Part 2 of Midday After One - "Stories of the Season," where notable community members and Minnesota Public Radio staff read their favorite holiday tales.
Lou Bellamy, of the Penumbra Theatre, reads "The Terrible Twos" by Ishmael Reed.
MPR’s Greta Cunningham reads "A Brooklyn Christmas" by Betty Smith
Gene Harrington, St. Paul resident, reads "A Cup of Christmas Tea" by Minnesota author Tom Hegg.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
We can tell you now or series of Stories of the Season Lou Bellamy artistic director of the penumbra theater in St. Paul will read a rather unconventional Christmas Story. Minnesota public radio's Greta Cunningham reads A Brooklyn Christmas and Gene Harrington reads a cup of Christmas tea. Our first story is a passage from the book The Terrible Twos by Ishmael Reed. It is read by Lou Bellamy Christmas 1980. The Earth had had enough and was beginning to send out hints volcanoes roared fish strength nitrates and sulfur a pandemic of sleepiness and drowsiness was sweeping the Earth and scientists. Didn't know what to make of it. Some sad that it was the coldest Christmas in memory has - 40 degree temperatures blue down from the Arctic grease was struck with the worst snow blizzard in 30 years. The times reported wolves entered towns and villages to attack livestock declared prime minister Constantine grease live.Not equipped to meet this sort of winter in Italy people were fleeing Naples. The Northern Hemisphere wasn't as much fun as it used to be. The 40th President wears $3,000 worth of clothes including an $800 / code from I magnin he is warm and well-fed his friends come from Bel Air, California where the average house sales for 800,000 and people pay 600 for a shirt and 350 for a tie in an alligator handbag goes for $1,500. His friends are warm and surfeited during his inaugural 50,000 hot air balloons or set afloat and stomach warming Kentucky bourbon. And Tails are back in the White House a Times magazine columnist rejoices Eastern circles. However, cautious beer money car dealership moneysupermarket money and drugstore money surround the president Eastern money has never heard of this money. This money from Sacramento and Orange County where the real men wear $450 Lucchese boots money is as tight as Scrooge retailers talk of a credit squeeze and during the season of blizzards. This cold nasty season the newspapers to vote much advertising to quartz heaters millions in the United States are without heat and fires that devastated entire families occur in the wintry cities of the Northeast. The president is satiated than sanguine. He dines with Brooke Astor. He is warm eating well said smiling smiling well scarf bundled up and waving Ebenezer Scrooge Towers above the Washington Skyline rubbing his hands and greedily peering over his spectacles. He shows up at the inaugural in a charcoal gray stroller Dove gray vest grey striped trousers pleated front shirt and four in hand tie Hale first person on your throne light. Blue Wing chairs and your opulent Republican dinners and your Tailor's and your fashion designers flown in from Paris and Beverly Hills in New York and your full page color coverage in women's wear daily. How did the Buffalo Evening News put it? The wild west is Back in the Saddle Again in the west you campaigned is a cowboy in the South the crowd wept and rebel yelled at the site of the first actor in the Confederate uniform Miss. Nancy's beautiful white people in the Red Room dark. He's entails passing out sour mash left and right. Thank you. Miss. Nancy said Charley Pride. But Wall Street is skeptical, even when the president shows up in Pinstripes The Wall Street Journal mischievous Lee Prince. The president-elect's nightclub bills incurred between his marriages at 750 per month at the mocambo club in syros. They remind the new president that regardless of his endorsement by the electronic evangelist. He is a man who has seen something of life. The president-elect says he wants Santa to leave him a tractor but isn't sure Santa can get it down the chimney. He leaves out milk and cookies for Santa anyway, his cabinet officers wear expensive watches and Suits they are comfortable well-off even regardless of how high inflation Remains The Wealthy will have any kind of Christmas. They desire a spokesman from Neiman Marcus announces their gifts ranging from $100 gold toothpicks to $60,000 rolls-royce's Miss Charlotte Ford is cozy. She is eating. Well the family can't make it to ski country this year. So they will settle for a Christmas dinner and their New York townhouse lunch will be served at 2 p.m. There will be twelve guests 6 of two tables. They will eat out of China plates. They will dine on Chestnut soup and turkey for dessert. They will enjoy chocolate souffle and mince pie the atmosphere will be warm and congenial they will be two kinds of wine red and white by New Year's Day 7.8 million people will be unemployed and we'll do without pointsettia tied with 1940 pink lace or Chestnut soup. They will be unable to attend ski lessons this year, but they will be fighting the snow nevertheless on Thanksgiving Day five thousand people line up for turkey in Black Eyed Peas in San Francisco in DC for men freeze to death during inaugural Week 1 on the steps of a church. The church door is locked. it is the coldest Christmas in memory and doesn't end until inaugural de Santa Claus is ubiquitous this year Dolly Parton appears on the cover of Rolling Stone in a Santa Claus outfit a little doll Santa Claus Peaks from between her bosom lines on the cover of fantasy Magazine Santa appears as a robot on the corner of Union and Buchanan Street, San San Francisco at Sandy is seen driving his reindeer and sleigh the reindeer and sleigh are made of 6,000 lb of ice and carved by Andrew Young Percy Ross the original Jewish Santa Claus who gave away money to black school children on a New York Street said I do it because I'm luckier than most in because everyday is Christmas to me commented one child. The dude's alright Associated Press reports United Press International says the three billion Christmas cards will be exchanged with gross sales higher than last year 1.2 billion dollars on the card Santa is depicted as a golfer a tennis player a long distance Runner and a jogger Nicholas changes with the times Running neck-and-neck With Jesus Christ. The Vatican would like to ruin the Saint the writer says that Clement Clarke Moore author of a visit from st. Nicholas wouldn't recognize him anymore. In 1979 one street wise Santa said these kids today. I'll tell you there's 7 going on forty. They're not kids for very long. When I started as a Santa they'd believe in Santa Claus until they were about eight or nine the times reported that Stephen Jones and assistant professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University Proclaim Santa Claus a sexist fertility symbol. There is an aura of expectancy surrounding Santa's arrival and he is rotund in the same way as a pregnant woman Jones said Santa gives things and comes down the chimney a characteristic of the store. Cuz another myth Santa is a male character who is Hugh serve two females roll Christmas poll is taken of American women 75% of whom say they are sexually dissatisfied to ominous headlines appear Arctic air keeps Nation frigid and after divorce who gets custody of Christmas. An Ultimate Machine a device that would mind the Moon a planet or an asteroid and use the raw materials to make anything anyone knows how to make including an exact replica of itself was described by science digest as a Santa Claus machine wild combating squatters in Amsterdam the police bring in Santa Claus to add some humor in England Father Christmas is arrested for taking photos of children and selling them for 495. He is told that he can't return to his favorite spot until after Christmas on January 5th. Although Dick Powell starred in a 1940s movie called Christmas in July the traditional beginning of the American Christmas falls on Thanksgiving Day of the first Thanksgiving Professor James Dietz is written that for three days in 1621. The Anglo settlers got up in jackboots felt hats and plumes to die in on not turkey, but he'll and Indian name Squanto taught them to hunt in the creeks and swamps near their settlements some local Indians contributed deer and helped the settlers put away pumpkin soup and gallons of booze. And the first Anglo settlers had robust Elizabeth and appetites like fancy clothes and did a considerable amount of wenching in the United States millions of eyes are focused upon the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is sponsored annually by Macy's department store to bosses of important retail chains, watch the parade from a tinted window chauffeur-driven Cadillac. This parade ought to perk up the trade said the first boss sipping scotch and holding a cigar with a free hand weather is just right maybe the industry. Will Top the six billion we made last year. That was Lou Bellamy of the penumbra theater reading a passage from Ishmael reads the terrible twos. Our next stories read by Minnesota public radio's Greta Cunningham. She reads A Brooklyn Christmas by Betty Smith. Christmas was a charm time in Brooklyn. It was in the air long before it came. The first hint of it was mr. Morton going around the school's teaching Christmas carols, but the first sure sign was the store Windows. You have to be a child to know how wonderful is a store window filled with dolls and sleds another toys and this Wonder came free to Francie. It was nearly as good as actually having the toys to be permitted to look at them through the glass window. Oh What A Thrill there was for Francie when she turned a street corner and saw another store all fixed up for Christmas the clean shining windows with cotton batting sprinkle was Stardust for a carpet there were the flaxen hair dolls and others which brand do you like better who had the hair the color of good coffee with lots of cream in it their faces were perfectly tinted and they were closed the like of which Francie had never seen on Earth the doll stood upright in flimsy cardboard boxes they stood with the help of a bit of tape passed around the neck and ankles through holes in the back of the box show the deep blue eyes framed by thick lashes that stared straight into a little girls hard and the perfect miniature Hands Extended appealingly asking please won't you be my mother And Francie had never had a doll except a 2-inch one that cost a nickel and the sleds or is the Williamsburg children call them the sleighs. There was a child's dream of Heaven Come True a new sled with a flower. Someone had dreamed up painted on it a deep blue flowers bright green leaves the ebony painted black runners the smooth steering bar made of hardwood and gleaming varnish all over and the names printed on them. Rosebud Magnolia sno-king the flyer. Francie if I could only have one of those I never asked God for another thing as long as I live. They were roller skates made of shining nickel with straps of good round leather and silver nervous wheels tensed for Rolling needing butter breath to start them turning as they lay crossed over one another sprinkled with snow on a bed of cloud like cotton there were other marvelous things France. He couldn't take them all in her head spun and she was busy with the impact of all the seeing and all the making up stories about the toys in the shop windows. The spruce trees began coming into the neighborhood the week before Christmas their branches recorded to hold back the glory of their spreading and probably to make the shipping easier. Then there's rented space on the curb before store and stretched a rope from pole to pole and lean the trees against it all day. They walked up and down is one-sided Avenue with aromatic leaning trees blowing on stiff ungloved fingers and looking with Bleak. Hope that those who passed and paused. If you were to treat set aside for the day other stop to price inspect and conjecture but most came just to touch the boughs and surreptitiously pinch your finger full of spruce needles together to release the fragrance and the air was cold and still and full of pine smell and the smell of tangerines which appeared in the store Windows only at Christmas time and the Mean Street was truly wonderful for a little while. It was a cruel custom in the neighborhood. It was about the trees still unsold when midnight of Christmas Eve reproached. There was a saying that if you waited until then you wouldn't have to buy a tree that they check them out you this was literally true at midnight on the eve of our dear savior's birth the kids gathered where there were unsold trees the man through each tree and turn starting with the biggest kids kids volunteered to stand up against the throwing if a boy didn't fall down in the DM packed the tree was his if he fell he forwarded his chance at winning a tree only the rough is boys and some of the young man elected to be hit by the Big Trees the others waited shrewdly until the tree came up that they could stand against the little kids waited for the tiny foot high trees and shrieked in Delight when they won one. On Christmas Eve when Francie was 10 and Nelly 9 mama can send it to let them go down to have their first try for a tree Francie had picked out her tree earlier in the day. She stood near it all afternoon praying that no one would buy it to her Joy. It was still there at midnight. It was the biggest tree in the neighborhood and its price was so high that no one could afford to buy it. It was 10 ft. High its branches were bound with new white rope and it can to assure pure point at the top. The man took this tree out first before Francie could speak up a neighborhood bully a boy's 18 known as Punky Perkins step forward and ordered the man to check the tree at him. The man hated the way Punky was so confident. He looked around and asked anybody else want to take a chance on it fancy stepped forward me mister a spirit of laughter came from the tree man. The kids snickered a few adults would gather to watch the fun guffawed. Go on your two little the tree man objected me and my brother are not too little together. She pulled Nelly forward the man looked at them a thin girl attend with Hollows in her cheeks butt with a Chance till baby round. He looked at the little boy with his fair hair and round blue eyes. Nelly Nolan all innocence and Trust 2 + ferulic Punky shut your lousy trap advise the man who held all the power in that our these here kids is got nerve stand back. The rest of yours. These kids is going to have a show at this tree the others made a wavering Lane Francie and Nelly stood at one end of it and the big man with the big tree at the other. It was a human funnel with Francie and her brother making the small end of it the man flexed his great arms to throw the great tree. He noticed how tiny The Children looked at the other end of the Short Lane. Oh Jesus Christ his soul agonize. Why don't I just give them the tree say Merry Christmas and let him go. What's the treat of me? I can't sell it no more this year and it won't keep till next year. The kids watched him solemnly as he stood there in his moment of thought. But then he rationalized if I did that all the others would expect to get him hand it to him and next year. Nobody at all would buy a tree off of me. They don't want to get them handed to him on a silver platter. I ain't a big enough man to give this tree away from nothing. No, I ain't a big enough man. I ain't big enough to do a thing like that. I got to think of myself and my own kids. He finally came to this conclusion. Oh what the hell them two kids have got to live in this world. They got to get used to it. They got to learn to give and take punishment and by Jesus ain't going to give this tree away as he threw the tree with all his strength is Hartwell doubt. It's a goddamn rotten lousy world. Bratty, saw the tree leave his hands. There was a split bit of being when time and space had no meaning the whole world Stood Still as something dark and monsters came through the air the tree came towards her bladder and all memory of even having lived there was nothing nothing but pungent darkness and something that grew and grew as it rushed at her. She staggered as a tree hit them Nelly went to his knees but she told him I fiercely before I could go down there was a mighty swishing sound is the tree settle everything was dark green and prickly then she felt a sharp pain at the side of her head where the trunk of the tree had hit her. She felt Nelly trembling with some of the older boys pull the tree away that surround France and her brother standing upright hand-in-hand blood was coming from scratches on Nelly's face. You look more like a baby than ever with his bewildered blue eyes in the fairness of a skin made more noticeable because of the clear red blood But they were smiling had they not won the biggest tree in the neighborhood some of the boys highlighter Ray a few adult clapped the tree man eulogize them by screaming and now get the hell out of here with your tree. You lousy bastards Francie had heard swearing since she had heard words obscenity and profanity had no meaning as such among those people. They were emotional expressions of inarticulate people with small vocabularies. They made a kind of dialect the phrases could mean many things according to the expression and tone used in saying them. So now when Francie her themselves called lousy bastards, she smiled tremendously at the kind of man. She knew that what he was really saying was good by God bless you. That was Minnesota public radio's Greta Cunningham reading a Brooklyn Christmas by Betty Smith. Gene Harrington of St. Paul says one of his greatest Christmas plays yours is reading a cup of Christmas tea by Minnesota author tom head. The walk was in the fireplace allspice and set to burn had last a yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse turn the cards were in the mail and the gifts beneath the tree 30 days reprieve until Visa could catch up with me. No smug satisfaction seen the order of the day something still was nagging me and would not go away a week before. I got a letter from my old great-aunt and red. Of course. I don't understand completely if you can't but if you find that you have some time how wonderful if we could have a little chat and share a cup of Christmas tea. She had a mild stroke that year which crippled or left side housebound. Now, my folks had said haven't heard her Pride. They said she'd love to see you. What a nice thing. It would be for you to go and maybe have a cup of Christmas tea, but why I didn't want to go with a bitter pill to see an old relation and how far she'd gone downhill. I remembered her is bigger funny and it's bright. I remember Christmas Eve's when she regaled us half the night. I didn't want to risk all that. I didn't want the pain. I didn't need to be depressed. I didn't need the strain. What about my brother? Why not him she's his aunt to I thought I had a Justified and then before I knew the reasons not to go. I so painstakingly it built were cracking wide and crumbling in a acid rain of guilt. I put on my boots and gloves and Captain Shane stinging every pore armed with squeegee sand and I went out the front door. I drove in from the suburbs to the older part of town The Pastels of the newer homes gave way to gray and brown. I had the disembodied feeling as the car pulled up and stopped beside the wooden house that held the Christmas cup how I got to where do it where I really couldn't tell I watch my hand rise up and press the button of the bell. I waited by my nervous rocking to and fro and just as I was thinking I should turn around and go I heard the rattle of the China in the hutch against the wall triple beat of 2 feet and a crutch came down the hall the clicking of the door latch in the sliding of the Bold with a little swollen struggle popped open with a jolt. She stood there mayo. And Tiny looking fragile is an egg and force myself from staring at the brace and held her leg and though her thick bifocal seem to crack and spread her eyes. They're milky and refracted X lit up with young surprise come in come in and she'll afterwards and she took me by the hand and all my fears dissolved away. Is it by her command? We went inside and then before I knew how to react before my eyes and ears and nose with Christmas Past a live insect the scent of candied oranges cinnamon Pine the antique wooden soldiers and their military line the porcelain Nativity. I had always loved so much the Dresden in the crystal, I'd been told I mustn't touch my spirit fairly bolted like a child out of class and dance among the ornaments of Calico and Flash like magic. I was six again too deep and a Christmas spell steeped in the million memories the boy inside new well and here among old Christmas card. So lovingly displayed a special place of honor for 1 week kids had made Naira be cited rocking chair the center of it all my my great-aunt stood and said how nice it was I'd come to call. I sat and rattled on about the weather in the flu, and she listened very patiently and then smiled and said what's new? Thoughts and words begin to flow I started making sense. I lost the pointy breeziness. I used when I get tense. She was still passionately interested in everything. I did she was positive and encouraging like when I was a kid simple generalities still send her into fits she demanded the specifics of particulars the bets. We talked about the limitations that she had to face. She spoke with other Candor. Let's humor in good grace then to find the reality of crutch and straighten knee wings of hospitality. She flew to brew the tea. I sat alone with feelings that I hadn't felt in years. I looked around at Christmas through a thick hot blur of Tears the candles in the Holly. She'd arranged on every shelf the impossibly good cookies that she somehow make herself. But these rich tackle memories became quite pale and thin when measured by the Christmas my great-aunt kept deep within her body have nearly spent with my great-aunt was whole I saw Christmas miracle a Triumph of a soul. The triple B's of 2 ft and a crutch came down the hall the rattle of the China in the hutch against the wall. She poured two cups. She smiled and she handed one to me and then we settle back had a cup of Christmas tea. a cup of Christmas tea read by Gene Harrington You been listening to stories of the Season today join us tomorrow at noon for a 90 minutes. Midday Christmas special. Tomorrow's program include Dave Moore WCCO reading James thurber's A Merry Christmas Margaret Nelson of the American Swedish Institute recalls her childhood in the Swedish Countryside. Then they've talked me into reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas by the late. Dr. Seuss to see how that works out for the season produced by Greta Cunningham. Thank you for joining us.