Daddy took his hunting very seriously. This was a man’s sport, an entitlement. Real men hunted and fished. A man’s outdoor gear was a reflection of him. Daddy would have sooner worn lace panties than not follow the unwritten rules. His hunting gear was a necessity, not an extravagance like a dependable car, bills paid on time, and clothes for the family. Daddy always had money held out of his paycheck weekly for the Christmas Club, but Mother never could remember that deer season came around the same time as the Christmas Club checks were issued. By early December, both had long unwritten lists in their heads. A day or so before the check was to be issued, Daddy would be in an unaccustomed jovial mood, sitting at the table with one of his buddies drinking coffee, and casually mention his plan to purchase a Manchester #1108 Rifle with a scope. Nearby at the stove, steam rose from Mother’s ears. The Manchester #1108 Rifle cost about the same as her Christmas list.
The Annual Christmas Fight was on. Daddy’s manhood was at stake. He couldn’t emasculate himself by backing down on his purchase after bragging in front of his hunting buddies. Mother completely misunderstood a man’s needs and considered him selfish, hurting his feelings. “When he was a kid he only got an orange for Christmas, and was proud of that. Besides, she should be able to get everything on her list for about $12.00. She just needed to go through the store, pick out what she wanted, take it up to the register, and haggle with the manager. That’s the only sensible way to shop. That’s what he’d do if he handled the shopping! Did he have to manage the house and make the living? And besides, where were the clothes and toys he bought the kids and those three nice dresses he’d just bought her? She just didn’t take of stuff right or we’d still have them? Blah, blah, blah.”
Mother snidely pointed out, “that was over ten years ago. Besides, how would you know how much things cost now? You haven’t put a toe in a store, paid a bill, been to a bank, or handled any business since we got married. Don’t you think anybody besides YOU might want a nice Christmas!” Suggesting he might be selfish was the final insult! It was on!
Eventually, they would both develop battle fatigue and go about their business. Daddy would go off in a huff and buy his rifle, but tone his pride down a bit, and make do with a cheaper model. Deeply offended at Mother’s demands, he would hand over $30 or $35 dollars left from the Christmas Check. Once she recovered from her rage at his everlasting selfishness, she would shuffle bills, frantically glue in trading stamps, put us kids to selling coke bottles, feed us more meals of beans, potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and canned vegetables, less with meat and fruit. She would make some homemade gifts and check Goodwill out. Grandma always sent a huge box of Christmas gifts, her sister Annie would send money, and Mother would manage to pull together a wonderful Christmas.
On Christmas morning we would wake up to find gifts piled all around the Christmas tree. Mother would be relieved to have manufactured a miracle once again. Daddy enjoyed seeing his children enjoying a bounteous Christmas and was reassured Mother could do well with a little money when she half tried. Maybe next year he could save back enough to get that……….