Feb. 5, 2015
A Christmas Tradition
Christmas is always a special time for most families, and my family is no exception. Most families have their own Christmas traditions which have developed through the years, and again, my family is no exception. Every year, as Christmas Day approaches and the frenzy of gift buying and wrapping reaches its crescendo, someone in my family is deciding who will be the next recipient of our treasured family heirloom, passed from family member to family member every Christmas day since 1997. Yes, he’s got to decide on whom he will bestow the treasured “Whorehouse Bowl.”
Back in the early 90s, Lake Charles citizens decided that we wanted gambling casinos in our town. We voted to accept permit for two riverboat casinos and one Indian casino, and in record time, The Isle of Capri, Players’ Casino, and Coushatta Casino were up and running. My parents were immediately hooked, and we saw very little of them of for the next few years because we rarely made a trip to any of the casinos to visit with them.
The way the casinos work is they train their employees to make personal connections with their clients; learn their names, where they work, their birthdates, their children’s names. Make them feel important. Soon, my dad would be greeted by his favorite dealer when he walked onto the floor.
“Hey, Mr. Jo; good to see you. Did Olin let you out early, or did you sneak away?”
And my mom got the same treatment.
“Hey, Ms. Elaine. How are those handsome grandsons of yours doing? Have they won any new trophy buckles lately?”
Everyone likes to be recognized and made to feel important, and my parents were no exception. Another tactic the casinos used was awarding “perks” or gifts to frequent visitors. Soon the gifts began piling up at the Thompson household. All manner of household decoratives, monogrammed clothing, tools, and other do-dads were delivered with regularity.
So, one day in the fall of 1997, I was at my parents’ house for a quick visit on one of the rare times I found them home. The UPS truck pulled up with a delivery, and my mom brought the package to their dining room table with an air of reverence and expectation. It was from Players’ Casino, and it contained a box wrapped in glossy blue paper and a huge silver bow adorned the top. Mom carefully unwrapped the gift box, folding the blue paper into a neat square and setting aside the silver bow for later use. She opened the box and pulled the colorful tissue paper away, lifting out the most hideous object I had ever seen. She looked at it quizzically and let out a half-disappointed, “Oh!”
Was it a bowl? A serving dish? A soup tureen, maybe? I don’t know, we couldn’t tell. Before Mom even had a chance to decide what it was, my dad strolled in to see what the commotion was about.
“Yew! What’s that?” he asked, taking it from her and surveying it carefully.
“Well, I’m not sure,” she answered.
It was glass, bright royal blue glass, with a gold leaf rim and wide gold stripes around its middle and around the foot. Adorning the stripe around the middle of the bowl were pastel pink viola flowers which marched their way merrily around it. The combination of royal blue glass, gold, and pastel pink was just so incongruous.
Dad took another close look at it and said, “It looks like something you’d see in an Early American whorehouse!”
I think my mom’s feeling might have been a little hurt, but she shrugged it off, and the Early American Whorehouse Bowl was carefully placed in her china cabinet. That Christmas, as we all gathered at Mom and Dad’s to exchange gifts, Mom pulled out a festively wrapped gift addressed to my sister, Jodi. Mom explained to us all, “I know you’ve all gotten a gift from me, but I wanted to give this extra special gift to Jodi; she’s really deserved it.”
Jodi unwrapped the box, a look of puzzlement on her face, the rest of the family wondering suspiciously what she’d done to deserve an extra gift. She pulled from its box her extra-special gift. Yes, that’s right, it was the Whorehouse Bowl! Inside the bowl, on a 5X7 index card, Mom had written:
Early American Whorehouse Bowl
The person or persons lucky enough to be the recipient of this bowl must love, honor, and obey, and properly and
prominently display said bowl for one (1) full year before sharing the joy of ownership with other members of
On the back side of the card, Daddy had written the year-1997 and Jodi’s name. Then under it Jodi had written the year-1998 and she’d given it to our brother’s wife, Paula. The list continues; all the recipients listed next to the year they’d been given the Whorehouse Bowl. New baby in the family? Guess what it’s getting for Christmas? Someone got married? Getting the whorehouse bowl for Christmas! New house? Lucky you, here’s something for it.
It’s always fun to walk into one of our houses and see the whorehouse bowl sitting in its place of honor. “Prominently displayed, I see,” we are sure to comment. It’s also fun when a visitor notices it and politely comments, “Oh, what a pretty bowl” and is answered with peals of laughter.
This year when Christmas rolled around, no one received the whorehouse bowl. I questioned my sons, thinking maybe they’d forgotten to pass it along. They assured me that they didn’t have it and had no idea who did, but we were all curious. Then last Sunday, my mom showed up with a big box wrapped in Christmas paper and handed it to my new daughter-in-law. “This is from Sammi,” she told Kalie.
“The Whorehouse Bowl!” we all shouted.
My niece, Sammi, had received the bowl last year in honor of her new townhouse at LSU and had forgotten to bring it on Christmas Day. Yes, our Christmas tradition lives on.