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Shady Oaks Ecumenical Holiday Weekend

Apr 03 2016

When I was principal of Ossipee Valley Christian School, I played a character named Mr. I who visited the school twice a year:  the Christmas concert and awards night.  Mr. I was 87 years old and lived at Shady Oaks Retirement Home.  His visits involved telling stories of life at Shady Oaks, and what follows is perhaps his most memorable monologue.

Last weekend we had the Shady Oaks Holiday Ecumenical Services.  Ol' Doc Gamwell, the director of Shady Oaks kicked things off on Friday night.  You know Doc Gamwell, the one who never takes off his cheap fedora hat, even when he's inside?  So first he introduces the local Methodist minister.  Friday night he kicked things off with a traditional Methodist bean dinner.  The Methodist Women's Guild served us big plates of baked beans and cups of cider.  Except the Episcopal priest, who mixed himself up an extra dry martini.  After dinner, we all headed to bed early because we had a big weekend coming up.

I don't know whose bright idea it was to pump a bunch of geriatrics full of beans and then send them to bed, but by about 11:00 it sounded more like the 4th of July than Christmas time!  There were so many bombs bursting in air, I finally took out my hearing aids and put them in my drawer.

The next morning we all met in the activities room for the Kwanzaa part of the celebration.  There was a nice young man there saying we were going to try a tribal, traditional dance.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put my hearing aids in. He said, "Tribal, traditional dance."

I said, "What?"

He said, "Tribal, traditional dance."

I said, "What?"


Well, he was saying, Tribal, traditional dance", but I heard, "Try putting a fish in your pants."

Well, that didn't seem right, but I had never celebrated Kwanzaa before, so who was I to argue?  So I headed across the room to the aquarium, got the net and tried to catch a fish.  The only one I could catch was the huge one we nicknamed Jaws.  I scooped him out, pulled out the elastic waistline on my trousers, and dropped him in.  Well ol' Jaws started flopping around, and I began to do my own tribal traditional dance!  All my jumping around must have tapped into the last of those Methodist beans, and ol' Jaws never had a chance!

After this came the Baptist part of the program.  Greasy old Doc Gamwell introduced two local Baptist pastors.  They came up in front of the room, but never really got started.  They argued over what Christmas carols to sing, what translation of the Bible to use, and whether to use the wooden or fiberglass pulpit.  They just kept arguing, so Gamwell directed us all into the dining room where we had Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.  All except the Episcopal priest, who mixed himself up an extra dry martini.

We were finally brought back to the activities room for an interpretive dance by Bertha Bigbottom.  Being Catholic, she was going to dance to the Ovay Maria.  Now I know you think the hymn is called the Ave Maria but when the local rabbi saw Bertha in a leotard and tutu, he turned to the nun and said, "Ovay, Maria, have you ever seen such a sight!"  The name kinda stuck.

after a light lunch ( the Episcopal priest mixed up another extra dry martini) we went back for the   Hanukkah part of the celebration.  we don't have any Jewish folks at Shady Oaks, being in rural Maine and all, so I got to light the menorah.  It seems I've seen all the movies Mel Brooks ever made.  Unfortunately, I still didn't have my hearing aids in. Doc Gamwell said, " it's time to light the menorah" but I heard " it's time to light my fedora." It seemed strange to me, but I had never celebrated Hanukkah before, so I struck a match, and tossed onto Gamwell's hat.  I don't know if it was the cheap Walmart hat or the greasy hair, but his head went up like a Roman candle!

he began rolling on the floor, shouting and screaming, flames shooting everywhere... Well, I figured this was the Pentecostal part of the program.  Finally the Methodist minister realized what was going on, and he shouted, " pour some water on them, pour some water on them!"

well that's finally what it took to get the two Baptist preachers to finally agree.  "Not on our watch," they screamed. "He's gotta get fully immersed!"  They dragged old Gamwell to the bathtub and gave him a proper Baptist dunking!

Well, that was about all the festivities that weekend.  Everyone headed home, except the Episcopal priest who mixed up one more extra dry martini before leaving.

Now I want to thank you for inviting me here tonight, but it's time to get back to Shady Oaks.  Ol' Berta Bigbottom is performing in the Shady Oaks production of Swan Lake, ,and I don't want to miss a second.

good night everyone.

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