Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Night Before Bopmas

Earlier this year I found some time to scan a couple of boxes of letters that my parents had sent to each other when my dad was in the Navy, back in 1959 or so. They were recent high school graduates at the time, and much of what was in them you could probably predict – the ins and outs of daily life for two people who loved and missed each other, with occasional things tucked into the envelopes that they thought the other would find interesting.

My dad served as a radioman on a small-engine repair ship and spent most of his time in the service in Norfolk, though he did go to Havana twice before Castro took over and once got far enough north to see the northern lights. Otherwise, he said, it was pretty uneventful and he rarely ever considered his time in the service as worth bringing up in conversation. My mom was a college student during that whole time, immersed in books and classes, peering through the blue haze of cigarette smoke that filled classrooms in those pre-Surgeon-General’s-Report days. It was a lovely conversation to read, nearly three quarters of a century later.

One of the more interesting finds in those letters were a couple of Christmas poems – parodies of the classic T’was the Night Before Christmas, adapted to the Beat Generation vibes of the late 1950s and filtered through the sensibilities of the US Navy. I have no idea what role my dad or his shipmates may or may not have played in their creation, but as a radioman he had access to the equipment he needed to find and reproduce them.

The first, entitled “The Night Before Bopmas,” is clearly a teletype and was created by one or more intelligent young men who were clearly not being stretched by their responsibilities.

The other, untitled, but addressed to All Hep Cats, may have been the work of a single creator named E. Smith, but is otherwise similar.

They’re a lot of fun to read.

Christmas Eve has always been the bigger holiday on my side of the family but it’s pretty low key this year as it was last year, though we’re all healthy this time. We’re hanging out here at home, on a bitterly cold day in southern Wisconsin. The winds have moderated somewhat from yesterday and the temperature has climbed into positive numbers (Fahrenheit) for the first time since Thursday, but it’s a good day to stay inside.

The chickens are fed, the cats and rabbits are asleep, and the gifts are wrapped. I’ve got lovely music playing as I write this – a singer I’ve only recently discovered named Laufey, which tells you how far behind the times I am as she has apparently been popular on TikTok for a couple of years now. The Christmas cards will go out in January as per our usual practice so we’re not worrying about those at the moment. We’ll have an abbreviated Feast of the Seven Fishes (three this year, if you include the anchovies in the Caesar salad dressing – as long as it’s an odd number it counts) for dinner, and I made a French Silk pie from scratch this afternoon because why not? Perhaps afterward we’ll play cards together.

It’s been a long year. It’s been a long couple of years. But for right now I am warm and dry, surrounded by my family, and generally doing well.

Boppy Xmas to all.

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