NCFM Happy Holiday Wish, burnt popcorn, why me, Nuts, it’s Christmas

December 24, 2015


Two days before Christmas the department store was less elbow-to-elbow than expected though the parking lot could have passed for a boisterous bumper-car ride.

In line at the checkout the woman before me was about to buy a hair curling iron, a jar of Original Organic Gourmet Popping Corn, a small tabletop EasyPop popcorn machine, can of mixed nuts, jar of crème marshmallow, assorted Christmas candies, and a half a dozen slow burn Jalapeño Peppers the rich color of perpetual love, Baldur mistletoe green. She separated the EasyPop from the rest with conveyor belt divider bars, in this case orange, those bars that keep one customer’s stuff from intruding on another customer’s stuff, without which lines come to a crawl, tempers shorten and people wonder why me.

I was under my arm holding a Razer for my grandson. It’s not for his beard he is only five.  The Razor has a wheel in the front and one in the back connected to a large but narrow sushi plate like aluminum platform. One foot goes on the sushi plate, the other pushes from the ground, steering by a handgrip on top a vertical pole at one end of the narrow aluminum platform, top speed, exhilarating slow, respectively. It’s a raw scrape knee and elbow push scooter. His mother, my daughter-in-law, says he’ll love it. First, she wanted me to buy him paint for his bedroom, two gallons, which she said he would love too. Thinking back as far as I could, getting excited about house paint for Christmas rang no bells, not at any age. Plus, since when did Santa’s elves start working at Sherwin-Williams.

I’m a microwave guy, as in oven. Sometimes the rotating plate doesn’t rotate. Sometimes I forget to use the “Popcorn” button and program in too many minutes. Sometimes I get the bag upside down. It burns, not all of it, but enough to stink the place up and sometimes set off the kitchen fire alarm. Air freshener, take out batteries, eat the white, all good, it’s popcorn, better with butter, or string with fruit for garlands on the tree. It is almost Christmas.

I lightly tapped her shoulder, pointed, and asked, “Do you like it? Does that thing work well?”

The clerk rang up the hair-curling iron. Smiling, the woman said, “Yup we use it all the time, really like it. This one’s for a friend. You don’t have to use oil either. No additives or chemicals.” Into the bag went the jar of Original Organic Gourmet Popping Corn. Next in, the can of mixed nuts, jar of crème marshmallow and assorted Christmas candies. All over the place, bags full, elbow to elbow, in a hurry, have to go. Only two more days to Christmas you know.

She was attractive late 30’s maybe 40, nice smile. I said,  “I remember we used to put oil and popcorn cornels in a big fry pan with a lid, bring up the heat until it started popping, and shake it fast back and forth on the burner until the last cornel popped,” thinking she would remember too. She did not. The I must be from Mars look confirmed it. I burned a lot of popcorn that way, too. Pouring it into a bowl mixed up the burnt with the good. Well worth eating, but like picking succulent Maiden berries from low-lying clusters jumbled with sour weeds. I thought Mistletoe, bags full, she carried to go.

Microwaves being a big improvement, the burnt stuff usually stuck on the bottom or on one side of the bag, the good stuff better divided much easier to eat. I’m much older than she, not from Mars, and over 50 years later still know where the pan is, and the lid. Air consumed, aroma, popcorn, wonderful, people, everywhere a glow, along with a Grinch or two, and even a Scrooge, almost all well two days before Christmas, still have to buy some bows.

“Yes, I’m charging that one, thank you,” she said to the clerk pointing to the EasyPop. She paid for the rest in cash. I missed the half a dozen slow burn Jalapeño Peppers being rung-up and bagged. I had zoned out for a few seconds musing about pan popped popcorn burned or not with the Razer now down on the conveyor belt behind the orange bar in front of it. In another sack went the EasyPop.

I mused a millisecond more until nudged from behind. Turning slightly the orange divider bar was now behind me and a woman was loading the conveyor belt with enough makeup to paint a house. She had apparently reached around me somehow and snatched one of the orange bars so her stuff would not mingle with my soon to be grandson’s Razer stuff, which might have prevented slowing down our line, tempers shortening and causing each of us to wonder why me. I failed, broke conveyor belt protocol, caused a behind the back nudge-snatch for one of the only two orange bar dividers in our queue. I smiled. She did not, the Razer the better choice for sure. My grandson will love it, scraped knees elbows and all, without makeup or house paint, he’ll smile after recovering from every fall. Who knew, such happiness from a mall, still two days to Christmas, that’s all…?

Until then I had contemplated going back to get an EasyPop. No more burnt popcorn, no more additives, no more artificial flavors. No guts I guess. Nuts! Store was not elbow-to-elbow, but the lines were not getting any shorter. It would take another 20 minutes minimum. I could suffer more looks for breaking shopper protocol.  Besides the failed hand-back pass of the orange divider bar, earlier a man wearing an Santa hat bumped me with an orange shopping cart, said under his breath, “Watch where you a going.” I smiled, said “Sorry.” He did not smile back. Instead, he picked up the back of his shopping cart; kind’a snorted, gave me a look like I was from Mars, and banged the cart’s back wheels on the concrete floor. After all, it was two days before Christmas and all through the house…had to be a fake Santa, obviously in need of a cookie and hot chocolate. Santa does not give the look, snort, or bang shopping carts back wheels first. Maybe it’s the color orange that make some see red like slow burn jalapeño peppers, or poor shopper conveyor-belt-bar protocol and burnt popcorn for the lost and lonely, wheel bang-bang faux Santa needs a hug. Christmas will be here very soon!

Crème marshmallow, popcorn, mixed nuts, candy on top, cut into squares, rolled into balls, strung on trees, just before Christmas, mistletoe please. House paint, makeup, Razers, hair curling irons, the look, men even from Mars, elbow-to-elbow, banging shopping cart wheels at the mall, Grinch or two, and Scrooge, all good. To you and yours, even if your popcorn burns, rejoice, IT’S CHRISTMAS, with family and friends, or not. It’s yours if you want it, whether you nuke it, do EasyPop, or burn it in a pan, here’s a wish for you that it will be the best it can. It’s the simple things, the hug from a grandson, Razer for sure, he will remember he loves you every turn that he can. Back to elbow-to-elbow, bumper car scurry, drive safe my friends, no hurry or worry, Christmas is here. It’s once a year. Enjoy, understand, why me, rejoice.

Think popcorn, marshmallows, and hot chocolate. Have a great holiday season whatever you believe.


NCFM NOTE: Ok, the gift above is free and loose. So? Don’t you get a bit tired of organizations sending you yearend Tarzan chest thumping of this and that they did please send money? If you want to send us some that’s great, much thanks in advance, and much thanks to those of you who already have, but we will pass on the chest thumps.

Moreover, if you are able, please reach out to someone whose holidays are not so great, someone who might not have a grandson to whom to give a Razor, or a family getting all gooey and giddy rolling up marshmallow popcorn balls, or even have a roof over their heads, family or one that care. If you are one of many having a difficult time, feeling blue, alone, you to need to reach out too. There are people who do care, care about you, including us, me and NCFM. Help someone you don’t know smile, that’s a “why me.” Then again, since 1977 NCFM has been marching along like the Every Ready bunny. We must be doing something right. To our members and contributors, thank you very much for all you do. You help us make the world a better place for the rest of us. You are truly very special. Think popcorn.

In remembrance, this year, not to far from last Christmas, NCFM was bequeathed a substantial gift from a man who believed we are a “pay it forward” organization… thank you, for both gifts, the compliment is priceless. May you rest in peace.

Harry Crouch, President

national coalition for men

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