every garbage day for the next four months, I decided to bundle up, shovel a path and put the pit to work. I found that it was strangely satisfying and relaxing to cut up a pile of boxes one by one and feed them to the fuel-hungry firepit.

So there I was again this year on the one day when the temperature actually rose to a balmy minus teen-something, out in the backyard giving the newly assembled firepit a demanding “Boxing Day” tryout. I must have been out there for a couple of hours, huddled happily on a frozen lawn chair poking at the flourishing flames with my special firestick (which is an old putter from my golf bag that ‘somehow’ had the putter end broken off).

Santa will be happy to know that the pit passed with flying, flaming colours and it was well worth going, literally, the extra mile to find one that didn’t exist in the whole of Alberta.

Next year, I’m going to ask Santa for an electric log-splitter. I hope he keeps an eye on the flyers.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.