Mom’s obsession with Universal Product Codes began years ago after discovering if she collected enough and mailed them in—along with a substantial check—a beautiful “Collector’s Item” awaited at the end of the UPC rainbow. That’s all she needed to hear. So, throughout our house, whenever we opened a bag, a box, a bottle, a jar or can, all we heard was, “Save the label. Save the label.”
On rare occasions, Mom removed the plastic covers from the living room furniture. Only then did we take comfort knowing we wouldn’t, by accident, slide off our seats in the cool months or stick to them in the hot. This also gave us another reason to love Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter Sunday. Turkey, stuffing and Mom’s apple, cherry and pumpkin pies—even with bellyaches after—made Thanksgiving a treat. Bonnets, baked ham, and searching for Mom’s lavish baskets overstuffed with candy, sweetened our Easters. But only Christmas was an all-hands-on-deck family affair. Dad braved the blistering evening snow and a shaky ladder hanging garland and multi-colored lights around our front door, while the rest of us stayed warm by the fire listening to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole croon Christmas carols. Mom and Laurel set up the Nativity scene on the mantle, keeping Baby Jesus off to the side. David and Caryl hung stockings emblazoned with our names—pets, too—above the fireplace. Michael draped our fragrant Douglas Fir with strings of lights with at least one near impossible to find faulty bulb that threatened to disrupt our holiday cheer. Deecy and I decorated the tree with tinsel and family heirlooms beside ones soon-to-be. And we crowned our masterpiece with an angel and prayed she’d watch over us. But secretly I prayed she’d bring me a bounty of gifts, whether I was naughty or nice.