Christmastime 2005

Dear Winter Solsticers,

Another year has come and gone (mostly gone) in beautiful downtown Bedrock, and the Craton family remains firmly ensconced in limestone country despite all attempts to escape across the border. (Ever notice how border crossings only seem to go one way?) It has been another trying year for our local populace, not least because of the new Wal-Mart currently under construction — a veritable cathedral to the darkest aspects of capitalism.

Poor old Harold Simms and his wife have had to move out of the home they’d occupied for the last 246 years as it lay smack dab in the middle of what soon will be a Wally World parking lot. They did so without much grace, despite the fact that they were rewarded handsomely for a property worth only a fraction of the amount proffered. Harold was joined by Jake Williams, Billy Bob Thornton, Holly Wainwright, and a host of other compatriots in staging a parody of Tianamen Square as the earthmovers rolled in. Sad to say, the picture of a lone protestor holding up a military tank was not repeated in Bedford as Harold’s '53 Studebaker was promptly dispatched by a bulldozer, and Harold barely escaped with his life — sans pride — by knocking out the rear windshield. Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, the crowd pitched in to save Harold’s WWI memorabilia and a few chickens, but aside from Mrs. Simms’ lemonade pitcher and a set of glasses which she’d set up to help hydrate the participants, their other belongings have become landfill for the foundation of the new superstore.

After the initial shock — which necessitated several weeks of counseling with the new Episcopal priest, Rev. Alison Farley — Harold has rebounded quite admirably. He was last seen cruising through town in a new red Miata with a charming 24-year-old pole dancer from Dave’s Doll House at his side. Mrs. Simms seems blissfully tolerant of Harold’s new-found lust for life, mainly through the assistance given her by Reverend Peterson who graciously allowed her to move in with him while her new abode is being built.

As for the Cratons, they did not participate in these sordid affairs, being consumed with their own set of life changes. Dr. Debbie has experienced her Calvary serving as the chief of staff at the hospital this year and has remained far too busy with medical powwows and staving off Medicare cuts to be concerned with decisions made in Bentonville, Arkansas. Even though she was unable to go to Florida this spring (the authorities asked her to stay away after Ivan), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is still investigating whether there was any connection between her last sojourn there and the rash of hurricanes in the Gulf this year.

Eldest son Ben is in what everyone hopes is his final year at Purdue but is still uncertain about his future. His major of the month is history, and it appears as though that will be his ultimate degree, but he has not yet decided whether to go on and pursue a graduate degree, go to law school, or accept the position offered him by the Mossad. Marriage appears to be looming on the horizon, but it must await some form of measurable income before becoming a reality. The prospect has put his parents in a highly reminiscent frame of mind, remembering when the young man of today was still their “Baby Ben,” but as he is wont to remind them on occasion, “Baby Ben needs some action!”

Jonathan graduated from the halls of the local high school in May and has now entered the world of liberal learning at Indiana University in nearby Bloomington. Not content with having only two sentences about him in the first draft of this letter, he insisted that it should be widely disseminated that he now has let his hair grow long and likes to wear a pirate hat. He seems to be enjoying his time at I.U. (far better than he enjoys the daily commute or the time he spends with the turtles in his room) and has become rather enamored of a fair young lass who shares his interests in Japanese, computer gaming, and tormenting his younger brother.

Younger brother has held his own, however, being solidly established in the business world and the only one of the Craton offspring to be gainfully employed. Stephen’s work landed him and his old Pop a trip to San Francisco in September for the Oracle ThinkQuest convention. They both enjoyed themselves immensely while there, and they returned to Bedrock with heavy hearts — weighed down not least by the intense humidity. While they had considered staying in San Fran (they had some charming invitations from folks in the Castro district), they figured the better part of valor was to return to the family and retain their original orientation. Besides, Stephen hopes to hit the big time with a series of underground films he’s making in a friend’s basement in Bedford.

Old Pop (aka John) basically just keeps getting older and continues decomposing. This has been his “concerto year” as he has written three mandolin concertos and even (yes) a concerto for tuba. Ironically it has been his tuba concerto that has received the highest degree of success to date, causing him to wonder whether all the years spent sawing a violin would have been better spent puffing away on a big brass toilet. His life has taken on a new dimension, however, as a result of Debbie’s enrolling him in ballroom dancing — a feat accomplished while he was out of town, no less. Having all the grace of an epileptic platypus in heat, he’d never considered himself capable of tripping the light fantastic (well, maybe he could do the tripping part), and he was at first adamantly opposed to the whole silly concept. But after meeting some of the lusty wenches he was obliged to dance with in class, his attitude mellowed somewhat. It looks as though his only hope of escape now is to break his other ankle.

But until that transpires the Cratons will, no doubt, continue waltzing through life in the murky Midwest, putting out these driveling letters once a year, and wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a repression-free New Year.

John, Debbie, Ben, Jon, & Stephen and
all other assorted mammals, reptiles, insects,
and arachnids inhabiting said abode

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