There we were, my brother and our parents and I, laying waste to an Everest-sized pile of carefully wrapped presents one Christmas morning in the early 1980s, when the phone rang. We paused and looked at each other. It was about 8 a.m., too early for a grandparent or uncle calling to ask who was supposed to be where, when, and with what side dish. My dad ran to answer it.
“OK … OK… Well, I’m sorry to hear that.” Even then, at age 10 or so, I could sense that my father’s polite tone masked annoyance. “You know, I’m having Christmas with my kids right now. But I can meet you at the store at 10.”
So it goes when your family owns a mom-and-pop grocery store in a small town and your home number is in the phone book. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember my dad getting dressed and, on one of the four days of the year that the business was closed, going to the store and finding a replacement for a customer who was unhappy with his Christmas turkey. (My mom cooked that turkey a few days later. It was fine.)