For some reason, I thought about Jack the other day, and Mollie and Stina. They all came together in Swainsboro on Christmas Eve, 1996. Jack was a colorful figure. He loved the outdoors. He was flamboyant, loud, and very expressive. When I say he was a real bird, I mean he was a real bird. He was a cockatiel from South America. Well, actually he was from a pet store in North Augusta. He didn’t speak English, but then he didn’t really speak anything. The lady at the store said he would probably pick up something after a little while, but Jack kept to himself. Every now and then he would blurt out a really irritating screech for no particular reason. But that was rare, and when he did it, everybody jumped a little bit, and then things were ok for a while. Jack was a last-minute Christmas idea for our boys, and the first challenge with Jack was to prevent any of his outbursts until his unveiling on Christmas morning. Mollie was a free spirit, with the darkest hair and the most soulful eyes you ever saw. She was a pure bred, paper-holding black lab puppy. She was about eight weeks old and naturally had the activity level of a turbo charged firecracker wrapped in coiled springs with no "off switch". Of course, she was adorable and “almost” house broken. She could do no wrong, but I could already tell we needed more homeowner’s insurance with her around. The plan was that Mollie was also going to be a Christmas morning surprise. As I look back, I wonder if my wife and I secretly knew this was going to be a train wreck and just didn’t want to admit it, or if we were so dead tired right before Christmas we just thought, whatever happens, this will have to be the best Christmas ever! Finally, there was Stina. Stina was the Rotary Club exchange student from Sweden that year. As the President of the club, I, along with my wife, had the job of looking after Stina while she was here in the U.S. for a year. She was enrolled at Georgia Southern and was a bright, pretty, independent young lady. Her father, who was a submarine commander in the Swedish Navy, called me two days before Christmas and said Stina’s plans for the holiday had fallen through, and the dorms were closed. Of course, we were happy to have her spend Christmas with us, but the house was beginning to fill up fast. Add to that the fact that we were hosting a Christmas party for several dozen folks that night. So, as young couples with young children do, we just charged blissfully ahead and blindly assumed everything would work out, because it had to, right? Right, and that’s exactly what happened. Stina was our international house guest for the party, Jack was screechless with a blanket over his cage in the study, and Mollie hid out in a cozy box in the downstairs bedroom with a babysitter from Sweden. Santa made it all come together, and in spite of the screeching and barking on Christmas Day, we all lived to tell about it. The train wreck didn’t happen, and it really turned out to be one of the best Christmases ever. So get ready, only 157 more shopping days. It'll be here before you know it.
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