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The Crazy Things We Did by Doug Nelson

“Christmas 1952”

I always loved Christmas, and still do. But I remember one Christmas in particular. We always began the Christmas season on what is now called Black Friday by a family outing to pick out just the right tree. Normally the day after Thanksgiving was cold and snow covered most of the ground in Northern Illinois. After we had purchased our tree we would spend the next several hours making popcorn and stringing the kernels on thread, making long chains to hang on the tree. At the same time Dad would hang the lights while Mom cut brightly colored construction paper into strips which Val and I would roll and glue together to form more chains. Next a few Christmas Balls made out of apples covered with caramel and rolled in colored popcorn. Last but not least was the tinsel. It had to be placed on the tree one strand at a time. As you might imagine my second favorite part of Christmas was eating the tree.
For time sake let’s fast forward the story a couple weeks. Dad asked me if I wanted to help him build a play kitchen for my sister Val. Dad was pretty good at building things and I was excited to help. We built some counter space with a cut out for a small sink then cupboards above them and a wooden refrigerator. My job was to paint the refrigerator white and the cupboards brown. We then painted some rings on part of the counter for a stove. Val was not allowed to come into the basement where the state of the art kitchen was being built. We finished it just before the magical day and Dad said I really had talent.
Christmas morning came and I was doubly excited. I couldn’t wait to open my gifts but even more I wanted to see the look on Val’s face when she saw her kitchen. Val got a doll that was almost as big as she was and I got a huge sheet of plywood and a train. I also got some hand tools because Dad said I really showed promise. He would help me build a table for my new Lionel train.
I couldn’t wait to get started, so I hurried down stairs in preparation of building my new table. Val’s kitchen took up one wall. Dad’s shop took up another and Moms sewing room and laundry took the others. That only left the middle of the basement for my table. Problem was there was a huge timber right where my table needed to be. Not a problem, I pulled out my new saw and began to make my way through the 4×4. I was almost through when my saw became lodged in the beam. I tried everything I could think of to free it, including hitting it with my new hammer.
Dad came to the top of the stairs and hollered, “What’s all the ruckus down there?” I replied, “I’m building my train table but my saw is stuck.” Dad flew down the stairs while saying, “Don’t move, I’ll be right there.
He explained the reason my saw was stuck was the house was sitting on it. Then he took my tools and said “I said I would help you, now we have to get a new beam before we can go further.”
To make a long story short, the beam became a mountain in the center of the table with two tunnels. Everyone helped make a Paper Mache’ Mountain to hide the splice where Dad repaired the main support beam and I painted it green. After Dad was sure I understood that I almost brought the house down, I got my tools back.

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