With Christmas five days away, and with many children still believing that all their dreams just might come true, I canít help but reflect on one irony of the season. As a child, I always had one wish among many that was never found on letters to Santa. I didnít think it was possible for this wish to be granted. But in time, it was.
My wish was that Christmas didnít take so long to get here. The lesson, kids, is to be careful about what you wish for. It could come true.
In retrospect, I can understand why the build-up to Christmas seemed to take so long back then. As a member of a boys choir in North Carolina, I spent two afternoons a week beginning in September rehearsing Christmas music for seasonal appearances for civic groups and churches. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was ready for Santa.
†These days, the preparations for the observance of Christmas seem to start no less early each year. Iíve quit complaining when stores start putting up their Christmas decorations in October. The days between the first showings of red and green and Dec. 25 seem to rush by, faster and faster, every year. The calendar shows that the period from Halloween to New Yearís Day is about the same as any other two-month period of the year, so why does it pass into history so quickly?
†I recently heard a theory that the perception of how fast time passes is related to the number of years a person has lived. For example, when youíre a child, a month is a larger percentage of your lifespan than it is when youíre, letís say, several decades older. So, time passes more slowly for the young.
A person comes to a point when, in a moment of frank introspection, you face the reality that you have experienced more Christmases in your life than you have ahead of you. You always hope, at any given time, that the ratio is not as lopsided as it might be, but you never know about such things.
†Thatís not a depressing notion to contemplate, necessarily ó especially if the odds favor your being around for an acceptable number of additional Christmas seasons, and you have also built up a lifetime of happy memories to take out of your internal ďmemory bank.Ē
Christmas is like that. The family traditions, the decorations, the trips, the shopping, the music ó even the Scriptures read in church ó all conspire to add new layers of holiday memories to the many already there.
Our family accumulated Christmas decorations early on, and those are mostly what go on the tree and around the house year after year. Occasionally, we do get a new one. For 2013, there will be something to celebrate the birth of a grandson.
The opportunities to help others are typically repeated, as well. Locally, we have Toys for Kids, Good Samaritan Ministries and Salvation Army, to name a few. They arenít alone. Because Christmas comes one week before the new year begins, most tax-exempt charities are anxious to remind us of the good work they do and the need to support it. Addressing those needs is critical not only in December, but in every month of the year.
Much of what we do each Christmas season is repetitive, but we like it that way because one of the things we celebrate at this time of year is the concept of eternity. Everyone wants to be ďhome for Christmas,Ē a promise made one of the many tunes that form the annual soundtrack of this season. While weíre discussing irony, consider than no small number of iconic Christmas songs we love so much started out as novelty songs performed by major artists or celebrities. A few generations later, those songs have become one of the primary recordings for which many entertainers are remembered. And we do remember them every December.
Christmas memories are as unique as fingerprints, but they share similar themes. The bicycle found by the tree one year. The time Santa brought a treasured gift, but forgot the batteries. The time tragic news forced the family to shelve the usual celebration, and the season has never been the same.
Most of us probably have a treasure chest of such memories, and the good outweighs the bad. Others in our community arenít as fortunate. Perhaps they were victims of abuse by a parent who blamed personal setbacks on the kids. Perhaps there is love in the home, but a shortage of dollars to make Christmas the time of indulgence known by others. Perhaps on this Christmas, if only this one, a death or serious illness makes greetings of ďhave a merryĒ ring hollow.
Many people in our area have done much in recent weeks to not only make these days bright for themselves, but also for many others ó even if they donít know them by name.
I donít have to wish that Christmas would hurry and get here. Instead, I wish that this season of goodness and caring would never end. After watching the Brown County community at work after living here for more than 40 years, I can report that this wish has been granted, too.
Merry Christmas. Your helping others throughout the year has made that familiar saying a call to action.
Gene Deason is retired as editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.