Friday, December 21, 2007

Holidays of Delight

Greetings to all of you during this blessed holiday season.

I am sitting in my dad's home in Northern Arizona sipping red wine. Outdoors the wind howls wildly, in the fireplace the logs crackle sputter and cast warmth into the room, on the TV White Christmas plays and the tree, alight with glitter and ornaments waits for the Christmas gifts to be wrapped and placed around it's feet. There is an ornament on the tree that is as old as I. It is a simple gold plastic ornament but, as far back as I can remember, it has been my favorite.

Christmas is almost upon us, the Solstice is tomorrow, and I've still a few more gifts to get. But that's not what this blog is about. This is what Christmas means to me. (and its not city sidewalks, busy sidewalks...)

I have beautiful memories of Christmas as a child. My family, who were never wealthy, always treated the holiday with love and warmth. Of course, as a young child, I was not privy to the pains and stress of trying to provide a decent Christmas to two boys (my older brother and me), all while keeping the house warm, food on the table and clothes on our backs. I have an early memory of my mother and I using "Glass Wax" and stencils to decorate the windows of our small, cozy home. I might have been 3 or 4 years old. Homemade Cookies were, of course, always part of the fair, as were visits from our relatives in the "Big City" (Chicago), who would venture into the country for a real taste of winter. I even used to force my mom to make Jesus a birthday cake (any excuse for cake I guess). You may chuckle, but I took it all very seriously. I remember, too, waiting for Christmas morning to open the presents. Gosh golly but I loved getting new books (still do) and scientific toys (still do). I remember having to ration the books and not read them all at once. Then I'd read them again, and sometimes again. I believe it was Elizabeth Barret Browning who said "There is no Frigate like a book to wend the soul to distant seas." I know not if I've gotten the quote correct, but it has always stuck with me.

During college I began to sing with an A Cappella group called The Jongleurs. My high school friend "Bodge" (some of you may remember her) was part of the group. Eventually there were five of us. We sang for (I think) 5 years at Marshall Fields on State Street. We all loved it. There is noting more beautiful (to my mind) than singing carols and songs of praise. We would even get the crazy busy shoppers to stop and lift their voices with us! Gosh I have some wacky and wonderful memories of that period of my life. And we got to sing for some luminaries; Betty Ford, Mayor Burn, Nancy Regan, the governor, visiting politicians and we even got to sing with Oprah on her afternoon show just before she went national. That was an occasion. However, I think the best times singing were when we sang at retirement centers, for the poor, at hospitals and, once, even broke up a fight at a police station by walking in wearing Dickensian costumes and breaking into song. I recall two officers and a "criminal" grappling - when we started to sing Masters in This Hall they just stopped and stared at us. I recall the man the police were grappling with stopped and began to smile.... such power in music. such power in Christmas. The Jongleurs even made a few recordings (Celebrate, Echos of Summers Past and Christmas Magic) - I'm thinking about bringing them back - we'll see.

But this is getting a bit long, so I'll just say that Christmas is about sharing. Regardless of our beliefs of God (or god) or not or whatever.... in this culture we can take this time as an opportunity to say to friends and family "I love you". We can freely share with the less fortunate without getting our "egos" involved and, for a moment, we can all become children again.

So, for Christmas, I wish for all of you the joy of memory. And if you've no joyous memories of Christmases past, I wish for you the delight of the now and the creation of new memories.

I'll be back after Christmas with news on Sterling and PA and all that stuff.....

But for now, my friends "God bless us everyone" Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

tu amigo........