Biff America: High and dry
“Happy anniversary, you two love birds!!! Just wanted you guys to know you are in my thoughts today.” That phone message from my old pal Hank was a welcome surprise. He lives in London, and we can go several months without contact.
Hank’s good salutations were much needed. This has been somewhat of a tough, early winter. There have been health issues with my mate undergoing knee surgery, and my participation in public service is as pleasant as squeezing lemon juice into my eyes. I guess the only good news is that we are not enduring a global pandemic — oh, wait!
Even during the best of times, the holidays, here in the High Country, can ramp up the stress level. Most of us are far from family, and our community is busy with guests making simple tasks like shopping and driving more difficult. To make matters worse, my mate is insisting that since she is housebound, we turn up the thermostat to 60. She must think I’m a Rockefeller.
Knee injuries are abundant here in the High Country. Though over the years I’ve done damage to my three knees — left knee, right knee, kid-nee — Ellie is from sturdy Swedish stock so this recent injury is a first for her. Being under the same roof with someone who loves to ski more than anyone I know, yet cannot, adds a measure of melancholy around the old compound. I try to be empathetic. When I forget, she reminds me.
Everyone I know — healthy or injured — who loves to play in the snow is also a bit frustrated. This ski season has been as dry as a Mormon wedding.
When those of us who have lived here for a while are discussing the lack of snow, we always fall back on the same declaration, “It will snow. It always does.”
That of course is true, unless it doesn’t.
But there is hope. This week, we celebrated Ullr Fest, our winter carnival which honors the Norse god of snow and seeks his powder bounty.
So with the drought, injuries and the residual stress brought on by the holidays, it was certainly nice to get Hank’s unexpected and thoughtful anniversary greeting.
I wrote him back, “Hank, hey man, thanks for the kind words, I’ll remember them in 10 months when it is actually our anniversary.” It did not matter that Hank got it wrong. It is the thought that counts.
As luck and providence would have it, the same day I received good wishes from Hank, I was wished a “Happy Hanukkah” by a nice lady who I encountered while both of us were shopping for long underwear at a nearby store.
I was keeping with my practice of annoying everyone I come in contact with by continually humming/singing the first tune that comes in my head most mornings. When I saw on my calendar that we were well into Hanukkah, I begun humming the Hava Nagila, the song often accompanying the horah wedding dance. I began my humming at around 7 a.m. and was still going strong at noon.
While I was at a local sports shop looking through a stack of long underwear hoping to find a pair that would fit a man of my unique proportions, I was humming that tune (I thought quietly).
Along with limiting my hearing and causing me to be more attractive, wearing a mask limits my peripheral awareness. There was a lady standing right next to me in the underwear department who I at first did not notice.
When I glanced over, she said, “Happy Hanukkah.”
Though being raised Catholic, I felt a sense of kinship to that lady. Again, though she got it wrong, it’s the thought that counts. I returned the greeting but decided to relocate to the men’s section, thinking it might be nice to have long underwear with a fly.
The past few holiday seasons there seems to be a manufactured outrage over the fact that the “Merry Christmas” greeting has, over time, morphed into “Happy Holidays.” There even is a tagline for this outrage: “The war on Christmas.” Of course, this morphing was a result of the fact that you never knew if the person you were greeting believed in Santa.
Whether someone celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus or Kwanza, “Happy Holidays” covers all. The greeting is less about a particular faith but more a greeting of holiday fellowship and compassion.
So happy holidays to all of you.
But now that it is finally dumping snow, perhaps I’ll amend that to “Happy Ullr.”
After all, it’s also the snow that counts.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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