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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Keeping the holiday civil with fruitcake

This photo shows the a fruitcake medley, a selection of traditional fruitcakes from The Swiss Colony, located in Monroe, Wisconsin. (COURTESY SWISS COLONY / PHOTO COURTESY SWISS COLONY)
This photo shows the a fruitcake medley, a selection of traditional fruitcakes from The Swiss Colony, located in Monroe, Wisconsin. (COURTESY SWISS COLONY / PHOTO COURTESY SWISS COLONY)

One of the true gifts of the season is the good-natured argument.

You know, something you can go back and forth about with a friend or relative and never once feel the urge to do him or her bodily harm. Well, not much harm anyway.

Oh, people still fight about politics at this time of year. But, thank God, there are alternatives.

Take fruitcake, for instance. How many of us really and truly care about fruitcake?

Not all that many, I would suggest. Yet there’s almost no limit to the number of people who are willing to pretend to become apoplectic about the vileness of this seemingly inoffensive holiday treat.

Why? Because arguing about fruitcake is sort of fun – a welcome distraction as it were.

OK, maybe you genuinely dislike fruitcake. But I ask you: Does it really merit getting all up in arms about?

Of course not.

I suppose you could get somewhat worked up if you were surrounded by fruitcake bashers and felt the sincere need to defend this seasonal confection. But even then, it’s not like wrangling about the president. It’s, well, fruitcake.

Or what about eggnog?

Some contend the mere mention of the viscous stuff makes them want to urp up their last nine meals. How festive. Yet others seem to love it.

One option, of course, is to simply decline to have eggnog when it is offered. But some feel the need to do an imitation of a cat in the paroxysms of hairball release whenever the subject turns to the nog of the egg.

In any event, such debates don’t tend to be as rancorous as, say, arguments about panhandlers in downtown Spokane.

Neither do debates about holiday movies, other than those involving twentysomethings capable of bringing a remarkable earnestness to every conversation.

If you and your co-worker want to verbally go a few rounds over whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie, it’s unlikely it will lead to an exchange of actual blows.

Same with disputes about Christmas songs.

Hate “White Christmas”? Adore “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”?

Rant away. Get excited. Raise your voice. Wave your arms.

The thing is, it’s pretty much all in good fun. Everyone knows that.

When was the last time you were able to say that about arguments involving politics?

I would add real tree vs. fake tree to this list, but some of those arguments are even more heated than debates about whether superhero action figures and toy trucks are acceptable in Nativity scenes.

Let’s move on.

Follow those footprints

As I’ve noted over the years, there’s nothing like an inch of early snow to encourage certain grandparents to enlist the aid of young children in tracking various creatures.

Oh sure, those prints out behind the garage might be from cats, dogs, squirrels or crows, but you never know. Maybe they were left by a reindeer, snapping turtle, wolf pup or wolverine. Or a mythical Inland Northwest animal of your own invention.

I’ve had readers scold me in the past, saying it’s not nice to trick little kids. But isn’t that a grandparent’s job?

End note

I can’t remember exactly how I came to possess two Christmas boxes from The Crescent.

Stored in the basement, they’re still fairly pristine.

Though I moved here shortly before Spokane’s homegrown department store had its name changed in 1988 (and closed altogether a few years later), I seem to recall the Christmas boxes were a gift from a reader.

The larger one, the right size for a folded shirt or sweater, is red. It is adorned with the image of a gold holiday wreath and the signature, cursive store name. Beneath that, in tiny type, it says “A subsidiary of Marshall Field & Company.”

On the green one, “The Crescent” is embossed on the box lid.

Almost gave them away at some point. I’m glad I didn’t.

The empty boxes are Spokane time machines, full of happy yesterdays. Hold them in your hands and it’s easy to imagine Lilac City Christmases long, long ago.

No old movies can compete with the vintage slideshows in our own heads.

Ever seen pictures of downtown Spokane in the 1950s? Photos taken at this time of year?

Don’t you love those?

The Crescent is no more, of course. But for longtime residents, memories of loved ones’ holiday smiles last and last.

Contact the writer at srpaulturner@gmail.com.

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