Little Luella. Behind her left to right. Her Grandmother Ida Tornberg Mattson, her mother Violet and her Grandfather John Albert Mattson.
From the Fortress of Solitude
I took Mom out early this morning to finish up her last minute Christmas shopping. The weather report forecast snow for much of the day. The Battlestar (my Lincoln Town Car) doesn't do well in the snow, rear wheel drive cars seldom do unless you have studded snow tires or chains, so we left at 7:00 A.M. in hopes of doing our shopping and getting home before the heavy snow hit.
Walmart's parking lot was surprisingly full. I found that odd for 7:00 A.M., but considering today is Christmas Eve, I shouldn't have been surprised. Luella wanted me to 'skidaddle' so she could shop for me. I took a cart and set a course for Foods. She shuffled away toward the gift certificates display.
My fellow customers looked shell shocked. Their expressions spoke volumns. I saw panic in many of the men's eyes. One gentleman stood looking completely gobsmacked at a display of necklaces in the jewelry department. I felt sorry for him, as I did the poor woman who's cart I past at least three times in the hour we were there. Her face was white and expressionless. I had a feeling she was trying to pull off a Christmas on a budget and it just wasn't coming together.
All of us in that store this morning tried to avoid eye contact. It was embarrasing to be a member of the Last Minute Shoppers Brigade. Our motto is "Christmas Christmas Go Away, Come Again Another Day."
The employees looked browbeat. One of my former students who works in Walmart's bakery passed me as I was entering the store.
"Merry Christmas Mr. Williamson," he mumbled.
"Are you just getting off work?" I asked.
"Been here since 10:00 P.M. last night," he answered. "I'm going home to sleep off Christmas."
"You're a good man Charlie Brown," I said as I patted him on the back and wished him a Merry Christmas.
Twenty minutes into my shopping and I still had an empty cart. I'd lapped the store two times. I think I struggle with Christmas shopping because of my attitude toward gifts. Before buying anything, I ask myself if the object I'm considering to buy would be something I'd want to receive as a gift. If the answer is no, it is put back on the shelve. You can see why my cart was empty after 20 minutes with that kind of a BahHumbug attitude.
Forty minutes into the ordeal I bumped into Luella near the paper cups.
"Should I buy more of these?" she asked. She was pointing to several boxes of the some cheap off brand Chocolates. The chocolates are so full of wax many people use them for candles. Insert a wick and you're good to go.
"Who are you giving those to?" I asked.
"I thought may Kim, JD, Kim's girls....." I stopped her right then and there.
"Everyone in this family is on some kind of a diet. Do you really think they are going to use a few hundred of their precious daily caloric intake on off brand Chocolates? Would you?"
"You're right. Here take them back." I took the boxes out of her cart and re shelved them appropriately near the shortening. "Let's get some chips then," Luella said, and she was off.
We drove away from Walmart several dollars poorer but happy to be done. We stopped for a soda to fuel us for the drive home.
"Make mine a caffeine free with lime," she ordered as we pulled into the Walkers Gas Station across from Walmart. Luella claims the soda concoctions I prepare for her are the best. What she doesn't know is that 25% of her drink is the normal sugar loaded, caffeinated soda. It's the only way to make the decaff, diet soda taste like anything from this planet. Besides, I knew she had two packages of M&M's in her shopping bag for a mid morning treat. A little sugar in her diet cola wasn't going to make any difference.
It was snowing heavily when we left Walkers. The Battlestar was slipping and sliding as we climbed the hill toward the Fortress.
"We're slipping, we're slipping!" Luella exclaimed every time she felt the back of the car sway. We got to the top of the hill, then had to drive DOWN a rather steep road and into the driveway.
"It's too steep," Luella pointed out the obvious.
"Well, its the only way home so there is no choice. I've got the car in a low gear. We should be OK."
We started down the hill. Half way down I felt the snow take over the steering. We were in the first stage of a 360 degree donut.
"TURN INTO IT. TURN INTO IT!" Luella shouted. She was seeing all 73 years of her life pass before her eyes. There wasn't anything I could do but sit back and enjoy the ride. I knew the car would spin around and bump into the curb. Then I would back down the last 100 feet or so into the driveway and all would be well. Luella didn't see it quite that way.
"OH VICTOR, VICTOR!!" she shouted. She tried to disengage her seat belt (impossible if you knew how long it takes her to put it on) and climb over the arm rest and into my lap. She could see the curb coming closer and closer. She felt death's icy grip on her shoulder.
I should have shouted "WE'RE GOING IN. BAIL OUT BAIL OUT!" just to see what she would have done. Its one of those missed opportunities in life you wish you could relive.
We made it home in one piece. Two good things came from that experience;
1. Luella had her shock of the decade and will tell and retell the story in detail for the next year or so with many embellishments. I'm waiting for the version where she jumps out of the car and muscles it back into alignment just before we slam into incoming traffic.
2. I've made up my mind to get the studded snow tires I was considering a month ago but didn't.
Pictures from the Montana Ranch
Baby Luella with her mother Violet.
Baby Luella with her Grandmother Vesta.
Baby Luella with her Father Walter. 1939
Baby Luella with her mother Violet. 1939
Young Luella with baby Linda and Grandmother Vesta
The family at home in the wheat fields.
Grandpa John Albert, Violet, Luella and Grandma Ida.
Grandma Vesta holding Linda. With Luella.
The Mattson Homestead.
Luella is standing at the gate. Grandma Vesta and baby Lina are next to the house.
Young Luella on her father's lap (Walter Mattson).
Young Luella on the Montana Ranch