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Mack Williams: Electric heating blanket for Christmas

With my recent hip socket problem, I sometimes used a heating pad to ease the pain.
This brought back some memories of childhood heating pad use for my ear, namely those excruciating earaches for which Dr. Frank B. Marsh would sometimes send me to Dr. Little, “ear, nose, and throat man.”
Another heating memory came back involving my heart instead of my ear, and not a heating pad, but instead, a full-size heating blanket.

In this particular memory, there is another difference between my heart and ear (besides the obvious). The heart-connected recollection doesn’t concern pain, but is instead imbued with a feeling of nostalgic melancholy for my father.
My father was a very thin and cold-natured man, suffering from such sensitivity especially in wintertime. I think this was somehow related to his low blood pressure, but I’m not exactly sure. I’ve heard the same said since then concerning other individuals afflicted with low blood pressure.

For me, as with all kids, a long night of Christmas Eve insomnia preceded the following morning’s opening of presents. I am sometimes afflicted with insomnia now, but with nowhere as good a reason as that special one on those childhood nights of 12/24-12/25.

I remember being in the living room, still wide awake, at the barest tipping of darkness into morning light. Adrenaline had kept me awake all night, but instead of the “fight or flight” variety, the kind engendered by soon-to-be-opened Christmas presents. The faintly noticeable daylight was about as negligible as the earth’s lighter, penumbral shadow, barely detectable at the beginning and ending of a lunar eclipse.

My father was sitting on the couch, getting ready to open his gifts.

Just as with men of any time, socks (subsequent to their invention) were also one of my father’s Christmas “staples,” along with shirts, pipe tobacco (Prince Albert), and long-playing records (just called “vinyl” now).

I don’t remember anything in particular about what I opened from family and “Santa” that early 1960s Christmas Day, but I do recall a gift my father received from us. I guess my memory of his gift points out the veracity of Christ’s statement: “It is more blessed to give than to receive!” My related paraphrase in this particular case is: “It is also more blessed to recall someone else’s happiness than your own!”

When my father unwrapped that particular present, he was both pleased and excited, for it was an electric blanket! I can still picture its chord and controls. To the best of my memory, he remarked that it would be put to good use. Though I don’t recall him saying so, he might just as well have also said the electric blanket would get just as much use, if not more, than his gift of Prince Albert pipe tobacco.

A special “mental video” of that Christmas morning remains with me. It starts out with the appearance of thin slits of “quasi-light” between our living room blinds. The color between those slats begins as the grayish crust that covers glowing charcoal, gradually turning to blue-gray as the minutes pass. Our Christmas tree’s lights are still holding temporary sway over the light of the passing moon and rising sun. None of the living room’s lamps are called upon for their illuminative “take” on things, and soon their time of potential use will be gone again. I am excitedly opening my packages, and my father is sitting on the couch, further examining his electric heating blanket and reading its instruction booklet.

The electric blanket was a most thoughtful and practical Christmas gift. It would be used during my father’s next few, final years, while his keeping of warmth was yet a viable option.

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