This time of year brings its own particular memories—usually brought on by the five senses. The smell of fresh-fallen snow reminds us of sled runs when we were younger, the velvety taste of hot chocolate reminds me of sipping cocoa from my Santa mug when I was five or six years old, the ugly ornament half broken and losing its shiny luster is the one I am most fond of, the one my mother gave me that used to be hers. The lights, the carols, the yummy smells all work together to bring forth memories—some good, some not so good.
I remember one particular weekend before Christmas when I was a Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop. At best it was like herding cats. Trying to get a dozen or so girls to cooperate, for one minute to shut up and listen. We had plans to go downtown to the Museum of Science and Industry for Christmas Around the World. Does the museum still do this? It is where in the Great Hall trees representing Christmas in other lands are decorated. These days Christmas trees are not as important as what’s underneath them. Sheesh, Black Friday. It’s a scary world out there.
Anyway, in my squishy memory I remember having to change vans to accommodate the number of girls. We went from a mini- to a maxi-van. All of this last minute and mind-jarring with little girls voices blaring louder than the voices normally in my head. I probably was thinking I just want to get there, see the trees, and get this over with. Of course traffic was bad.
On top of this, it was the Christmas post-9/11 when new security procedures were coming into place. So when we pulled into the parking garage beneath the museum a guard came out and said she needed to check the van. How was I supposed to know that in the back of the van was a plastic bag with a decapitated deer head?
My husband had secured the van for us from a hunter just back from bagging a ten-pointer. The head was meant to go to a taxidermist’s while the carcass was at the meat rendering shop getting sliced into cutlets and steaks and little venison burgers.
“Uh, what is this?”
I barely heard the security guard over the girls singing Christmas carols. Jingle bells, Santa smells, Robin laid an egg.
“What?” I asked in return.
She wasn’t going to pick it up, but instead said, “This deer head.”
Then it dawned on me: We’re going to jail. I have all these kids in a van with a bloody deer head.
Before I could answer her, she waved me through. “I don’t even want to know.” The kids never knew either. We just sailed into a spot and clambered out, relieved to be at the museum.
Now in my mind’s memory I can still see these innocent little girl scouts singing at the top of their lungs and the freaked out face of the guard staring into the dead motionless eyes of a deer, the plastic bag smeared with blood and bodily debris. Those two images juxtaposed sort of tell the story of the years I spent as a Girl Scout leader.