“I’ll leave these shoes,” my new husband said while he tossed a perfectly good pair of dress shoes over by the trash can. “I guess we don’t need the boxes for all of these things either,” I responded as I removed gifts from packaging and re-wrapped them in dirty clothes. We then rearranged our belongings in our three suitcases desperately trying to fit an entire Lladró nativity set with all of its packaging along with the rest of our wedding and travel stuff in there. It was like a bad game of Tetris. Thanks to my father in law, Jack McCall.
Jack never did anything in a small way. He also always did things his way. The first time I met him he asked me if I had closed toe shoes so we could go cut cows. I had no idea what he was talking about, and he was one hundred percent serious. I was horrified. Cut cows? Did he mean castrate? I then learned that cutting cows meant sorting them out so that he could sell some at the local auction, and that the sandals I was wearing were not appropriate for the task because I might get cow poop all over my feet. I guess he thought this was a good way to screen a potential daughter-in-law.
Later that evening, he told me that my then boyfriend (now husband and father of my three children) and I should probably not have children because they would be ridiculously hard headed. He may be having the last laugh about that one.
My husband and I were married in Spain. To honor his mom who had passed away before we met, we bought a small Lladró angel to place on the altar (small being the key word here) once we had arrived in Spain, but before our wedding. Lladró is a Spanish brand of beautiful ceramic figurines. They are fragile, many of them are expensive, and they come in tons of packaging in order to protect the figurine.
Jack was with us when we bought the Lladró angel. The next day, he and some other family and friends (because it took multiple people to carry it all) showed up at our hotel with four bags of Lladrós containing: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three wise men, a cow, and a donkey. The entire nativity set. The not religious Jack McCall had purchased the entire nativity set of Lladrós. Which was of course beautiful and very generous, but I also couldn’t help wonder if he was just wanting to sit back and enjoy watching us figure out how to get it all back to the States.
Along with the typical wedding stress, Project Get Jesus and Friends Home Safely was suddenly in full swing. We looked at mailing it. Prohibitively expensive. Other forms of shipping. Same problem. So we went to the local department store and bought the largest suitcase they had. And there we were in the hotel in Spain the night before leaving trying to fit them all in and having to ditch some of our other belongings. WWJD?
In spite of the fact that the Lladrós had lots of packaging, we (read: I) were still worried about putting them in checked bags. I didn’t want them to break. It seemed ok to put the animals in there, maybe the wise men. The wise men were the largest with the most packaging so it made sense to put them in the suitcase. Joseph had a very fragile staff. Maybe we shouldn’t put him in checked luggage. And what about Mary. And Baby Jesus? Jesus can’t go in checked luggage. Jesus goes in the carry on. Amazingly, they all made it back in one piece. They have survived a move and three kids (knock on wood) and every Christmas we bring them out and laugh at having carried them across the Atlantic.
This is just one of the many, many stories that Jack McCall left with us. Everyone I meet that knew Jack has a Jack McCall story. Most of them are not suited for small children. Almost all of them are hilarious. He was a good father-in-law (even if he liked to give me a hard time, all the time) and a good grandfather to my kids. He instilled in my oldest a lifelong love of fishing, and in all of them a deep love of the land and respect for the armed forces.
Even when he was sick, he never lost his wit or sense of humor. In fact, one of the very last things he did on this earth was make fun of my youngest for whining. This year that Lladró nativity set is extra special, as it is out first year without Jack here with us. It is a great memory and a reminder of the importance of family, friends, and spending time with people you care about. It’s also a good lesson on the importance of commas (carry on Jesus v. carry on, Jesus) and that when faced with a packing dilemma, you should carry on Jesus. Always carry on Jesus.