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RYAN BAKKEN: A Christmas cry remembered

Daughter Andrea was humiliated many times by my chaperoning of her school dances and then -- even worse -- writing about it. Today, it's son Jake's turn to be embarrassed. It's only right that he, too, should contribute by being red-faced. And, a...

Ryan Bakken
Ryan Bakken

Daughter Andrea was humiliated many times by my chaperoning of her school dances and then -- even worse -- writing about it.

Today, it's son Jake's turn to be embarrassed. It's only right that he, too, should contribute by being red-faced. And, at age 23, he should be able to take it.

The event in question happened 21 years ago, meaning he was a 2-year-old for you folks who are really bad at math. It was Christmas Eve, the designated day for the Bakken clan to congregate in Crookston to open presents.

Part of the Bakken ritual was for Grandpa Lowell, after a dinner that included lutefisk, to proclaim that he was too full and too tired to open presents, so everyone would have to wait until morning. The ruse was familiar to his children and older grandchildren, so we would play along.

The younger grandkids like Jake did not know this was a tease. The thought of another overnight wait would seem like another lifetime's wait. Angst built as they became sufficiently riled by the idea of waiting until morning to open presents. Just before they reached the breaking point, grandpa "caved."

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Because he was the youngest, Jake was the first grandchild to open a present. He tore off the wrapping in two seconds flat to discover his long-awaited first present was ...

... a pillow.

No truck? No Lego? A pillow? Jake flung the pillow across the room and bawled. Not a sob. Not a whimper. Not a cry.

A bawl!

Jake's mother and father were mortified. The custom pillow was made by Grandma Ruby, who worked out of her home as a seamstress, doing everything from hemming to making wedding dresses. The pillow, a family tradition, was a work of art and a work of heart.

Everyone else thought Jake's pillow toss was hilarious. They still do. To this day, one of his more sympathetic uncles will ask him something like: "Flung any pillows lately?"

His parents eventually found the humor in the incident.

But it took awhile.

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Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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