THE BLOG
09/15/2014 01:18 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

My Daddy Taught Me Not to Read Directions

My Daddy did so many things very well...but like most guys, he just wouldn't read directions, look at maps, typical guy stuff.

My mother didn't like to clean house.

Ever.

But one Christmas, I think it was 1964, we were having a big group of family for the holidays... grandparents, great-aunts...cousins...so she went on a cleaning binge.

Back in those days you had to wax the floors with a buffer...apply wax, buff...apply more wax, buff...eventually the floors would look like a roller skating rink, and twice as slippery. We were living in Dothan and had a long narrow living room. After Mom had waxed the floors it was perfect for getting a running start and sliding all the way to the end of the room in your footy-pajamas. The smell of Lemon Pledge was everywhere, overtaken only by the smell of bleach. The house was cleaned like it had never been cleaned before.

Now Daddy loved gadgets...and when he was strolling through the huge Sears store on Main Street in Dothan, AL he came upon a Christmas Tree Flocking Kit. It was a fairly simple affair. You hooked it up to the exhaust side of the canister vacuum, which blew out, attached a garden hose, mixed up all of the ingredients and in no time your tree would be covered with a delicate layer of snow!

He looked at the setup on the package, and off he went. The tree was in the stand, the hose hooked up properly, all of the ingredients mixed in the sprayer. And so he began flocking the tree. He had missed a critical point, made several times in the directions, that this needed to be done outside, outside, OUTSIDE!...DO NOT DO THIS INSIDE!

The Scotch Pine tree, the kind Daddy liked best, was strategically positioned in front of the picture window for maximum effect...all houses built in the 50's had a picture window in the living room. Also strategically placed by the tree on the floor of the living room was the intake register for the heating system. He was all set. Time to get that tree flocked.

Mom was in another part of the house when she heard the vacuum start up, then whatever noise the flocking unit made. Suddenly, real Christmas magic started when it began snowing all over the house! The heating system kicked on just as the flocking began. It sucked that flock right into the bowels of the unit and then the floor vents all over the house started spewing it into every room. The snow would shoot out of the vent straight up into the air, wander around a bit until it decided where it was going to land.

"What in the?"....and then I heard my mother using words that I didn't know then and wouldn't repeat now.

She ran into the living room, screaming higher than dogs could hear and that stopped the process instantly. The vacuum went off and I was sent to turn off the hose.

What a lot of people don't realize is that flock is sort of like Plaster of Paris....and it now covered almost every inch of the house....floors, walls, ceilings, rugs, furniture...the whole house was flocked. And so was Daddy.

The cleaning just took forever...days. Daddy hired several ladies to come in and help while Mom just sat in the living room, looking at the flocked Christmas Tree, smoking one cigarette after another, sometimes sipping coffee, sometimes sipping bourbon, without moving much. At one point her eyes stopped blinking. She went through a couple of cartons before the cleaning was finished.

We never got all of the flocking out of the heating system. For years it would occasionally belch out another little shot of flock, reminding us of that especially joyous Christmas. And it was decades before my mother was the slightest bit amused by this story.