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Christmas in Twisp - A Duvall Kid's Perspective

By Chad Duvall

 Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house in Twisp was always an event to look forward to. Nothing captures a kid's attention more than a 3 to 4
hour long trip to the middle of nowhere, crammed in the back of an old baby blue Ford station wagon, while jockeying with your brothers for position the entire way.

            Once Mom and Dad finally corralled us into the car, we knew that it would be just 30 minutes until we reached Moses Lake, where we would get out and eat
like KINGS at McDonalds. After a very satisfying 1200-calorie gut bomb, we raced back to the car. Everything was a competition when we were kids. This particular
event was the "run as fast as you can back to the car to avoid the middle seat" dash. Once inside the car, it was on to more activities such as "foot stomping", "leg pinching,"
"elbow throwing" and "name calling" in the back seat, with the two people we were the least happy to be stuck with for so close and for so long- brothers.

            Poor Mom spent half the trip with her head turned, eyes gazing half way between us and the back door jam of the car. We never really could figure out what she
was looking at, but we knew she was pissed. Occasionally, we  would lean forward to try to make eye contact with her just to be funny. That move generally set off a
sequence of events that usually brought Dad into the game, which was neither desirable nor fair from our point of view.

Dad had the presence of "Cool Hand Luke" up in the front seat, his hand blindly swinging back to let you know that you were in for it. He didn't care who, what,
or where the smack would land as long as there was contact. This included whether you were even a part of the "incident" or not. No wonder we were so good at dodge
ball in school.

Dad would always dole out threats like: "I'm going to turn this car around right now you  little bastards", but we knew this wasn't true, because he was looking
forward to this more than we were. He would also threaten to pull over to beat our little asses. Also a lie.  If you knew Dad, you knew he wasn't going to stop unless
we needed gas or he was hungry. A senseless stop would ruin the good time we were making.

            Another notable sign of Mom's angst was her infamous "ventril-o-scolding", where she would bark a stern "BOYS, KNOCK IT OFF!" through clenched teeth.
This was an amazing display of impatience and anger dealt with incredible efficiency. The words came out so clearly, but she didn't even open her mouth. Wow.

            Just outside of Coulee City and back in time about 400 years was a joyride we liked to call the "Hilly Road". This was simply a part of the road that had a lot
of hills. Brilliant, I know.  If hit at the right speed it would give you a weightless feeling in your stomach, which was like a drug for us kids. "The Back Seat Posse" would
feel the need for speed to get this feeling, no matter what the road conditions were like. Dad would resist at first, but he usually came around if for no other reason than
to shut us up. We usually got our fix if memory serves me right.

            As we approached Twisp, we always passed through the budding metropolises of Carlton and Methow. These two towns always brought smiles to our faces
for two reasons: 1) We knew we were very close to Grandma and Grandpa's house and 2) They were bigger shit-holes than Othello, where we were growing up. No
matter how bad things got in our home land, we could always count on good 'ol Carlton and Methow to anchor the list of "best places to live in Eastern Washington."
We couldn't wait! We were almost to our final destination. Of course, we were excited to see the family, but since our legs were cramped and our asses had been
asleep for at least an hour, getting out of the car was priority number one.

            Aaaahhhhh, we were finally there and usually the first ones to arrive. After a few strategically tossed snowballs, it was time to unpack the car of all the gifts that
Mom and Dad brought for everyone else. This seemed to last as long as the trip itself. This was truly a great experience for us kids. Everyone bought for everyone
and we all got at least four presents. There was none of this "White Elephant" crap where everyone gets one cheesy gift and pretends to be excited about it. No way!
We all got good stuff and that's what made this trip so cool.

            As we walked into Grandma and Grandpa's rustic log cabin, we were reminded of an old time casino we saw on some Spaghetti Western. The air was filled
with smoke, the table was stocked with cards and poker chips, and in the hazy distance were the neon colored lights of the Christmas tree. The chirp of the police
scanner seemed to be a bit out of place, but hell, it was the '80s and Grandma and Grandpa were hip with the times.

            Grandma would greet us with a hug and a chuckle and Grandpa, wearing a hunter-orange cap complete with ear flaps, would ruff up our hair and laugh about
it with his tongue half way out. He would also always find some way to throw in the well-honed phrase, "Well, Je..sus....Christ" as he listened to Dad's update. In the
distance you could hear Grandma's faint, "Well I'll be damned", as she listened to Mom's side of things.  

            After fulfilling the obligatory greetings, we made the annual mad dash for the popcorn balls and cookie jar. After that it was on to the candy jar with all the
stale hard candies. That didn't matter because all candy is good candy. It didn't take long to get bored in that house. We usually ended up in the back room jumping
on the beds or snooping around the house like a cat in a new environment. As our other relatives showed up we would race out to the living room to greet them and
to scope out their gift sacks. It was all about quantity. We knew we were in for a good Christmas if our aunts and uncles had to make multiple trips out to the car to
get all the loot.

Before we could get comfortable at the table for the big game of gambling, we had to get ready for bed. This consisted of again jockeying for position on the
floor in the living room, before the rest of the gang showed up. Since we were usually the first to arrive, we had first choice of that prime shag carpet real estate.

            The big dilemma was who would be stuck sleeping next to Heather. If I remember right, she had enough energy to power a small city. She would show up
after being cooped up from her long ride and unleash all her fury to who ever was close to her. This usually consisted of: tackling, yelling, and a few nicely placed
ass plants to the middle of your back.

            After the annual battle with Heather it was time for bed. Not an easy task due to the parents smoking and laughing at the table no more than six feet away.
As soon as we would raise our heads to see what the hell was so funny, we where told to lie down and go back to sleep (as if any sleeping was being done). Not
only that, but the Grandfather clock would be ticking so loud that I couldn't do anything but count the amount of ticks between laughing outbursts. Not to mention
the low baritone ring of the clock letting you know exactly what time it was. That was a joy in itself. If that wasn't bad enough there was the every half hour clock-
ringing symphony. There must have been ten clocks in the living room alone, none of which were set to the same time. On the hour (depending on which clock you
were looking at) one would start to ring then another, then another  and so on. This would last for what seemed like an eternity, but that seemed to just get you all
revved up for the next curtain call.

            Christmas morning...

Excitement was in the air. There were presents under the tree. Everyone was in a good mood.  And of course there was a myth that Santa Claus had been
there last night. We believed it even though we saw everyone come in the house one by one and put the presents under the tree themselves, just as we had done
when we got there.

             To be a kid at that time, on that day, was "The Life". We couldn't unwrap our gifts fast enough. They were flying at us from every direction as Grandpa
would hand them out to his "little helpers." We got all kinds of stuff. Most of it we played with for only that day, but that was fine with us, because it was stuff
that Santa brought us.

Then it was time to eat. Grandma's chicken noodles were the best. No matter how much we ate, there was always more. We couldn't sit at the big table,
though. We had our own "kids table." Jee...sus...Christ, that sucked.

No way was there enough room at that table for everyone.  So eventually one of the kids got to sit at the big table and that was a total violation of the
rules, and the civil unrest began. One quick "ventril-o-scold" from Mom usually ended the protest rather quickly. After dinner came the Coconut Surprise – so
sweet even a kid would get sick from it, but that wouldn't turn us away. That shit was awesome!

            Overall, the trip was worth the hassle. We left that place with more crap than we knew what to do with. The station wagon was now filled to the roof with
games, music, clothes, remote control cars, and a bunch of useless crap that Mom and Dad got. Dad could barely see out the back window to drive and we
sometimes had to hold some of the stuff on our laps. That usually kept us quiet for most of the way home and probably made the return trip a lot easier on
Mom and Dad.

            Merry Christmas.


Chad Duvall is a self proclaimed procrastinator hailing from the Great Northwest. With a disabling and crippling case of A.D.D., he has a lot of time to think back on
stupid situations of his past. He is also an active musician playing Bass in a heavy metal band in Seattle, I ROT and enjoys digital photography. For money, Chad has
been a massage therapist for 10 years.

  Copyright  2008 S J Holetz

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