Every holiday season the members of FATSO (Flatlanders Adjusting To Solitary Oblivion) get together to celebrate the holidays, exchange gifts and reminisce.
FATSO is a winter support group for new transplants started many years ago by my friend Vinnie and myself.
We throw these Christmas parties to not only welcome the new members, but to keep in touch with the old ones as well.
I always love to surprise the new transplants, especially those from my birthplace of New York, with traditional gifts like real New York Potato Salad and a dozen fresh Brooklyn bagels which I get from my Black Market connection here in New Hampshire.
These gifts seem to soothe their fragile psyches when the temperatures plummet for the first time and they realize there isn’t anything to do after eight o’clock at night on a weekday once summer is over. It’s Flatlander comfort food.
Of course, some old FATSO members do show up for these parties and it always brings a small tear to my eye to see how well they are doing as well as how much food they eat at the buffet.
The older FATSO members get that misty, faraway look in their eyes when they see the new FATSOs reacting to the expected gifts. It brings them back to their first winters here.
After a few rounds of eggnog and Schlitz beer, the older members will exchange gifts among themselves. These are the more practical items that we Flatlanders have learned that we truly need for our survival.
For example, this year I was surprised to receive a “Flatlander Tool Box.” It seems the group got together and bought me the best one that money could buy. Among a few of the items inside were a worn, wing-tip shoe with a hard leather sole that can be used as a hammer, a sterling butter knife screwdriver, a lobster pick for those tight, precise jobs and, of course, two dozen rolls of duct tape with a coupon good for a dozen more. The tool “box” itself was actually a high-quality canvas bag from a local book store which was a big step up from the plastic Wal-Mart bag I had used for my previous tool box and was now stuffed into the broken utility draw in my kitchen. (I have to get around to fixing that one of these days.)
I had a few surprise gifts to give out myself.
To my friend Tony, a transplant form Queens, New York. I gave a CD collection “Planes, Trains and Automobiles – A Soundtrack of New York.” Now he can sleep comfortably as the unnerving quiet of the New Hampshire countryside is replaced by the familiar, unending beat of the Long Island Expressway as it sifts through his earpiece. My favorite sound in the collection is the rumble of jets taking off from Kennedy Airport as they fly two hundred feet over your house – Ahh! What memories.
When I told Paul, a long time Flatlander who is originally from The Bronx, the gift I bought for Tony, he helped to enhance the experience when he found one of those old “magic fingers” massage machines from a motel that was out of business. Paul jerry-rigged the “magic fingers” onto Tony’s bed (using only tools from the Flatlander Toolbox, I might add) so that he could actually “feel” the eighteen-wheelers zooming by his bedroom window.
Quite a gift!
After all the gifts have been exchanged and the buffet table is cleared off with many members using the plastic bags they bought to fill with the remaining potato salad and bagels (their grandmothers would be proud) it was time to gather around the video yule log and sing some of our favorite Christmas Carols.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas…You Got A Problem With That?” is one of my personal favorites and usually starts off the sing-a-long.
Soon we were into rousing renditions of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Why?” and “Santa Claus is Coming To The Mall.” A dry eye cannot be found after we finish the night with the strongest of voices to end the evening with “Silent Night…In This Neighborhood. Whaddya Kidding Me?”
It’s always sad when the party comes to an end. The longtime Flatlanders give each other a hug and a handshake as we know we may never see each other again until the last bobhouse sinks to the botton of Lake Winnipesaukee.
The new FATSOs we try to reassure. We give them our phone numbers and email addresses so they can contact us if they are feeling out of sorts.
It’s really a great community and we are there to help each other.