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December 01, 2006

245. Pampal

Pampal always smiled, even when we bumped his aching, swollen feet. He fed us forbidden Apple Jacks and proudly served us his favorite oatmeal. A newspaper pressman, he typed alphanumeric artworks and entertained with funny paper tricks. Fly away, Jack!

December 02, 2006

246. Clayton

Clayton is a big burly, bear. I’ve seen him lift two full-grown sheep simultaneously – one under each arm – and deposit them into a pickup truck. Intimidating! But looks a deceiving; he’s got a sweetheart’s soft heart buried under his brawn.

December 03, 2006

247. Randy

Randy wears denim overalls, sports a ZZ Top beard, raises animals and mills wood in rural Pennsylvania. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know, equally able to discuss law and to repair any antique, broken machine he’s given.

December 04, 2006

248. Shirley

Shirley is not dynamite housekeeper. Her farmhouse is filled with orphaned animals, manure, barking dogs, unwashed dishes, unfolded laundry, kids running in and out. She doesn’t care about spills and stains; she only cares about loving her family and friends.

December 05, 2006

249. Karen

Karen was a sophisticated freshman who fell for the same boy as me. She won him with her stylish, unconventional charm. But she was from the sticks, too, and her father’s name rhymed just like my dad’s. Competitive advantage: fearlessness.

December 06, 2006

250. Danielle

Danielle’s doe eyes, silky skin and straight brown tresses were the epitome of grade school beauty. Her family life was not as smooth as her hair. She was distraught to realise she was born 6 months after her parent’s wedding.

December 07, 2006

251. Jez

Jez is an overgrown boy. His entrepreneurial desk overflows with amusing plastic kitsch. A brilliant yellow arcade game cabinet he built himself hulks in a corner of the office. He builds model rockets and his business is blasting off, too.

December 08, 2006

252. Mary Alice

Mary Alice designed upholstery fabrics at Chromatex and was also a favorite babysitter. Her workspace was a creative wonderland. She tacked bits of wallpaper, fashion fabrics, and magazine photos above a desk covered in colored pencils and spindles of yarns.

December 09, 2006

253. John

This Uncle John retired to Florida and is rarely seen or heard from. His second marriage bound him to a domineering gold-digger. He is a kind man with redneck ideas that mesh neatly with one large branch of the family-in-law.

December 10, 2006

254. Michael

Mike miraculously survived a horrific Christmas bicycle accident. Resulting aphasia sent him searching, raspy voiced, for words, but he determined to do exactly what his intact will and imagination wanted. His dearest friends were dogs who cuddled and never mocked.

December 11, 2006

255. Julia

Always muddled in memory with Jane Hathaway from the Beverly Hillbillies, this elegant realtor sold my parents a house in 1968. She left a Toblerone bar in the new fridge – after 35 years I realised where I tasted Toblerone first.

December 12, 2006

256. Tobi

Blonde & bratty Tobi dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina but now she’s an actress called Tobi-Lyn. At sleepovers, her sister and I tortured her and my sister with elaborate tricks, fake codes and melted Easter chocolates. Tobi usually tattled.

December 13, 2006

257. Fred

I accompanied Fred around Tokyo during a documentary shoot. For my help, he gave me his company jacket. He and the director each took credit for past successes. “He never knows what he wants, so I shoot everything,” Fred confided.

December 14, 2006

258. Edwin

A mutual friend described him as "a worrier” and he is frequently anxious but always sweetly solicitous. Belgian-born, Edwin's been a foreign correspondent in Japan for a very long time. We became friends chatting about Macs and movies at FCCJ.

December 15, 2006

259. Aunt Faye

“Sleep fast,” Aunt Faye always bid goodnight after an evening of cards. She came straight out of the glamorous fifties – platinum bouffant hairdo, vivid red lips, blue eyeshadow, and coordinated outfits. I’m sure she slept fast in a lacy peignoir.

December 16, 2006

260. Mike

Mike rolled the barrels at Dees Cafe. When he emerged from the beery basement, he hung around the back booth with us, telling off-color jokes and trying to pick up the nubile college chicks. We laughed and brushed him off. Didn’t dissuade him at all.

December 17, 2006

261. Niko

A stranger offered Zoupi a vacation in Belgium. After some correspondence to ensure that Niko was crazy in a good way, Zoupi visited Europe. Niko showed him Belgium and took photos along the way. Crazy in a very good way.

December 18, 2006

262. Mrs. McAfee

On the last day of 7th grade English, Mrs McAfee warned us, “Your brains stop growing next year, that’s why I don’t teach 8th grade. I’ll see you again in 9th grade.” We didn’t believe her, but it was true.

December 19, 2006

263. Dr. Dave

Ze Dr Dave is not a doctor; he’s a mystery. Real name? Complicated. Sexual orientation? No label applies. Language? He speaks five. And he’s ambidextrous. He’ll astutely debate politics then wash his mind with chemicals and mix tunes all night.

December 20, 2006

264. Helen

Helen valued propriety. She was well-groomed, performed the necessary social graces, and never spoke ill of the dead. Helen tucked the dead into a dresser drawer - grandparents, parents, sisters became fading photographs and memories hidden under layers of intimates.

December 21, 2006

265. UlraMom

I’ve been reading Kathy’s blog posts for ages so it was a treat to finally meet her in person. She enthusiastically tried everything, took to karaoke like a terebi talento and shared her American board games. What a fun-loving lady.

December 22, 2006

266. Miss Onhappy

I’d just transferred from New Jersey. My new 4th grade English teacher pronounced her O and U backwards to the way I was used to hearing them. She said “I was onhappy un the bus.” Did I giggle, or gawk?

December 23, 2006

267. Robbie

Red haired Robbie was an unlikely babysitter – an 18 year old boy! Robbie always brought games to play. Brilliant! He attempted chess with us, but we settled on abstract strategy games with fences to build and colored tiles to capture.

December 24, 2006

268. Roman

A decade ago, Roman was so self-centered that during dinner he regaled me with stories of his holiday, but never once asked me how mine was or gave me a chance to add to the conversation. Youthful social faux pas.

December 25, 2006

269. Ruth

Ruth was a professional woman living alone in our neighborhood. Though I don’t remember her well, I think of her every Christmas when the shiny green spangle-and-pearl bell ornament she gave to me hangs on the family tree. Precious handcraft.

December 26, 2006

270. Mr. MIller

Mr. Miller and I were on opposite sides of every fence. He taught math. I hated math. I disliked his football-playing son and that dislike transferred. Mr. Miller hunted and fished. Poor little creatures (and students) didn’t have a chance.

December 27, 2006

271. Mark

Mark lived next door in a trendy Chicago loft. He had short-man-syndrome, lavish wealth, expensive hi-fi gear and beautiful girlfriends. Mark’s fortune came from an MLM that sold soaps. He was impossible to refuse; we bought a lot of Melaleucca.

December 28, 2006

272. Nancy

Day after her wedding, my new mother-in-law dissed me. “Oh, we have one of those in the family,” she singsonged when I commented in a political discussion. I sat, stunned and speechless, while the conversation continued on. A dreadful beginning.

December 29, 2006

273. Phred

Phred’s name spelling hints at his offbeat, unconventional personality. His extrovert jolliness and bushy white beard make him the perfect Santa at the orphanage. This long-term gaijin brews specialty beers up in Hokkaido. We’re friends; we have a common enmity.

December 30, 2006

274. Joann

Joann was the slightly pudgy, stringy haired classmate who lived in a doublewide with her parents and three siblings. We were playmates. In high school, she found popularity in marching band. I can’t see American Pie without thinking of her.

December 31, 2006

275. Francesca

Mom was Francesca’s day nurse. Francesca’s cerebral palsy confined her to a wheelchair. Some days after school, Francesca would be waiting in our living room spastically trying to communicate with us. She beamed the evening we went to the carnival.