Yuletide Knickers

Thanksgiving passed me by with nary a mention in my blog. We welcomed friends living in Jerusalem into our home for the holiday. Herein lies one of the highlights of spending time overseas and associating with similar people: I have friends in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Yemen, Austria, Seoul, Japan, and even a couple in New Mexico. Some of those friends are imaginary, but I do what I have to do to keep myself thinking I'm popular. It worked in high school.

Now the Christmas season is upon us, so it's time to reminisce on warm holiday memories. This trip down memory lane is brought to you by the letter V, as in "voluble," which means "talkative," which is what Rosey O'Donnell should stop being.

In December 2000, I had recently returned from my mission in Canada and was home from university for Christmas break. It was my first opportunity to exercise the newfound adulthood I'd acquired in the mission field; I now knew how to talk to adults and masquerade as an intelligent being, as long as the conversation revolved around things I knew about, like 1970s hard rock bands, basic multiplication tables, and how to touch my tongue to my nose.

Our across-the-street neighbors were holding their annual neighborhood Christmas social the Sunday after I arrived home, and I was primed to attend. Their daughters were close to my age and pleasing to look upon. Their last name was "Miracle", which seemed reason enough to entertain the thought of one of the tall, slender girls temporarily losing sanity and wanting to go down to the pantry with me to "bring up some more canned beats".

I draped my awkward frame with my whitest white shirt. I selected a tie that matched my stylishly baggy dress pants and carefully centered the knot between the points of my collar. I spritzed a puff of cologne on my neck -- enough to say "Follow me, my little cherie," but not so much as to say "I'm wearing the same underwear I wore yesterday, so I'm trying to compensate with an entire vial of this stuff I found stuck to a page in one of my sister's back issues of Seventeen". I casually strolled across the street with my mother. She didn't make me hold her hand (thanks Mom!)

Upon arrival, I retired to the lounge with the men -- all of whom were at least 20 years my senior. I listened to Mr. Miracle tell the other pepper-haired gentlemen about his work as a financial consultant. I pretended to know what "financial" means, and even slid in a question or two that, judging from a lack of derisive laughter and finger-pointing, pertained to the topic at hand, despite the fact that I only vaguely comprehended every fourth or fifth word.

When the conversation began to lag, Mr. Miracle inquired about my mission. The pod of 40-something heads bobbed up and down open-mindedly as I described the basic routine of missionary work: make a plan, watch the plan dissolve into a puddle of chaos, act like you still have a plan so the members will think you're on top of things and still invite you to dinner.

Feeling quite smug after holding my own in a room full of slicked-hair executives for a full hour, I sauntered in to where the ladies visited. Eyeing the Miracle girls as they elegantly sipped their apple cider, I casually bantered with the older women in their frumpy dress clothes and gaudy jewelery. They gaily laughed at my boyish wit and charm, their fingernails painted with old-lady colors clicking against frosted glasses filled with diet liquid.

Things were going my way. And then my mother leaned over and whispered in my ear: "Um, son, your fly is wide open." Suddenly, the ladies' gay laughter made a little more sense. The shifting of their sooty-eyeliner-ringed eyes suddenly seemed a little less random. I suddenly perceived that the gentlemen earnestly staring into my eyes as I related missionary tales had a little more to do with them trying with all their might not to look elsewhere than with any uncommon interest in my piety. I looked down as inconspicuously as possible. My fly wasn't just open, it was, indeed, wide open. Dark blue slacks contrast oh so starkly with white scivvies.

My mind wheeled backward at the speed of light: how long had my fly gaped so widely? A sick feeling washed over me as I realized I'd used the washroom just before strolling across the street to the party. My undies had been on display for the better part of two hours. So that's why the Miracle girls hadn't said a word to me. I guess they liked guys who played it cool, as opposed to guys who were cool due to a constant chilly winter breeze blowing through their knickers.

Needless to say, I left without finishing my Coke. I don't think I came out of my room until after New Year's. To this day, I can't bring myself to speak to the Miracles. I mean, they've seen my undies. What's left to talk about?

Ahhhh. Christmas memories.

As a special gift to my three readers this Christmas season, I'm posting two pictures. One is of me. My fly is up in this particular image, thank you very much. The other was taken at the end of a hike that meandered up an obscure wadi. That's my friend Dan beneath the cascade of chilly autumnal water. His fly is up too.

My mom-in-law took the shot of me, as I'm usually on the other end of the lens. It was taken on the rooftop of Petra, near the High Place of Sacrifice. I'm pretending in the picture that I'm so important that I talk on my cell phone even while I'm on vacation. In reality, I was speaking to Shannon and bragging about how I could see for miles while she was at home with whiny kids. I'm still sleeping in the spare bedroom.