The ghosts of Christmases past

For whatever reason, this month I find myself running out of time, energy and festive fortitude much, much quicker than in previous years. I’m not alone. Perusing Facebook the past few weeks, it seems as though many of us are putting lights up later (mine still aren’t up as I write this), waiting until the last minute to get a tree and grumbling that the season seemed to sneak up even faster than usual this year.

That said, no matter how late the lights get hung, trees get decorated or cookies get baked, I have no doubt that, like most Christmases before it, this holiday season will create plenty of memories to recall with smiles and laughter in the coming years.

Many of my own Christmas memories involve our local topography and climate. For example, my childhood home near Two Strike Park had a great view from our living room window of the mountains looming over the city. I knew back then that the towers on top of the mountain peaks were for communications of some kind. Even so, as a young grade school boy, I convinced myself while gazing out our front window on many a Christmas Eve that a flashing red light w-a-a-a-a-y up on top of the hill was Rudolph’s nose. One year, when a cousin who was over for Christmas Eve dinner asked why the “nose” wasn’t flying through the air like any self-respecting reindeer should be doing, I answered that Santa and his team were resting up on top of the hill before making their rounds throughout the foothills.

That same living room window in my boyhood home helped me pretend that we lived not in a semi-arid, temperate region of the country, but in a place that actually became a winter wonderland. I would take a can of my mom’s liquid wax and use a piece of sponge to dab it onto the lower corners of the small square panes in our living room windows. When it dried, the pink wax turned to an opaque, milky white color which – to an 8-year-old’s eyes – looked just enough like snow on the windows to be worth the effort. Ah, the magic of Christmas. Of course, it wasn’t nearly so magical the week after New Year’s when I had to scrape the dried wax off with a putty knife.

As my kids have grown and moved away I have become less inclined to decorate as lavishly or extensively as I’ve been known to do in the past. Where once I would not think twice about shimmying to the peak of our second story roof and leaning far out over the void of space to hang strings of light 20 feet above the ground, today I’m more inclined to hang lights only on whatever eaves can be reached with an eight-foot ladder. (Now there’s an idea for a new reality cable show – Deadliest Extreme Holiday Lighting” or “Man vs. C-9 Bulbs tonight at 8 on Discovery!)

My wife and I have made each member of our immediate family (including in-laws and grandkids as they join our tribe) their own special stocking, lovingly sewn from red and white felt, then customized with their name and unique holiday-themed icons. These stockings get crammed full until almost bursting at the seams with silly, gross, whacky and/or sentimental items.

One traditional “stuffer” is a pair of funny boxer shorts for every male in the family. Often opening our stocking stuffers turns out to be the most memorable part of any Christmas morning. For instance, one year Santa brought everyone a pair of truly disgusting Hillbilly false teeth in our stockings. There’s that ol’ Christmas magic again.

Whatever your family’s traditions, however you celebrate this magical, wondrous time of year, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

I’ll see you ‘round town.