Music to My Ears

The Gift

My dear wife Diana is one of those who begin buying Christmas presents in April. Yes I know it’s annoying. But how lucky is that girl? She has Christmas in her heart all year. However there is a dynamic in relationships that requires one partner to show the other what she bought that day for Sandy while I’m watching the NBA playoffs. And trying, really, to remember who the heck Sandy is while keeping one eye on the game. You girls think we’re not listening. We are. Just winking at the game and waiting for peace.

“Look, I found this adorable ‘Howard is at the free throw line down by a point’ candle for Sandy. ‘Ya know John why wouldn’t you foul this guy..His free throw style looks like a hammer falling out of a tree’ I found a wonderful blouse but I don’t know her size ‘boink..yep, don’t you think they’d make this clown practice free throws?’ Do you know her size?” Wait..what??!! That answer is always no.

So we get to this week. The week before the celebration of the birth.  I’m weak. I can’t help it. I get sloshy and on my bedside table I put the plastic Santa with a squeaker that my parents put in my crib my first Christmas and that we’ve kept all these years.

Wait! There he is!

Now imagine. I am 65 years old. That little guy has been waving to me from my crib, fireplace mantles, hutches and coffee tables for every one of 65 Christmases. Each year he is packed carefully away and the next Christmas he is hunted for again, sometimes with mounting anxiety because he didn’t pop out until the last box of decorations was opened. My kids are all in their 30’s and he has been a part of all of their holiday memories as well. Bonus, the squeaker still works.

You can see from the picture at the top that we decorate our home with whatever comes to our attention during post-holiday sales. Obviously there is no grand design. We just throw it all together and the result is something the family cherishes. The Snoopy on his doghouse was purchased as a surprise for Christmas 2011 when I came off the road. The lit up Santa on the deck stood in front of Diana’s home when she was growing up. You can’t see it but there is a rooster weathervane on the top of the house. I risk my life each year climbing up there and putting a Santa hat on his head.  Getting old for that crap, as my wife keeps reminding me.

My son is 30 and is hurt if I don’t have him help me put all this junk up. He also sets up the Christmas village inside the house and no one  is allowed to move anything after he’s done. So of course I always move one thing to see if he notices and he always does. The short story is I feel the kids are lucky to have been brought up believing in the holiday, succumbing to the wonder, and knowing that somehow Santa Claus is still alive.

I’ve written Christmas columns for every year since Copper was founded. By the way you’re reading our 100th issue. It’s fitting this issue comes out a week before Christmas and so our gift to you is the continued fun of reading this great rag. Your gift to us is your readership. Honestly we can’t do this without readers. Personally I am blessed with a vehicle which I use to drive my editor crazy and to present music to you from the wacky to the sublime. I appreciate each one of you and love the comments. Thank you all for this gift.

I have wonderful memories from all past holidays but I spend every Christmas veering between elation and melancholy. I am acutely aware that millions of people all over the planet dread the coming of the season. To these sad souls the weeks of Christmas carols, TV commercials and lighted town squares are constant reminders of the coming loneliness they will experience on December 25th knowing luckier families will be spending time with loved ones in warm happy homes. This creates a situation where some of these unfortunates ignore and even campaign against the holiday as an illegal representation of religious icons and sycophantic gift giving. That separates us and in a time when we need no further separation we should be tasked with closing that distance.

Part of the space between those who love the holiday and those who seem to hate it can be caused by Christian attitude. OK, this is tough sledding here. But I am a man of strong Christian faith and I continue to be amazed at the aloofness we tend to project towards those who are not of the same faith. This attitude is hardly the province of Christians alone; those of all faiths can be guilty of this. However, this is a Christian holiday and we have a responsibility to show focus on the spirit and its meaning. The man-child whose birth we celebrate loved everyone and we all need to bring ourselves closer to that ideal and realize we are not loved because we go to a church, read a certain book or donate money. We are loved in direct proportion to the love we create and spread around regardless of who that person is or their faith. Agnostics, atheists, Jews, Muslims, backsliders, bike riders and Christians are all the same in God’s heart.

We should not be focused on gift giving. Our family has been guilty of overdoing the gifts, filling the living room with brightly wrapped boxes and bags. This Christmas we decided to choose one present for each person, something special we know that person needs but would never buy for themselves. It has forced us to think hard about each other and spend time with everyone else coming up with that one special gift. I’ll miss the 14 books I always get, and will someday read, but I think we’re onto something.

Give yourself a gift this Christmas and talk to a homeless person you pass on the street. Let that guy who’s obviously in a hurry go before you at the stop sign. Pray for the spirit of those tailgating you on the highway. Volunteer at a shelter. Bless someone you’ve just met by telling them you love them and mean it.

The season is a time of joy but also a time of despair. In many ways and within too many of our brothers and sisters there are hearts suffering with loss and hopelessness. This holiday gives you the light, the right, the singing railroad tie and the sunrise. The chance and the hope. The word “season” is the root of the word “seasoning.” Use that spice liberally and remember you are never alone. My friends I am telling you, you are never ever alone.

Naturally, I’d like to leave you with a song. This Christmas standard was written during World War II by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent. It was penned from the perspective of a soldier in a foreign war with no chance at actually being home for Christmas. Recorded by Bing Crosby the song was a huge hit with the the families missing their sons and daughters and as well as with those sons and daughters themselves. Here from 1943, Der Bingle singing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

 

Happy Holidays to you all.  And by the way I love you.