by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
When I recently wrote about Christmas traditions, I left out one that is probably unique to our household: The Relocation of the Georges.
Decorating our living room for Christmas requires us to move items in order to make room for the manger scene, the trees [at least three, including the “before” version of the tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas TV special], wreaths, and more, This year we relocated our collection of Georges to the bedroom.
The Georges are toy animals. I don't know which one we acquired first. When I was researching this article [i.e. talking to Lois about it] we realized that neither of us recall why we named multiple stuffed animals “George”. She has other stuffed animals, some with other names, some unnamed; neither of us have a special connection to the name “George”. But there they sit, a half dozen creatures ranging from 2 feet tall to less than an inch, with little in common other than their shared name.
Before I introduce the Georges, I want to point out, as a man who grew up admiring John Wayne and Charles Bronson, that I don't personally own stuffed animals, except for Max, the canine companion of The Grinch. And The Creature from the Black Lagoon, part of my Universal Monsters Plush Collectibles set. Okay, that muight not sound so manly, but I also admired Boris Karloff. Anyway, the Gill-Man can't automatically be considered an animal, since there is a novel which presents him as the descendent of alien space travellers who were stranded on Earth . . . oh, never mind. I don't have the space to explain the time travel part. Back to the Georges.
The busiest [and tallest] of them is George the Hippo. A friend of Lois liberated him from a thrift store while we were visiting southwestern New York, gave him to Lois, and we buckled him in the back seat for the ride home. He was not impressed with Ohio. Several people who passed us honked their horns to acknowledge the hippopotamus watching them from our vehicle. One year I thought it would be funny to include him in the decorations for a church Christmas party. Along with stuffed snowmen, we displayed our hippo with a Santa hat. Not willing to settle for subtlety, I introduced him as George the Christmas Hippo. People were okay with that, but the next year, during our November Food Collection for the community food pantry, some folks were startled to find George greeting them in the foyer. He was holding a promotional sign in one hand, a large spoon-shaped ladle in the other, wearing a black pilgrim-style hat with a silver buckle. I introduced him as George the Hungry Hippo. He turned up again from time to time, usually stylin' with his sunglasses, and some members of Goodold Baptist Church seemed to think I had crossed a line of piety or propriety somewhere. Maybe it's because George had never been baptized, but I really didn't think presenting a sopping wet George the Repentant Hippo would settle matters.
I don't know much about the other members of The George Gang. They don't confide in me much these days [it's been that way ever since my medications were adjusted]. They find a more sympathetic ear with Lois, but she keeps strict confidence; and they've not been ministry partners with me like G. t. Hippo [I suspect that a couple of them are Buddhists because of the way they can sit contentedly, almost trance-like, all day].
George the Lamb: Gets upset when I accidentally call him “George the Sheep.”
George the Mouse: Enjoys sitting contentedly all day. Contrary to the stereotype, has no desire to steal cheese.
George the Tree Frog: I didn't want to put him in the bedroom. I don't like the way he stares when I'm dressing.
George the snail: Vertically challenged, he's sensitive about the whole “size matters” issue. We avoid the terms “tiny” and “small” around him. The shy one, he's the behind-the-scenes sound man when they go on tour as “G Crew”.
Wilfred the Pig: Why Wilfred? The world may never know, because Lois and I sure don't! We're pretty sure she named him, but she doesn't know anyone named Wilfred. It's neither a variation on “Wilbur” from Green Acres, nor a nod to actor Wilford Brimley. Sometimes I mistakenly call him “Wilmer”, even though the only person I know with that name is a character in “The Maltese Falcon”. Fortunately, my faux pas does not offend him; he just sits contentedly, almost trance-like. If you think it's strange to have a Wilfred in the George Gang, I should explain that his real name is “Wilfred G. Pig”. And no, there is not a prize for the first reader to guess what the “G” stands for.
The George Gang
“G CREW RULES !”
They're really good at posing for a group photo.