I admit, I'm tired of the commercials where someone gives a family member a new Lexus, and the clattering group that remarks "He got it at Jxxxx."
We need a bit of a pick-me-up and we're counting on you. Tell us your Christmas story. Make it good. Heck, make it up if you want.
I'll start. It was the winter of 1980. I was living in a basement apartment in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, my first Christmas alone (my wife had run off with the town insurance agent, but that's another story for another day). We were in the grip of a typical western Massachusetts cold snap. The morning air temperature that Christmas morning was -23. I didn't have a garage.
A car in a garage has a chance of starting at -23; a car high on a hill, exposed to the wind rolling in from New York when it's -23 has no chance. I was to travel back to the family estate for Christmas.
Click. Click. Click. You know the sound. And Christmas was over. I went back inside to spend the day with the cat, and call the family to tell them I couldn't make it.
A few hours later, I looked out the window to see the news director at the radio station I worked at (who, as I recall, also volunteered to take my shift that day so I could go back home) -- and his father -- unraveling some jumper cables. A few minutes later, the car was running, and I was on my way.
Update Here's another one that just came my way from back East. On my personal blog, I wrote a story about my Springsteenian home town last spring. Specifically, I wrote that my mother mentioned to a "checkout lady" at a grocery store (whom she did not know) that she was in need of someone to mow her lawn. Later that day, the phone rang. It was the "checkout lady" with a list of recommendations. Cool enough. This morning, my mother sent me an e-mail. There was a knock at the door yesterday. It was the "checkout lady" with "a beautiful basket filled with candy, coffee and cookies."
When it comes right down to it, you don't need diamonds and fancy cars to make a Christmas memory.
As we were driving from western Minnesota to the Cities to annouce our engagement to both of our families on Xmas eve, our car broke down on 394 in Wayzata. (My fiance was in the city as were his parents.) My Dad was grumpy and just wanted to go home not knowing we needed to be in the city for an important reason. My Dad called my little sister, who was at home, and told her we were on our way home. I was sobbing in the backseat. Mary, my sister, had just received her driver's license and knew of my secret. She had only driven back country roads but couragously said she would take the other car and drive us to my fiance's. She was white knuckled from the stress of driving on the freeway but got us there for our big announcement. I never thanked her for making Xmas 1980 such a wonderful one. Thanks, Mary.
Christmas can be such a beautiful holiday (ignoring crabby shoppers and horrible drivers). We love looking at the lights. Perhaps to combat the onslaught of bad news, our neighborhood seemed to light up early this year. However, this happens to be a Hannukah story and how Hannukah--traditionally not a gift-giving holiday--has morphed into a "Christmas compensation" holiday. We have been guilty of trying to compensate in the past. Last year we started a tradition of eliminating 1 night of gift-giving each year. Last year the non-gift night was a party with gifts provided and wrapped for a young needy family. We are doing the same thing for 2 nights this year but bought more gifts for a larger needy family. The gifts for our kids are smaller this year yet the squeals of joy are louder. Our daughter treasures a $4.99 miniature pony & stable set--she has been playing for hours each day with 2 little play figures we got our son. The other night she said to my husband, "I feel wealthy." When asked why, she said because of her home, her family, the food we eat, the clothes she has, and the toys she loves. We live very simply in a small home and it makes us so proud that our 6-yr-old appreciates what she has.
A few Christmasses ago, I lit myself on fire.
Don't worry, I got better. Here's how it transpired.
Christmas 2003 was the first Christmas in my house, my wife and I's first Christmas as homeowners. My Dad was over, and I was wanting to show him my fearsome domestic powers (ha!) by whipping up a nice breakfast Christmas morning - bacon, eggs. toast, the whole nine yards.
So, I woke up at 7:00 in the morning and threw on a bathrobe, headed downstairs to the kitchen, started a pot of coffee, and got to work. My dad, who's always been a morning person, joined me in the kitchen to watch.
First order of business was to fry up the bacon. I turned the knob to light the front burner of the stove. Click-click-click, nothing. I tried again. Click-click-WHOOSH! A billow of blue flame that caused me to jump back a bit and the stove top was going.
Unfettered, I proceeded to put a pan on the lit burner, throw in the bacon, and fry it up. It wasn't long before I started noticing a burning smell, but from where? The oven wasn't going, nothing around the stove top was smoking, where could it be coming from?
Then I happened to look down, and it was then that I noticed that a tongue of blue flame was creeping up the side of my bathrobe! It must have caught fire when I started up the burner! It's Christmas and I've lit myself on fire!
I must have broke a land speed record getting that bathrobe off and on to the floor. Now, imagine the scene. A kitchen full of smoke. My Dad standing there shaking his head. Me in nothing but my underwear jumping up and down on my bathrobe. It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the precise moment my wife chose to come down and see how things were going.
Um. Merry Christmas, dear! She just rolled her eyes and went back up to bed.
I personally have had a very good year and expect the coming year to just as good if not better. I have a job that I love (self employed photographer), and a wonderful wife. I just completed some remodeling projects ( I do things myself so the cost reasonable) so our home is looking good and my wife is happy. One of our dogs died last week, which is painful, but she had a long and happy life and has left us with many many wonderful memories.
I think that while this economy will be painful for many ( I know many of clients are hurting) I actually believe we are finally at or near the bottom. The Berkly School is replacing the Chicago School of economic theory which is a good thing. I think that we have a president who gets it and will pump money into works projects that create long term and well paid employment. I also think that many of the long standing economic myths that have dominated the discourse are finally imploding. Remember when we were told not to worry about outsourcing because we'd just make new job for Americans?
If we start building economies around sustainable work and jobs instead of making a few people wealthy we will all come out the other side of this better off. If Americans start focusing on how much they make and spend instead of much they can borrow and spend we will increase wages and salaries in real terms for the first time in 20 years. I also think that communities will become more stable and neighborly due to the housing crunch. People will stay put for a change and that may have a positive impact on communities.
Finally I think one way or another a lot of troops will come home from Iraq 2009, that war is winding down, and there was a lot less killing in Iraq in 2008. I hope that people will finally realize what a toxic influence the right wing media is, and stop paying attention to it. I hear Kirsten is out at the Strib, while I wish no one ill, that can only be a good thing.
I think there's actually a lot of reason to hope that 2009 will be a better year than 2008 was.
15 years ago we brought home our baby boy from Colombia, long awaited and cherished beyond belief. At the time we were active in our Lutheran church in the Midway area of St. Paul. That first Christmas he was the baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant.
That boy has had his struggles and so have we. Today I had a cherished holiday with that same child, now closer to a man than a baby.
I pray for many more Christmases to come.