By Dennis Melancon
It’s Christmas time again. Every year, it seems harder and harder to get into the spirit of the season.
When the kids were small, it was different. The decorations came out of the attic right after Thanksgiving and were up by the first weekend in December. There were visits to the mall to see Santa and to help the kids get a present for their mother.
My ex would hang stockings for all of us on Christmas Eve, and after the kids went to sleep, she would fill them with candy and trinkets. I would wait until she was asleep and then put some extra ‘secret’ gifts in the stockings, so she would be just as surprised as the kids.
We spent Christmas day at my parents’ house with the entire family, with lots of presents, lots of food, and lots of gossip from the whole year.
And there was the other side of Christmas. Every year we watched the ‘Charlie Brown Christmas Special’ where Charlie Brown’s tiny tree turned magical, and the true meaning of the Birth was expressed to the kids. And of course, ‘A Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ were the perennials that everyone watched.
There was one special year where we went to spend Christmas with my in-laws in Arizona; they had moved to a small community up in the mountains, rather secluded, but quiet and comfortable. We found a Catholic church and planned on attending Midnight Mass there. The church was a log cabin built on a mountain top, complete with split log pews. The parishioners were the obviously hard-working individuals that you would find in just about any small country town, high in the mountains, down in the valleys, or anywhere else. They showed up in heavy plaid shirts, fresh blue jeans, and work boots. No nonsense, close neighbors. The priest was a soft-spoken, friendly, down-to-earth chaplain, who matched the community and the area perfectly. He had some of the children dress up as a living Nativity Scene (Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men) and for the sermon he stepped down and sat with the kids to tell the familiar story. It was a basic, no frills, and close-to-the-people experience, much like the first Christmas. It was the best Christmas Mass I had ever attended.
(That year, we had a White Christmas in the mountains; my daughter got to see snow for the first time, and we even visited a bison ranch. On the way home, we passed through Roswell, New Mexico, to see if the aliens were still there, but that is another story altogether.)
Then, the kids grew up and moved on, and Dame Katrina visited us with her gris-gris, and Christmas slowly lost its sparkle for me. But I have found a new Christmas glow, with the Magnolia School Toy Run, and Veterans’ Home Christmas parties, and new friends that are sharing the celebration of the special Birthday, not the way I used to, but another good way.
So to all who have taken the time to read this, to all who are close to me, and to all I can reach a sincere Merry Christmas and please remember what we are celebrating.