On To Shine

You thought you might be getting hilarity and even exciting group activities today, finally?!

Too bad! CBH has stolen this bus while TFH and Epicus are in the back napping off LisaPocalypse: The Day the Plot Stood Still. And Comic Book Harriet wants to celebrate Epiphany.

Epiphany is the traditional end to the Christmas season. In the Western Church it celebrates the visit of the Magi to a young Jesus, in the Eastern Church, Jesus’ baptism. In both cases the idea is that Jesus is being revealed to the world as something to be revered.

The origin of the word comes from epiphaneia, Greek for manifestation, striking appearance, or a festival held in commemoration of the appearance of a god at some particular place.” And the very ancient root of the Greek phainein, ‘to show’ is an ancient Indo-European root word *bhā-, meaning ‘to shine’. From this root, words like beacon, banner, fantasia, emphasis, and even photograph are all related.

In my family, we leave Christmas decorations up until Epiphany. Except of course in those years where our Christmas tree has turned into a grey prickly fire-hazard by December 31. So today we took down the tree at my parent’s house. And it got me thinking about Crankshaft.

I can feel Epicus rolling his eyes at me right now. Oh come on, Harriet, he’s thinking, No one here is interested in Crankshaft. I hate Crankshaft. And you constantly stanning for Crankshaft is cringier than a middle school talent show rendition of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story.’

Too bad! You didn’t take away my posting access! CBH is here, and she’s gonna talk about Crankshaft if she wants to! So you better avert your eyes, Epicus… or you’ll find yourself reading strips that may feature your fictional nemesis.

A month ago, when we had our awesome group chat google hangout, I confessed to everyone there that a Crankshaft strip had made me cry. And I saw Epicus’ eyes roll so far back in his head I was worried I’d have to call an exorcist.

Here are the strips.

And here’s why it made me cry.

This is the Little Pink House. It has been on my parents’ Christmas Tree every year since before I was born. It has been on my mother’s Christmas Tree nearly every year of her life. It was on my grandmother’s Christmas tree when she was a young child.

Every year, it is stored away in a box all to itself, wrapped in half a package of Kleenex. I remember my mother carefully unwrapping it, explaining it, and then putting it on one of the highest branches, right below the star. I remember being small and feeling naughty for touching it. I remember the year the Christmas Tree fell over, and how everyone in the family rushed to make sure the Little House was safe; before our baby ornaments, before Mom and Dad’s First Christmas ornament.

The last few years my grandma was able, we moved heaven and earth and piles of junk in the overstuffed garage to get her out to my parents’ for Christmas morning. My dad built a plywood ramp, and we pushed and shuffled, juggling walkers and wheelchairs and canes and cushions to maneuver her shrunken little precious body to sit comfortably in an easy chair in the living room. And she sat enthroned beside the Christmas Tree and looked until she saw it, and said, “There’s the Little House. It was on the tree when I was a girl.”

Can you imagine the anxiety? Having something that fragile and irreplaceable on the tree every year? I mean look at that picture. You can see my finger right through it! It’s thinner than a fingernail, and more delicate than a kindergarten memory. Have I had real life actual nightmares about this thing breaking? Yes, yes I have.

Crankshaft’s precious keepsake ornament broke, and OOF! Right in the feels meat in my chest. Stabbing right into my own personal fears about losing the physical touchstones that might remain always the same, despite the way the world around them changes and decays and even dies.

And Cranky, the old coot, tells his daughter that it’s okay. I see that trademark Funkyverse sepia toned memory with photo corners of young Ed and his wife Mary, and I’m reminded that every keepsake can be ground into dust, and it will never change the moment in the past that was. Pam’s still there, a truer and more lasting ornament of his marriage. And it’s okay. Traditions will survive as long as they’re able, wheeled, and supported, and cushioned. And when they’re gone, we’ll have memories for the future. If we have to replace every decoration which cheap Dollar Tree plastic, it’ll still be Christmas.

That’s why Crankshaft made me cry. Because I was looking at it from my perspective, and through my own lens. And I think that is something we should all remember as we prepare to take the last year of Funky Winkerbean to the pillory for judgement and punishment.

Tom has injected his world with so much of his personal experience, and we all bring our own experiences to table when we read it. What one person may see as a saccharine and cringy play for easily pulled heartstrings, will leave someone else choked up. One person’s non-sequitur is another person’s lived experience.

Crankshaft, himself, is a great example of this. Some people see in him an echo or caricature of a rascally but warmhearted old father, grandfather, or uncle that they loved. Others are reminded of a volatile tyrant who hurt them in ways they still feel.

If someone goes against the grain, and says, “No! I loved this!” we should let them. We should ask them to explain. And even if we still don’t get it, we should never try to take away whatever good they got.

Conversely, if someone makes a stand and says, “I hated this! It made me MAD!” They also should have their platform to speak their views.

I know this is going to sound weird coming from me, the woman who terrifies strangers and family alike with how much time she’s spent on Funky Winkerbean over the years: But it’s just a comic strip, guys. I can’t think of one thing that Batiuk has done or his strips have done that would justify telling people they are morally bad for genuinely enjoying them or parts of them.

There have been some eyebrow raising moments, justifiable to call out, but nothing beyond the pale.

Of course, I also think criticism and parody is fair game, and that the ironic enjoyment that we get from snarking on the Funkyverse is another net positive that the strip has created. Batiuk wanted to write thought-provoking stuff? He wanted to spark conversation?

Well the conversation is right here! And tomorrow, we bring out the BIG GUNS.

Tomorrow, we’ve got some big stuff to manifest!



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

62 responses to “On To Shine

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Jokes on YOU, CBH. My parents took down the tree every year on January 5th. So I am indeed well versed in Epiphany. Catholicism just embeds certain things in you that never go away, no matter how hard you try. We always had a fake tree, as Mom was in a house fire way, way back in the day and developed an irrational fear of the house burning down. It never did, so maybe it wasn’t that irrational after all. Hmmmm.

    Re: Crankshaft. Bah, humbug. Westview forever. Centerville, never.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Tonight…you will be visited by THREE CRANKSHAFTS!

      The young minor league pitcher and soldier….Crankshaft Past.

      The curmudgeonly vaguely 80ish year old bus driver…Crankshaft Present.

      And… most terrifying of ALL!!!

      A mysterious heavy box from O’Riley’s Autoparts, Delivered to your doorstep on the stroke of midnight!


      • Rusty Shackleford

        My Italian grandparents celebrated La Befana. It is based on a fairy tale of an old lady who flies around on a broomstick looking for baby Jesus and brings presents to the children.

        • Maxine of Arc

          In the story I know, the three magi stopped by La Befana’s house on their way to Bethlehem and when they departed in the morning, grateful for her hospitality, invited her to come with them on their journey. She declined, but later thought better of it, packed up gifts for the infant Jesus, and went chasing after them. She still hasn’t caught up, but leaves presents for the children as she passes through, still searching for the three wise men. I adore this story for some reason.

          La Befana vien de notte
          Con le scarpe tutte rotte
          Col vestito alla Romana
          Viva, viva La Befana!

    • Mela

      We used to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family the week after-so closer to Epiphany and also to my late father-in-law’s January 8th birthday. He shared his birthday with Elvis Presley, so the running joke in our family was that we really were celebrating the three kings: Jesus, Elvis, and my father-in-law.

      • LTPFTR

        My dear departed Dab (we called him that because we misspelled it on an Easter egg once) shared his January 9 birthday with Richard Nixon and he HATED it.

        • I also share that birthday with my late dad and the late, unlamented president. The saving grace for me is that it is also shared by legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

        • Maxine of Arc

          My birthday, September 16, is statistically the most common one. When I tell people that, they always pause and start doing math in their heads. (New Year’s.)

  2. sorialpromise

    You bring back Christmas memories. When I was real young, Mom and Dad had the big Christmas lights for the tree. Yet what was special is that it had the big orange percolating bubble light. Man, I loved that. That was our ‘50’s tree. Then in the ‘60’s, they got the aluminum tree with the rotating 4 color spindle. Perfection. It also had an added attraction. If you rubbed your feet on the living room carpet and touched the tree, you could get a shock/spark. Even better, there were 5 of us kids, and if you were lucky, you could shock them. Being fourth out of 6, I was generally the target, but my younger sister squealed louder. Good times. Good times.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      We had those bubble lights too, but they were old even in the 1970s. They eventually wore out and we never could replace them, until about the 2000s when plastic ones started showing up in stores. My family still adores them.

      • sorialpromise

        Thank you. My wife and I got the plastic ones also. They were beautiful. Loved the video. I have never seen a tree totally decked out in bubble lights before. Wow!
        We also got a couple of night lights that were bubble lights. Those were good too!

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          We had this set that must have been from the 1950s, if not the 40s. The wires were frayed, the metal bases got hot, parts where the color covering had worn off glowed angrily, and lord knows what that fluid was. Good times.

        • The Flash: But I thought you might like some holiday cheer yourself.

          Ultra-Humanite: An aluminum Christmas tree?

          The Flash: I know, it’s kind of cheesy, but…

          Ultra-Humanite: No, no. We had one just like it when I was… it’s very nice. The guard will show you out.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        This discussion on bubble lights is just what I was talking about when I said one person’s experience is another person’s non-sequiter.
        This strip from two years ago confused a number of our posters.

  3. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    What a wonderful essay, Harriet! It hit me right in the feels.

    I laughed, I sighed, I learned. I always learn something from you.

    I thought about Christmas as a kid and a real tree with strings of the big light bulbs, the bubble lights that are supposedly toxic (which I still have), foil tinsel, and blown glass ornaments. I thought about my family and our pets. I remember when my friend’s family got an aluminum tree with a spot light that changed colors.

    Mrs. idb bought a red glass chili pepper that was our special ornament. I haven’t put up a tree or any decorations for probably ten years.

    Thanks for making me remember, Harriet. Now I’ve got to listen to some hard core punk to get back to my usual crabby self.

  4. Green Luthor

    “The Day the Plot Stood Still”. Do the kids still say LOL?

    Honestly, I’d have to agree with you in regards to that Crankshaft story. It’s not overly sappy or maudlin like so many Funky stories felt like. And while Ed’s defining trait may be “grumpy mean a**hole”, his having a softer, more sentimental side isn’t really out of line. (Why Keesterman hangs out with him will probably forever remain a mystery, though.) (Though I also don’t share Epicus’ disdain for Crankshaft, so… do the kids still say YMMV?)

    In regards to the Epiphany, it’s also a bit of trivia that answers a question that some people may have. The Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, with January 5 being Epiphany Eve. From Christmas on December 25 to January 5 is twelve days. So if you’ve ever wondered what the “Twelve Days of Christmas” in the song are… that’s it. It’s the celebration of the time between Christmas and the Epiphany. (In some denominations, the celebrations begin after Christmas on December 26, ending with the Epiphany on January 6. Either way, those are the Twelve Days of Christmas.)

    You know, in case anyone cared.

    • billytheskink

      And all this time I thought the 12 days of Christmas were Christmas, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Years Day, New Years Eve, the two Saturdays and two Sundays in between and then 3 other days which, I believe, are the mystery days…

      Such is the case when you grow up in a Baptist household that owns a copy of the Great White North album.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      When he pushes his ego aside and stops chasing awards Batty is able to deliver some solid strips. The strip featured by CBH today shows you why FW was dropped but Crankshaft remains. Then again based on this week’s strips I’m wondering why they both weren’t dropped.

      I can see why this Christmas strip resonates with a lot of readers, but who relates with all the crap that was in FW?

  5. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    We both mentioned so many of the same things…old guys getting nostalgic, I guess.

  6. billytheskink

    As long as we are admitting personal things about Crankshaft

    So I used to cut out comic strips that I found especially funny or interesting and put them in scrapbooks with plastic-covered pages. I… I actually cut out a few Crankshaft strips over the many years I did this. There, I said it.

    I’m not proud of it nowadays, especially since I believe at least one of them involved Lillian McKenzie glumly telling Pam that one of her friends had passed away from “terminal flatulence”.

    • Mela

      OK-here’s mine. The one Crankshaft strip that got me was when Jeff (?)got his comics back & last panel of the story showed him reading them in his attic. The storyline itself was ridiculous, but for some reason the ending got me. No tears, but I remember being surprised and thinking “wow, that’s really NICE.” He was able go back to a happy moment in his childhood back for just a bit, and somehow I connected with that. Usually Crankshaft is just silliness and bad puns, but that one strip sticks with me.

  7. Humans are such easy prey.

  8. Y. Knott

    Dear Harriet…

    Your story was way more touching than the story depicted in Crankshaft.

    Of course, as you are a better writer than Tom Batiuk, that is not surprising.

    But I can’t leave it at that. “A better writer than Tom Batiuk” is a pretty low bar. You’re a terrific writer, and your posts are always a joy to read.

    Merry Epiphany!

  9. erdmann

    Almost two weeks since Christmas and suddenly I’m having fond memories of childhood holidays. I didn’t expect that. And while I don’t have anything to the Little House story, I have to admit I also think that Crankshaft strip is nice.
    Alas, though, I bring grim tidings of comics yet to come. I have seen the next two weeks of Crankshaft and they are decidedly not of the same quality.
    Next week, Ed versus glitter (no, really) and there’s a reference to Blue Valley, hometown of Silver Age Kid Flash Wally West.
    The following week, the twins find a rare and probably extremely valuable first issue of a Batom Comic at the bookstore, prompting Lillian to visit DSH John and Crazy Harry. Later, they bring her a gift.
    Epicus isn’t going to be missing much.

  10. ComicTrek

    Oh yeah, Crankshaft was definitely thought-provoking at times. There’s no shame in admitting it. That’s partly why some of us had actually defended TB’s actions before.

    Not saying that he never “used” his characters whenever he wanted, I don’t know, critical acclaim or something…like when he slowly killed off Lucy McKenzie due to Alzheimer’s, for example. But Crankshaft had always been the lesser of two evils.

    Before TB responded to the “shouldn’t comics be funny?” question by purposefully amping up the drama and misery, particularly over in Funkyland, Crankshaft really did have potential. I think he could put more effort into it because he didn’t have to focus so much on Lisa’s Story.

    Well, not that he HAD to focus on Lisa’s Story at all times, but you know what I mean, right? Unfortunately, the Lisa thing and the “writing” thing clouded his judgement too much, and now that we have comic books added into the mix, Crankshaft has officially become Funky Winkerbean II. It’s tragic.

    • ComicTrek

      I mean *judgment. Wow.

      • Green Luthor

        Both “judgement” and “judgment” are actually correct spellings, although the former is more common in the Commonwealth of Nations (the United Kingdom and former British colonies) while the latter is more common in the States. (And even where “judgement” is used, when referring to legal decisions, “judgment” is the preferred spelling. But since your usage wasn’t as a legal term, “judgement” would be perfectly acceptable.)

        (Though Grammarly is giving me grief over “judgement”. Personally, I think it looks better that way.)

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Comic books, cancer, Muslims working in pizza shops, more cancer, Funky Winkerbean had it all. A snarkers delight!

      It didn’t have to be this way. But the promise of a Pulitzer was intoxicating and Batty became addicted and lost his mind.

  11. ian'sdrunkenbeard

  12. The Duck of Death

    That’s such a sweet story about your family’s ornament, CBH. And that was a well-done, well-handled Crankshaft arc. They do happen occasionally.

    I would never put anyone down for liking TB’s work. Life can really suck sometimes. Whatever brings you joy that’s not ruining your body or hurting nonconsenting people, I say go for it. But the TB lovers need to accept that we’re entitled to our opinions too. I don’t put people down for liking FW or CS; they put us down for not liking it.

    “If someone goes against the grain, and says, “No! I loved this!” we should let them. We should ask them to explain. And even if we still don’t get it, we should never try to take away whatever good they got.”

    I agree 100%. Only thing is, I’ve never seen an explanation beyond, “I liked that band leader guy in high school.” Which is fine. But don’t come complaining about other people, who have written a virtual encyclopedia explaining why they don’t like the work, when you won’t give a single coherent reason why you DO like it. It boils down to: “You’re meanies.”

    Do you think these folks hold their tongue when speaking about celebrities, movies, sports teams, politicians that they don’t like? Do you think they hold to the “if you haven’t done it, you can’t criticize it” rule in their own lives?

    And of course I agree that we all bring our own “stuff” to a reading of a comic strip, or anything else. I remember the arc about Holly’s mom trying to force her to be a cheerleader again. CBH, I seem to recall that it sparked a few somewhat fond memories for you. For me, it looked like a textbook example of the havoc Cluster B personality disorders wreak on families.

    Neither of us is wrong. TB has a habit of leaving so many loose threads that virtually any interpretation could be correct. I guess that makes for fun discussion, but it’s lazy writing.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yes! How many supposedly big and important stories were left hanging after so much build up, and so many puff pieces.

      Batty is like a seagull, he swoops in, makes a bunch of noise, craps all over the place, and then flies off into the sunset.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Some people just can’t stand the idea of joy from parody and criticism. Despite the fact it’s an artform that goes back thousands of years.

      Some people can’t stand the idea of someone unironically liking something they think is stupid. And hey, I get it, someone tells me they liked The Last Jedi, and I see red. But I shouldn’t try to force those people to defend themselves when they’re not in the mood.

      But they also shouldn’t demand an explanation I don’t have time to give for my rage at it.

      Forcing a explanation and not allowing a rebuttal are two sides of the same shitty discourse coin.

      Some people do genuinely like or hate something, but lack the vocabulary and self awareness to elucidate why. If you could sit down and dissect it with them, you’d probably be able to figure it out. They just don’t have the tools or the time to do it on their own. Those are the people I feel kinda bad for when they get dogpiled for their unskilled defense.

      • The Duck of Death

        As far as I’m concerned, “I like it” is sufficient reason for most things. Why do you eat Twinkies? I like them. Why do you wear orange Crocs? I like them. Why did you dye your hair pink? I like it. That’s fine. No one owes me an explanation of anything they do unless it affects me. Frankly, I don’t care at all if people eat Twinkies, wear orange Crocs, and dye their hair pink, even if they do it all at the same time. I like that people are different and like different things. It makes life interesting.

        But that Twinkie-eater is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ if they go storming a subreddit for high-end pastry chefs with “WHAT’S WRONG WITH TWINKIES? YOU’RE MEAN!” If you do that, “I like them,” followed by vanishing, is a weak and sad defense. Don’t bother with a group if you’re not prepared to join their discourse at their level.

        I love to see underdogs defending their turf. I would be glued to r/FancyPastryMastery if someone went in there defending Twinkies with a good, or at least persistent, argument. I live for that stuff.

        But all I’ve ever seen here is hit-and-run complaints. People don’t stick around to explain their position or rebut our points. I wish they would.

        • The Duck of Death

          This discussion has reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner.

          “I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”

          Yes, a little ungrammatical, but Charlie has a whole lot of years, and a whole lot of smarts, 0ver me, so I prefer to just absorb the wisdom of this quote.

          Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an “other side’s argument” here. At least, if there is one, the “other side” is very shy about deploying it. “I liked it as a kid” is a perfectly good reason to read it, but a piss-poor argument. And “it’s called writing” isn’t an argument at all. It’s another phrase for “shut up.”

          • Rusty Shackleford

            And that is why I feel justified in criticizing him. It makes me want to go to one of his events and tell him that comics have to be funny…just to see his reaction.

            Instead of yelling at people, he could have simply displayed this Christmas strip as an example of why comics don’t have to be funny.

            It’s Batty himself that invites all the snark. Without his bragging and those puff piece interviews, this would be just another bad comic that is largely ignored…like Tiger.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            Oh and please forgive me if I drop off from time to time. Between my day job and limiting my online time, I sometimes forget to come back.

            What you were describing is more like trolls who drop in, kick the bees nest and then sit back and watch them sting each other.

            This community is too mature and would never fall for those tricks…even when people would stop by and pretend they were big fans of Tom’s work. We knew better…most of the time!

    • billthesplut

      When I was doing training of newbies for a chain store you never heard of (Lechmere) as a CD/VHS manager:
      “Who applied for this job because they love music?”
      All hands go up.
      “Who has ever bought an album, said ‘This is the best music EVER!’, listened to it 5 times in a row, then rushed over to a friend and said ‘You have to hear this! It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before!'”
      All hands go up.
      “And after 2 and a half songs, your friend says ‘This isn’t music! This is just WEIRD!'”
      All hands go up, laughing and shaking their heads.

      I don’t care if you like pineapple on your pizza. I’m not the one eating it.

  13. Mela

    Lovely post CBH! Thank you for sharing this. No bubble lights on our Christmas trees (although I remember them), but my dad was big on tinsel and insisted that our tree have it. Dad was in charge of putting the lights on, Mom, my brother and I decorated, and then Dad followed up with the tinsel. Every once in a while we’d find a strand of it months later on a shoe or stuck in a corner. That might explain why later trees didn’t have it.

    My grandmother had the silver tree with the color wheel, and as a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing. Though my grandparents have been gone for years, but I can still see that tree sitting in the foyer with that spinning wheel. During those Christmases, my parents, aunts, uncles were young and cool, my cousins and sibling and I were full of energy , and we got a ton of toys. Family squabbles that later caused friction (and eventual resolution) hadn’t happened yet, so in my mind that color wheel immediately sends me back to Grandma’s house in the early to mid 70s when all was happy.

  14. jp

    We still have ornaments that date back to my grandmother’s early Christmases– some are over a hundred years old, and hella fragile. My sister, our unofficial family historian, puts up an amazing tree with all of these family keepsakes every year. There was a year when her cats knocked the tree right over and we lost a bunch, but that just makes the ones that remain more precious.

  15. Wee Sourbelly (age 5 or so) was all about the Christmas ornaments. I would play with them for hours, pretending they were characters or something. My favorites were the metal birds. They were just placed on branches, so I could have them fly around and make mischief. I was a weird kid.

  16. be ware of eve hill

    In the family I grew up in, we had an artificial evergreen tree that must have had a bazillion pieces. There were a couple wooden poles painted green that were connected and held upright by a tree stand. There were metal branches covered with plastic needles. The base of each branch was painted in a particular color and had to be inserted into the posts in a certain order. The box the tree came in had instructions printed on the box showing what color row of branches went where. There was an evergreen garter to slide onto the pole as you finished each row of branches. And of course the evergreen tree topper to insert into the top of the pole. We used to have icicle tinsel, but it was messy and eventually replaced by a gold garland. There was a hodgepodge of ornaments to place on the tree. Some of those ornaments could have been from when Mom and Dad got married. Some of the ornaments could have come from their parents. A few of the ornaments were made by us kids in elementary school or Sunday school.

    Remember those Hopi eye ornaments made with yarn and popsicle sticks? The ornaments made by placing your little hands in clay and fired in a kiln?

    As my two brothers and I got older, there was less enthusiasm to put up and decorate the tree (teenagers 🙄). Eventually, no one wanted to bother to put up the tree, and we did without. When Mom and Dad were making plans to sell the family home, I remember Mom asking me if I wanted the tree. I deferred to my brothers, who were her biological sons. Mom must have thought I wasn’t interested, because she donated the tree and all the ornaments to their annual church bazaar. I was crushed when I found out. I sure wish I had that tree now. All the decorations, garland and lights too.

    I’m kind of tearing up over that stupid tree right now. I hope some nice family is using it.

    After we got married, my husband and I bought our own tree. The lights, ornaments and star are pre-attached on the tree. We don’t even assemble the tree. We just stand it up in the tree stand and fan out the branches. The garland is added along with what few other ornaments we have. My son never made anything for our Christmas tree. There are a couple of special ornaments that were gifts from friends. It takes less than a half-hour to set up. It’s nice, but it’s not the same. There’s not much nostalgia.

    • Green Luthor

      We had one of those bazillion-piece Christmas trees when I was growing up, too. Always found them kind of annoying to set up.

      • be ware of eve hill

        It was a time consuming process. We set up the tree as a team in the early years. In the final years of the tree, we worked in shifts. My little brother would set up the tree. My older brother would hang the lights, wrap the garland and place the angel or star stop the tree. I, the girl, usually got to hang the ornaments.

        Mom’s role in setting up the tree decreased as time went on. More of a directorial role in the final years of setting up the tree.
        Mom: Place that ornament towards the top.
        Me: Here?
        Mom: A little higher.
        Me: Here?
        Mom: A little to the left.
        Me: Here?
        Mom: A little more.
        Me: Here?
        Mom: Maybe it would look better a little further down.
        Me: @#$#@
        Mom: What did you say, love? I didn’t hear you.
        Me: Nothing.

        Mom and Dad are gone now and my brothers aren’t even talking with one other any more. I’d give just about anything to revisit those early days of setting up the Christmas tree together.

        Ditto raking leaves.

  17. Paul Jones

    We have the same general experience with Winkerbean itself. He might not have realized it but up until the last few weeks, he was telling a story that people can relate to: the unhappy few that peaked in high school and have nothing to look forward to.

  18. be ware of eve hill

    dd2108195@gmail.comIt was a time consuming process. We set up the tree as a team in the early years. In the final years of the tree, we worked in shifts. My little brother would set up the tree. My older brother would hang the lights, wrap the garland and place the angel or star stop the tree. I, the girl, usually got to hang the ornaments.

    Mom’s role in setting up the tree decreased as time went on. More of a directorial role in the final years of setting up the tree.
    Mom: Place that ornament towards the top.
    Me: Here?
    Mom: A little higher.
    Me: Here?
    Mom: A little to the left.
    Me: Here?
    Mom: A little more.
    Me: Here?
    Mom: Maybe it would look better a little further down.
    Me: @#$#@
    Mom: What did you say, love? I didn’t hear you.
    Me: Nothing.

    Mom and Dad are gone now and my brothers aren’t even talking with one other any more. I’d give just about anything to revisit those early days of setting up the Christmas tree.

    Ditto raking leaves.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Goddamn WordPress. This was supposed to be a reply to @Green Luthor.

      WordPress and the Brave browser on my phone just don’t seem to get along.
      The prompt to log into WordPress didn’t pop up until I tried submitting the comment. Then told me I was trying to submit a duplicate comment.

  19. Hannibal's Lectern

    A bit late to enter a comment, but…

    I happen to be an Epiphany baby, born on January 6th. This has not turned out to be particularly beneficial. E.g., two years ago, my birthday “present” was an attempted coup that fit in nicely between a pleasant winter motorcycle ride and an uncomfortable party where the guests were a mix of political positions that would have been high explosive had we not set the ground rule of pretending the events of the afternoon had not happened. This year, I celebrated the birthday by having my sciatic nerve blow out again, so that for the last 48 hours little things like standing up and walking have been delightfully painful (this did not stop me from going out with friends–this time carefully selected to have the same political leanings–for beer and pizza, and then coming back to the house for more beer).

    Anyway. Christmas traditions: as a child, I remember shopping for a natural tree. My dad always wanted a short-needled Balsam; I think my mom would have preferred an aluminum tree just because it was her job to make sure the little Liberty trailer we lived in (officially classed as a consumer-grade incendiary device) did not go up in flames. We’d go to a greenhouse whose owner was related to the guy with whom my dad did concrete work on weekends. There would always be beer, which would usually be followed by harsh words between my parents.

    I decided not to continue this holiday tradition, so my wife (who inherited a huge collection of tree ornaments) and I came up with a new one: part of the ritual was to loft up the child (as in the Crankshaft strip) to place the illuminated angel on the top of the tree. This was always accompanied by telling the story of the Littlest Christmas Angel, the one about the night at the North Pole when there was a huge storm raging, Santa was behind schedule, Rudolph’s nose had burned out, and things were in general disarray… when the Littlest Angel came in, dragging this enormous tree behind her. For a moment, everything stopped. The elves set down their tools, Santa looked up from his “Naughty vs. Nice” list, and Hermey the Elf set down the pliers he was using to extract the burned-out bulb from Rudolph’s nose. As the snow swirled in around her, the Littlest Christmas Angel said, “Merry Christmas to all… where do you want me to put this tree?”

    And that, children, is why we stick a tree up the angel’s butt every year.

    (Admit it, how many of you tell the same story?)

    • be ware of eve hill

      I admit it, I’ve told that story more than once.

      Sometimes we gave the angel the year off and used the star on our tree.

  20. bunnydoe

    Oh, I feel this. I have multiple ornaments from my childhood that I am terrified of hanging on the tree every year. And my family has also held to the idea that you shouldn’t take your tree down before Twelfth Night. Great post.