The thrill of hope is a great way to describe Christmas. The wishes of everyone are found in songs of the season. For many years one of my most favorite songs has been “O Holy Night,” not just at Christmastime but throughout each year. It was one song I mastered on the piano and played often with passion and gusto. The words, the sensational music, and the range of the notes in that song are masterful. The message is peace-rendering. Ahh! Today I find myself singing or humming that song with a true thrill of hope. It is however, not the only song I enjoy.
If you take a little time to think about it, there are more songs about Christmas than any other season. They cover the gamut of hopes in this celebration of life. The characters and personalities of people we all know are found within the lyrics of the music. Do you know a “Frosty”-type who comes to life each year? Or, a “Rudolph” who saves the day sometimes? Do you listen to the “Herald Angels” and hear the message they sing out to us? Another favorite is the “Little Drummer Boy;” it is likely one lives near you so relax and enjoy what he has to play for you. If we indeed have a “White Christmas” many will subconsciously have the melody of the song in their heads. I like all the “Jingle Bells” and “Silver Bells” and special bells in the steeples of churches that beckon “All ye faithful”. And you know the “Grinch” in your life really does have the kindest heart that all you have to do is touch to make magic happen. Another hope is that “Mommy is still kissing Santa Claus;” it represents hope for the family. Truly we “Need a little Christmas” yearly to get reconnected with each other.
Alas! The world does seem so weary this year, worn out in strength, endurance, vigor and freshness. But yonder brings a new and glorious morn. I do so wish for peace on earth and good will to all men. As music is a universal language perhaps “Joy to the World” could happen with an international song fest. Recently I heard the Children’s Choir of Africa sing “Silent Night;” it made me think about the power of music because in music we find harmony. And spirit. Then there is the simple message found in lyrics. “Do you hear what I hear?” I hope so.
With music, kindness is easy. Let us each do our part to be good to people. It is reciprocated naturally. I personally find it particularly nice to be the recipient of some act of kindness or better, the initiator of a simple act of caring. A smile is priceless, truly. So is a hug. They excite our senses, which then naturally produce endorphins in our bodies. Voila! We feel good. Merry Christmas!
Christmas brings father and son together
By Jim DeZerga
Memories of my childhood Christmases were not always happy ones. Divorce left our family fractured and distant. As a 6-year-old, I always felt I had to choose between the two people I loved the most, my mother and father. As I grew older, it was mom who seemed to show her love and I was closer to her well into my adult years. In fact, communication with my father literally stopped for over 30 years, even though we lived less than 100 miles from each other.
In September 1996, I auditioned for a role in our church’s Christmas drama, “Four Tickets to Christmas.” As I listened to the recording of the play, one in which a father and son are estranged from each other for years, I had to get up and compose myself as I thought of my father and our own relationship. After the recording was finished, roles for the play were handed out and I was given the lead role of Henry Richmond, the son. At that instant, I felt God’s hand on me and knew I had to go along for the ride, wherever it might lead.
Two weeks later was my birthday, and as a surprise, my wife, Ada, had invited my father down to surprise me. Shocked would be a better word, actually. It was a wonderful day and I asked my father if he would come see me in the play in December. He said no, of course, as his own walk with God had not lasted much past divorce some 40 years earlier. I persisted and recruited my sisters from Colorado to make sure he was there. He did show up that Christmas, and as the story unfolded, art imitated life as my interaction with the character of my father on stage became a message to my own father, and to me.
As the days passed, we called each other several times. He called in early January, shortly after New Year’s Day, to invite my wife and me to dinner in San Francisco to his favorite Italian restaurant. I dropped everything to be there that evening, and was able to tell him how much I loved him and how proud I was to be his only son. As we said our good-byes, I was so thankful for the miracle of that Christmas in ’96, bringing my father and me together again after so long. Little did I realize what a miracle it actually was.
On Jan. 17, 1997, one week after our dinner in San Francisco and 40 days after the church play, dad passed away suddenly at the age of 79. He wasn’t the greatest of fathers over the years, nor was I the best son, but he was still my father. That Christmas we both were changed in an instant by another Father and His only Son, and the greatest miracle of all.
The real gift was the lesson from my father
By Tom Blomquist
I think it was Christmas 1958, as my father’s company car was a white ’58 Impala with authentic red Naugahyde upholstery. The neighborhood was cookie cutter first homes for about 20 families. All of the families were transplants to California, coming where the work was in various blue-collar jobs. The women were housewives and sent their men off in the morning to the Air Force base, Aerojet and other supporting defense businesses.
I played football in the backyard and street while B52s flew every 20 minutes. We were on the flight lines.
My father’s job was in sales, liquor and food. In fact, he was about the only one on the block that wore a suit and tie.
In the months before Christmas, the economy faltered some and by Christmas local builders were leaving houses unfinished while long-time housewives got part-time jobs and the men took any work they could get.
These were all World War II vets and, more importantly, all could remember the Depression. My father traveled around Northern Nevada and California. Business was good, as people still ate and drank, even in hard times.
That Christmas Eve, there was a big box under the tree with my name on it. I knew it had to be football equipment and I was not disappointed: Helmet, shoulder pads, jersey, football and kickoff tee. My parents said it was Santa Claus and knew nothing of it.
I did not care. I just wanted to get outside on Christmas morning and show off my good fortune. There were six boys my age on that block, along with the usual rivalries about who had what.
When I looked out, I saw Jay and Arthur with footballs and different colored jerseys! And helmets! I went out to join them in my jersey and helmet (that I had slept in) and realized the only way I could impress them on that Christmas was to throw a perfect spiral.
It turned out that all six 9-year-old boys had footballs and uniforms. Mine was red and the rest were blue, gold, purple and brown.
Years later I realized I had learned a good deal from my dad on that Christmas. He died a few years later and some of these boys told me of help he had given them over the years.
Tom Blomquist lives in a fictional place he likes to call Dead Camel, Nevada. His actual location is a cabin (actually a 1960s-era trailer) on the desert south of Silver Springs, where he lives with his two dogs, Truckee and River, and is battling cancer.
Not a memory, but a Christmas folk tale
By Lois Hill
The little Christmas tree had stood in the forest for a number of years. He had often wondered what was out in the world.
After fall had come and gone he had seen the men come into the forest and take some of the other trees away. Each year he stood as tall as possible and spread his little limbs as far as he could in hopes that this year they would pick him. This had gone on for a long time and he began to think that they would never choose him.
During the last year he had soaked up the sun and stretched his trunk in hopes that by this fall he would be tall enough to be chosen. The trees that had been taken away were all so happy to be going on a journey to the unknown.
This year when the cutters came they nearly passed him by, but he shook his limbs as hard as he could and sure enough, the cutters thought he was just right.
When the saw started to cut through his trunk, he started to laugh and shake because it tickled. The cutter put him on his truck with the rest of the trees. He was so happy to be going on a journey.
Soon the truck stopped at a big vacant lot. The woodcutter laid them all down gently and soon was putting wooden stands on all the trunks. The little tree was so proud of his new feet.
One day a lady in a red truck drove by and looked at the little tree. She went home and told her husband about the little tree, who would be just the right size for their little house.
They both returned to where the little tree stood. Soon he was in the back of their truck on the way to his new home. The man took the wooden tree stand off and put him in a handsome red stand.
Now he stood real tall and felt so proud to be part of this house. The man put a skirt around the stand and put some lights on the tree. Some pretty balls and other ornaments were hung amongst his branches. When night time came the lights were turned on and the little tree saw his image in the window and knew that he was the prettiest tree in the whole world.
On Christmas Eve the little tree was so surprised to see a figure dressed in a red suit, trimmed with white fur, pop out of the fireplace along with a big brown sack full of toys. At last, he thought, I see this Santa Claus up close.
Soon after Christmas, the man and lady took all the lights and ornaments off the little tree. He was taken to a place where they put the trees through a machine that ground them into pulp. He was then put back on a truck and put back into the ground from where he had grown.
The little tree was glad to be back in the warmth of the earth. Soon a new little tree popped up out of the ground and started to grow. I wonder what the future will be for him?
A lesson learned about flying on a holiday
By Elli Nielsen
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a certain amount of fun, frustration and stress. Perhaps the most “fun” of all is the traveling. Especially when one takes leave of one’s senses and decides to fly on either Christmas Eve or Day.
So now I come to one Christmas in the early 1970s. I was living on the San Francisco Peninsula and wanted to visit my family in Gardnerville. I could leave on Dec. 24 and come home on Saturday the 26. I was hosting a large Christmas party on Sunday for the community theater prima donnas. My boyfriend picked me up late (that should have been an omen of things to come) and took me to the San Jose Airport. I told him to pick me up at six-o’clock Saturday and rushed to get on the plane.
The flight to the South Lake Tahoe airport wasn’t bad – a little turbulence, beautiful snow-covered trees and the lake. Then suddenly the plane seemed to fall from the sky and skimmed over the deep blue water … too closely, I might add. You could almost reach out and drag your fingers through the water. Then in an instant, the plane shot up over the high hill and trees and just as quickly descended onto the runway.
Some of my brothers played taxi and after hi’s and hugs, we piled into the old Ford station wagon and headed for Carson Valley. Got to the house, ate lunch, did last-minute wrapping, ate supper, went to church, came home and went to bed. Christmas morning dawned sunny and cold with the happy sounds of folks ripping open presents. Mom and Dad took their time. Ho, Hum … soon it was time to fix the turkey, dressing and such. And this is where the fun, maybe even chaos, began. All six of us kids decided that we would do the honors and make Christmas dinner. How hard could that be? Oops … seems we stepped on mom’s toes. Apparently she was the only one who knew how to boil water and turn on the oven. (She had already baked three pies and bread, so just go read or sew and stop giving us orders. Thank You.)
On Saturday, it was time to think about going home. My plane was to leave about 6:30 so we decided to head for the lake about four o’clock. But at 12:30 or so, the sky turned an ominous color and big clouds were rolling in from the west. This didn’t look good.
The little panics set in and I announced we should leave immediately. That fell on deaf ears. We left about four o’clock, one inch of snow here and there. Kingsbury was closed (fine by me), so we had to go to Carson City and cruise up Hwy 50. Somewhere at the top of Spooner Summit, we had to join the line of cars, trucks and even buses putting on chains. It was getting darker and colder and the snow deeper.
When we finally got to the airport, we were informed no planes were coming or going. So they put us on a bus to Reno. There, we found out the connecting flight from Los Angeles was delayed at least an hour because of fog and heavy rain. Terrific. So I called people in two states to tell them this chapter and waited. It was 8:30. Finally, at 1:15 a.m. – that’s right, the plane arrived. I accepted some 7-Up from the stewardess and heard some commotion a few feet away. “They” could not get the door shut nor pressurize the cabin. More instructions on using oxygen and what to do if the plane had trouble. What trouble was she talking about? Forget the 7-Up. Give me a Margarita.
Finally the plane taxied down the runway and all was well. Well, almost. The captain came over the P.A. system, “welcome aboard, we’ll be in Oakland in about 45 minutes and continue on to San Jose,” etc. So then what does he do? Starts whistling the tune from “The High and The Mighty.” Not funny.
Suddenly, there was Donner Summit looming in front of us. I was certain we’d never make it over the top and I swear we missed it by inches. Another margarita, please. There were a lot of “Our Father’s” and “Hail, Mary’s” going Heaven-ward. When we got to Oakland, it was socked in, so was San Francisco. Went to San Jose, same thing. So we went back to Oakland and were able to land and go back to San Jose. It was about 3:30 now.
Once in the terminal, I found a payphone and got the boyfriend out of bed. Wasn’t happy about the hour. Took him an hour to go about 25 miles. By the time we finally got to my house, it was about 6 a.m., the sun was rising and I was a dead body. I turned off the phone, got out of my clothes and went to bed. Eventually got up and went to the party in my beautiful satin blue dress and fuzzy blue slippers. Hey, my feet were really killing me; they matched and everyone laughed and we all had fun.
Never again will I fly on a holiday. I slept until the Tenth of Summer.