The Soup That Saved Christmas

duluth1.jpgNo one wants a face full of snow. But that’s what I had all too often growing up in those brutal Chicago winters. I always seemed to be in the middle of a blizzard walking against gale force winds – which is why I spent more time walking backwards than I did forward.

And no one wants to step into slush. But when I did, my mother would put my shoes in the oven. Usually about thirty minutes too long. My shoes would come out smoking and ruined, which was not unlike many of our family dinners.

And no one wants to be a poster child for static electricity. But the winter air was so dry that my hair repelled my brush, my pants clung to my socks, and touching anything would send enough voltage through me to light up Soldier Field.

Those were not a few of my favorite things.

So when Christmas vacation would approach, I was pretty much champing at the bit to get out of Dodge.

But it never happened.

duluth2.jpg Every year, my friend Wes and I found ourselves stuck in the snow, while our friends were basking in the Florida sunshine. We got so tired of hearing about their annual escape from the cold that we told them we were going where it was even colder.

We told them we were going to Duluth.

None of them believed us. So we set out to convince them.

After they all jetted off to Florida to join the flamingos and calypso bands, we wrote them postcards, telling them what a great time we were having in Duluth.

Then, we contacted a family who lived there. We didn’t even know them. But Wes’s father did. We put the postcards in a letter asking if they would drop them in a mailbox.

Over the next two weeks, while our friends were hitting golf balls, Wes and I were getting hit by hockey pucks. While they sailed, we shoveled. While they bet on jai alai, we bet on whether the car would start.

  And when we came in from the cold, Wes’s mother Gail would make us soup stew. To my palate, it was an award winner. When my mother made it, I gave it to the cat. So she called Gail and asked her for the secret to her recipe.

soup.jpg “I open a can of Campbell’s vegetable soup and pour it over mashed potatoes,” Gail said.

They both had a good laugh over it. But I think Gail probably laughed harder.

As Wes and I braved sub-zero temperatures and our teeth chattered like castanets, it was soup stew that got us through another Chicago Christmas.

When our friends got back from Florida and saw our postcards from Duluth, they were dumbfounded. But they also knew us well enough to know how far we’d go just to amuse ourselves. So they weren’t completely convinced of our story.

Then, to our surprise, we heard from our silent partners – the family in Duluth. They wrote us a letter saying how nice it was having us come up and stay with them.

We showed the letter to all of our skeptics, insisting it was proof of our visit.

Even so, to this day, we still get asked, “Did you guys really go to Duluth?”

So to anyone who’s still scratching their heads after forty years, consider this a little Christmas present. You’ve waited long enough to find out the truth about Duluth.



Robert Keats is a screenwriter and humorist.