This column originally appeared in the Smith Mountain Eagle on December, 10, 2008. It was the last column I wrote.
Howdy! Ida B. Peevish coming at you from Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop in the heart of downtown Rock Bottom US of A, where we running our pre-Christmas and/or End of the Year Close-out Bait and Beauty Blow-out, wherein we give you a Christmas-tree shaped bouffant and decorate it appropriately to match your tree at home and give you a handful of crawdads to use as either bait or decorative items. If your tree is short of ornaments, those crawdads will do in a pinch. Their little claws will clip right onto your tree branches. Sling a little glitter on them and you have unique and lovely ornaments that your guests are sure to envy. Now lessee what we got in the mail:
Dear Ida B.I don’t have any idea how to decorate this year. Seems like I’ve done it all. Plus this year, I will have all my grandkids visiting and they can’t keep their hands off stuff. Do you have any ideas?—Puzzled
Dear Puzzled: Let them kids do the decorating for you. When they arrive, dip their hands in green paint and let them run all around the house putting their hands on stuff. After they’ve maxed out with the green, wash their hands and put red paint on the noses. Then tell them to stick their nose on as many green handprints that they can find. When they get done, you’ll have something that looks like holly (if you squint a lot) all over everything. Plus the kids will be too tired to mess with anything else. Just make sure you use washable paint.
Dear Ida B. I just don’t know what to do this Christmas for my six kids, my fifteen step-kids, my thirty or so nieces, nephews, step-nieces, step-nephews, etc. I want to make Christmas memorable for them, but money is tight and I can’t play favorites. Plus they’ve already got about every kind of toy you can imagine. What do you suggest?—Cashed Out
Dear Cash Cow: If it’s memorable you want, don’t buy any of them anything. That ought to make this Christmas one that they’ll remember. Of course, don’t be surprised if they forget you pretty quick.
Dear Ida B. With money being tight this year, I don’t know what to do. I get lots of presents from folks and I’ll be embarrassed if I can’t give anything in return. What do you suggest.—Strapped for Cash
Dear Strappy: One word: Re-gift. Here’s how it works. Take one of the gifts you got last year that you never used. If you already unwrapped it, you will have to rewrap it. Put a blank gift card on it and keep a pen handy. When somebody holding a gift appears on your stoop, invite them in and graciously accept their gift. Tell them it’s too pretty to open right now and you will open it later. While they aren’t looking, write their name on the blank gift tag and give them the gift you had set aside. After the next gift-bearer appears, say the same thing, quickly change the name on the tag of the gift the first person gave you, etc. Do this as many times as necessary. At the end, you will have a gift left that you can give next year when the cycle will repeat. Some folks in Rock Bottom have been doing this for years and nobody has caught on yet.
Dear Ida B. I am a newcomer to Rock Bottom and I wondered if there are any special Rock Bottom Christmas customs I should be aware of.—Newcomer
Dear Newcomer: The first custom is partaking of the pre-Christmas special here at Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop. You cannot truly fit into Rock Bottom society unless you have big hair. We can help. Next, you should partake of Rock Bottom Church of the Surging Inner Spirit’s annual Christmas Bingo Extravaganza. The church used to have a Christmas pageant but had to discontinue it because of livestock behavior problems, high winds blowing away angels and bathrobes, fist fights over who qualified to be Virgin Mary, lack of wise men among the general population, and nobody willing to stand out in the cold for a couple of hours. Everybody is happy at Bingo, except for some of the losers. If it gets too cold in the church basement, the Rev. Al E. Looyah breaks out the communion wine and everybody has a swig. That always seems to warm everybody up—and folks have been known to break in ahead of time and turn down the thermostat. Finally, you should graciously accept any fruitcake offered to you, but under no circumstances should you actually eat it. Consider fruitcakes as something for display purposes only and immediately re-gift any that you receive. There are some Rock Bottom fruitcakes that have been making the rounds for years. Some neighborhoods have their own peculiar customs, but the three mentioned here are pretty much standard for the whole area.
Dear Ida B. Rumor has it you are going out of business soon. Say it ain’t so?—Big Fan
Dear Big Fannie: It is so. Ida’s Salon of Beauty is closing down as a result of the economy. When you can’t make your mortgage payment or make needed home repairs, you ain’t likely to have money to fix yourself up, no matter how much you might need it. Plus, I am getting too old to be standing on my feet for 10 hours a day working against nature and trying to make folks look decent when they don’t have much for me to work with. As for giving advice, there are now a lot of TV shows that do that in more spectacular ways than I can. If you really need my advice, you can still get Peevish Advice and More Peevish Advice on Amazon.com. Plus those books make real good Christmas gifts for folks you purely can’t stand but are obligated to give a gift too. Enlightening the dim ones for the last 10 years has been fun, but sometimes you gotta move on.
Remember, you get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free—but I’m moving on. Y’all have a happy holiday season.