Valentine’s Day is always one of my favorite times of year.   How could it not be?   All the reds and pinks with some white to set it off.

I remember back in grade school, taking almost an entire afternoon to create some sort of box decorated with library paste and sloppily cut out hearts so in the coming days, we would have some place to put the box of seventy nine cent pre-made valentines in.  Sometimes this project lasted a week or more and to top it off, an afternoon spent opening those cheesy valentines, and getting stuffed full of cup cakes and cookies and candy.    Who couldn’t love missing even one afternoon of math or science?

Selecting my box of Valentine’s was always a good time, then sitting at the table, making sure the right card went to the right kid.   Nope, not that one, (he or she) might think I like them…neutral card.

Going with your dad to the neighborhood drug store to pick just the right box of chocolate for your Mom.   Making sure you select the box that has lots of candies with nuts instead of gaggy lemon cream, because you know that most of those candies will wind up in your own belly.   And, I will say it here and now, Dad was wrong my mom really did want that heart shaped box of chocolate with that lovely doll on top of it, even though she would have given it to me, she really wanted it.

As I grew older enough to appreciate the day of love, I found it wasn’t that monumental, until it started coinciding with tax return season.   I, then began to see the day of love in with new eyes.   For me it was poor people’s Christmas.

“Sorry kid’s I know you wanted that (fill in the blank) for Christmas but tax time is coming so is Valentine’s Day.”

For me it was also the one time of year, Annie wasn’t draining my ‘magic card’ and I had a limited amount of time to drain it before Annie could.    Tax season Annie seemed to have a never ending supply of cash, she had lots of dependents, and write offs, and deductions;  her usual refund was larger than her over all yearly income which was more than six figures.

Since, Valentine’s Day, coincided with Annie’s annual tax refund lottery, she had to follow her traditional, festivities.    Since this was Annie’s Jr’s first Valentine’s Day, she wanted it to be very special.

It doesn’t matter how ‘technically’ rich, Annie is, she somehow feels the struggle of the poor, probably because most of the time she spends her money so fast she rarely has any available liquid cash.    She finds the positive aspects  of poverty, and finds peace there.   So ‘Poor Man’s Christmas’ is a magical event for her, well any event where Annie will get something is magical.

Annie carefully dresses for the beginning of her festivities.   She puts on her wig, complaining her hair is thinning, attaches a dozen hair curlers then wraps it in a scarf.   Next she puts on her face; applying make up without washing the sleep crust and goo out of her eyes is important.    She continues wearing the same plaid pajama pants she has been wearing for the past three days, puts on a hot pink top that says, ‘Kiss my grits!” in sparkly letters.   Then gets Annie Jr. ready.

She messes up his hair, and dresses him in pants that are way too long, and a shirt that is way too tight so it rides over his fat little belly.   No shoes and maybe one sock.  She hands Annie Jr. a bottle of highly caffeinated  carbonated beverage to make sure he is completely wound up.   Then she is ready to go.

Typically, Annie would take the city bus, down to the Walmart, however, after what happened last year, breaking the handicapped lift on the bus because she was hauling 18 shopping carts behind it, she decided a new approach was more appropriate.

She bought herself a car, a station wagon, from the 80’s.   It was a cross between burgundy and brown a dusty sun bleached, kinda color.    The two front doors were different colors one was yellow and one was green, neither of the windows opened.   There was fake paneling on part of the car and real paneling on the other half.   There was a third seat in the back that Annie said was a plus because, not only could Annie Jr. watch the road going by through the big rusted out hole back there, but if the brakes quit he could stick his feet through and stop the car.  It sounded like a machine gun as it roared to life and all four of the bald tires wobbled and looked as if they would fall off any second.   Annie said it was because she was missing a few lug nuts, she had five to be exact.   She purchased it at the local junk yard, she registered it, slapped on a ten day inspection sticker and was good to go.   It had a luggage rack though, Annie justified.   ‘Widder Hen’ was written on the back of it in orange spray paint.   She named her, ‘Carol’ after the Brady’s mom.   The stereo which worked well surprisingly played a continuous loop of the Brady’s greatest hits along with an occasional song like ‘Rocking Robin’.   Annie would pull up along side old guys with crazy hats and long hair, thump her music and make faces at them.

I had planned my own outing that day, keeping the whole thing under wraps, because Annie seemed to always horn in on any plans I had and make them her own.   I was planning a shopping day with my daughters, but, different town, different Walmart, no chance of running into Annie, besides her car wouldn’t make it too far although part of her plans involved getting some parts to fix up her car.

I left  after Annie was well on her way to the local Walmart with Duh-Wayne following behind with his scooter tow truck out fitted with a complete car repair kit.  Annie claimed triple A was too expensive.

Dinyell, Slamma Jr, K8, Phil and I pulled into a Walmart several towns away we even changed our plans twice, we parked and the absolute second we did, we heard the unmistakable sound of Annie’s old rattling death trap pull up beside us and there is Annie in her curlers waving and Annie Jr screaming, “HI SLAM!” from the back.   Old black dusty foam is covering his face because there is no fabric on the roof of the car just the foam and it constantly falls down like a snow storm.   His nose is and has been running and it looks like some weird sort of painting across his upper lip, greens, yellows brown all weaved together and different textures.

“I didn’t know you were coming to THIS Walmart.”  Annie said.

“Yes you did!” K8 said.   “You texted me and asked me.”

“Oh well let’s go shopping,” Annie said, hopping out of the car, shoving Annie Jr. into my arms.   I grab some wet wipes from Phil’s diaper bag and start mopping Annie Jr. face with it.

“Annie for goodness sakes, I have clothes for Annie Jr. that actually fit.   Why do you dress him like a ragamuffin?” I asked, sniffing as she approached.   “And why do you smell like pee?”

“My depend is full,” Annie said pulling a bottle of body spray out of her purse and began spraying it.   “Is that better, Slam?”

“No it smells like pee, what kind is it?  And why are you wearing a depend?” I asked.

“It’s called ‘depend overflow’ from my body smell body spray collection.   That why I am wearing a depend.  I also have ‘dried colostomy bag’ scent as well. ”  Then she lifted her shirt displaying a colostomy bag.

“Annie omg why?” I screamed.

Annie laughed her crazy laugh and said, “You did it.”

“Not by choice!” I screamed.

“Oh Slam,” Annie laughed slapping me on the back.   “I am not pooping in it.  I am just wearing it and drying it out.”

“Annie where did you get that nasty poop filled colostomy bag?   Have you been visiting the hospital dumpster again?”  I screamed stepping away from her.

“No Slam.   Duh, it’s from my colostomy bag collection!”  Annie said.

“You have a collection of crap filled bags in my house, and you probably have no idea whose poop it even is?”  I yelled.

“I have an idea of who it belongs too…I collected all of yours.” Annie laughed.

I shook my head and kept walking.

Annie Jr. couldn’t make up his mind which box of Valentine’s cards he wanted.    He wound up getting 8 different boxes plus 2 boxes Annie felt he needed and since he could not possibly give ‘his’ cards away, he had to get double on everything so he could give some away and keep the rest.   He had to get several new and expensive toys.   Annie tossed several clothing items for him in the cart never bothering to see if they were the right size or even matched anything.    “These are nice!” she would scream and toss in a lilac colored shirt that said, “mommy’s princess.”

Annie’s multiple carts continued to increase, in went a book about the digestive system of the walrus, Annie had on her reading list, it had lots of pictures some of them pop up.   In went the entire ‘it smells to high heaven’ hair care collections and then the matching body wash. Why a cat would need both body wash and shampoo is beyond me; especially since Annie avoided water normally unless she was bugging me for a bowl, (she pours stuff all the time except water) or she is swimming in it cause she loves swimming.

She made sure to visit the automotive department, where she bought a cover for her steering wheel made out of fake porcupine fur (you can’t make this up), an air freshener with a bare chested guy with a beer belly on it, a cup holder and a litter bag; she needed a back hoe to get all the trash out of her car, fast food wrappers, empty cans, old receipts, discarded socks and old shoes (she’d had the car two days).

She was even generous to the pets at home.   She had asked each of them for a list of their hearts desires, promising to move heaven and earth to make it happen for them.   She grabbed a hand full of 2 for a dollar cat toys and one irregular chew toy for the dog and called it good.

We left the store making several trips to the car loading all of Annie’s purchases into the big hay wagon Duh-Wayne had attached to his tow truck tractor.   I am not sure where his tow truck scooter went but obviously it was not capable of pulling a hay wagon full of Annie’s spending spree and he’d exchanged it for something more powerful.

The Annie’s horned in on our dinner out and unfortunately, I was forced to ride home with Annie in the death trap.   There wasn’t room in the car for me, since the hay wagon was not able to carry all of her purchases so I had a choice of standing behind Duh-Wayne on the tractor or being tied to the luggage rack.   “Luggage rack it  is,” Annie screamed before I had a chance to answer.

I was glad the first part of the Poor man’s Christmas was over, however the festivities would continue until Annie’s money ran out.    But I was used to it.   She’d been doing it for years.

When we got home, Annie came and said, “Bought ya a present, Slam.   Happy Valentines Day.”   She pulled out a heart shaped box, on top was a beautiful doll with a stunning lacy dress that covered the entire top of the box.    It was exactly like the one I wanted my dad to buy my mom.   I was so touched, a tear rolled down my cheek.

“Annie, this is wonderful, thank you!” I said.

With that Annie snatched the box from me, ripped the doll off the top tossed it to Annie Jr. and said, “Here son, Slam doesn’t want this.”  Then she began stuffing all the nut filled candies into her mouth as fast as she could working her way down from the top while Annie Jr. ate from the bottom up, smearing chocolate and coconut all over the dolls hair and dress.

Yes, a Poor Man’s Christmas with Annie.




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