I was looking about as shaggy as could be and still be recognized. Man, I really needed a haircut. Having several other errands to run, I figured it would be a good day to make a trip to Duluth. Maybe along the way, I would be able to get in someplace for a trim.
Everything seemed to be going my way; I was getting a lot accomplished. I felt like there were a couple more things I needed from Duluth, but they weren't on my list, and today I was determined to stick to my plan. The only thing I had left to do was get groceries, which would be my last stop on the way home - and to take care of the mophead.
I found a salon that could get me in in thirty minutes. I didn't want to wait but considered Christmas coming this week. There would be photos taken for sure, and I wanted to look good. I wanted people to look at the pictures and say, "Oh, that's Tom," not to question, "Did the Palen's get an Old English Sheep Dog?" I decided to take their offer and waited in my truck. After a quick haircut, I thanked the lady. In the spirit of the holiday season, I left her a nice tip, and I was on my way – behind schedule, of course, but I always am. Groceries next and then home.
I walked into the store with my list and a pen to cross off items as I placed them in the cart. A little voice in my head said, "Remember, Tom, stick to the list today." The last time we went to the grocery store, we ended up buying five family-size boxes of cereal. That's what happens when your stray from your list.
Right inside the front door, they had raspberries and blueberries, two pints for five dollars. I put them in my cart. A little voice in my head said, "Those aren't on the list, Tom." I put them back and reminded myself; the store always has two of the four berries needed for a mixed-berry pie on sale. The other two berries will be regular price – expensive.
I selected five Granny Smith apples, put them in a bag, and crossed them off the list. Turning around, I ran into another fruit display. Wow! Blackberries and strawberries were also on sale! It was too much to resist. I put a pint of each in my cart. The little voice reminded me these items were not on the list. "Hush yourself, you fun hater," I said to the little voice and moved along.
I put two loaves in my cart and crossed bread off the list. The next item was a space heater. "A space heater?" I scanned the rest of the list. "Ribbons and bows. Milk. An Ice Scrapper. Eggs. A boot tray. Those little bottles of peppermint schnapps…Uh-huh. Here's the rest of the Duluth list." I sighed. "Why were these written on the grocery list." I looked at it again, to see who did this. "My handwriting. Huh. Well, we'll just have to do without them."
I stopped a man who works at the store and explained I had ordered a couple of special cuts of meat. I gave him my name, and he went to retrieve them. He came out the swinging aluminum door between the meat counters. "I couldn't find anything back there with your name, Mr. Palen, and the meat department guys have all gone home." That's what I get for taking time to get a haircut that was not on my list of things to do.
"Not a problem," I told the young man, "I can come back tomorrow." On my way home from the store, well after dark, I saw a wolf along Highway 61. "Man. He is pretty!" I said as I slowed down. There was no other traffic, so I made a U-turn to go back and see if I could get a second look. Sure enough, he was still there. I stayed back away on the shoulder and watched him in my headlights – and he watched me. As soon as he determined I was no threat, he turned and continued trotting southbound down the ditch. I watched until he disappeared in the brown grass around him.
"Brown grass." I said aloud, shaking my head, "This is going to be our first Christmas without snow since we moved to the north shore." I made another U-turn and headed for home, singing, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas…"
The next morning, I looked outside and smiled. I didn't recall snow being in the forecast, but we had a few inches, and it was still coming down at a pretty good rate. I had a lot to do, and clearing out the driveway was not on the list, but I would have to make time.
I went to get ready for the day. In the bathroom, I looked in the mirror. "I must be seeing things," I said, putting on my glasses and turning on the lights over the vanity. "I'm not seeing things." My hair was cut uneven on each side. There were patches where it was really short while others were longer. Differing lengths created a diagonal line ran from above my temple, over the top, and behind my right ear. "If I put a carpenter's pencil there, no one will notice the line."
I used my iPad and the mirror to see the back of my head. It looked like the stylist put a bowl on my head, cut it, then used a ruler to draw a straight line and cut it again – a full inch above my natural hairline and at least an inch behind each ear! "Well, at least I don't look like an Old English Sheep Dog, anymore. Now I looked like a stray dog - with mange!"
I thought to myself, "This is the worst haircut I've ever had." Then I recalled getting a haircut a few years ago, out of town. It's now known as The Alabama Butcher Shop Incident. In that case, I actually told the stylist to put down her scissors and just stop cutting – but that's a different story. Not sure what to do about my hair, I decided when I go back to Duluth today, I would look for a festive Christmas hat and wear it in all the photos.
I watched the snowplow go past our house. By the time I took the trash out, we had about five inches of new snow. The plow left a good berm at the road. I really didn't have time to get the snowblower out, but I hate to drive through it and pack down the snow at the end of the driveway.
Back in the house, while I finished getting ready, I heard a motor running outside. I looked out the bay window to see my neighbor with his tractor and big snowblower, cleaning out my driveway. That certainly made me smile. I started humming, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas…
Today is December 21st – the winter solstice. Tonight, Jupiter and Saturn will line up. I read somewhere this will be the closest they've come in hundreds of years. Appearing as one, they will be very bright, together creating the Christmas Star. A white Christmas, here on the north shore, is certain now, so I started humming, "It came upon a midnight clear…Peace on the Earth, goodwill toward men…"
Welcome to winter, and Merry Christmas to all.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!