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Maturing merrily into manhood

If it's December and it involves a truck stop and Elvis, then it's got to be a man doing his last-minute Christmas shopping.

My 15 year-old son has me driving our family sleigh west on I-20 to what he describes as nothing less than magical gift-buyer's paradise, the only place on Earth that actually does have something for everyone. For me, this holly, jolly one-on-one time with him is a gift in itself. I playfully tossle his hair. His cheeks burn like a Yule log.

Stunned, based on its heralded glory, that a bright star isn't overhead, guiding us, I inquire about exact location. "I don't know," he confesses, also admitting he doesn't know the actual name of the place. "But I'll know it when I see it. The sign has cherries on it ... or maybe those were apples."

If it involves overlooked details and under-whelmed emotions, then it's got to be a man giving directions. But this is only a boy to whom I extend the backs of my fingers to caress his peachy cheeks. Yet, he dodges my affection like Dasher, Dancer and Prancer dodging rooftop detection, while at every off-ramp, announcing, "This is it," then recanting, "No, it's the next one." We go on like this for miles, undulating between certainty and ambivalence.

Finally, he commits to an exit and we leave the interstate. Craning his neck in both directions, "Left," he says. "I see it."

Following his guidance, I pull in and park. "Are you sure this is it?" I ask.

"Yes, ma'am, this is definitely it," he replies, unbuckling his seatbelt and grabbing his wallet bulging with Christmas cash.

"But those are gas tanks," I protest, pointing toward the self-serve island separating us from the store entrance. A surge of testosterone causes his eyeballs to roll in his head and bump against visions of sugarplums.

The first item he selects is a "collectable" Lynyrd Skynyrd Saturday Night Special shot glass set, the tall narrow kind, which he says his Aunt Ottie can use as orange juice glasses for his three young cousins. And Uncle Jeep, he tells me, would thrill over beef jerky paired with  a Budweiser can cleverly converted to a water bottle. I suspect Uncle Jeep is opposed to water-filled Budweiser cans, but I keep it to myself.

Birdhouses of every sort, including Elvis with the entry through the mouth, have him thinking of his grandmother. For his granddaddy he settles on a license plate tree ornament that reads Luv Trucker, plus a Sprite and a Snickers Bar.

Watching the child marvel over Betty Boop dinnerware and car window decals of Rebel flags backgrounding skeletons in confederate uniforms, I strategically move between him and a T-shirt studded with rhinestones artfully depicting a bunny, not of the rodent sort. A heady notion swooshes into my senses as the dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly: Like the shepherds and the wisemen, I, too, am bearing witness to a crossing over. At that exact moment, the door to Winter Wonderland slams shut, leaving me there, just another woman trying to explain to just another man why a 4 year-old should not drink his orange juice from a Saturday-night-special shot glass, even if it is a collector set.

If it involves tightly binding an evergreen's branches in light strands from the bottom up, if it involves wrapping a present in a plastic grocery sack, if it involves a truck stop and Elvis, then it's got to be a man decking the halls with holiday cheer.

(Lucy Adams is a columnist, freelance writer and author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at and visit her Web site,

Web posted on Thursday, December 16, 2010

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