Thursday, December 23, 2010


I remember the smell of pine needles from real Christmas trees in our house. We had them back in the day. My mom was always baking cookies. My sister helped her in the kitchen. My folks always made me go to sleep right after dinner on Christmas Eve. My dad and older brother were "magic elves" who assembled bikes and toys for me. My brother Jim was thirteen years older than I. My sis was ten years older. I was the baby of the family. Santa Claus was the excuse they used to get me to bed. We always opened our presents around nine-or-ten in the evening. I ripped through mine like a tornado! Sometimes we all went to midnight mass.

Later, when I grew up, Christmas for me was taking the Illinois Central train back home to Chicago from Carbondale, Illinois. I drank beer with other college students from my alma mater, Southern Illinois University. Fresh bodies got on the train from the University of Illinois, at Champaign-Urbana. We welcomed them because they had more beer! We sang Christmas songs in the club car, and shared marijuana cigarettes with old black porters.

When I got home, I met up with the neighborhood gang. Many were friends who worked in factories, or who were home from the war in Viet Nam. We shared tears over the ones we had lost. I remember Merry Christmas songs that were sung by Nat King Cole, Karen Carpenter, and Bing Crosby. I'm grateful that they still play them on the radio.

Christmas was delivering flowers from my brother's old shop on the south side of Chicago. Jim and I worked in that shop for forty years. We toiled there sixteen hours a day, for three or four weeks before Christmas. Jim and I both fell asleep, exhausted in our chairs on Christmas day, after mom's great meal and a few nips of whiskey.

More than anything, I would love to return to those special days in my mom and dad's home. I miss the sounds of joy and good smells. I miss the laughter and cheer. The abundance and energy of my sweet family and friends, seemed eternal to me. I thought it all would never end. But it did end.

Now, Christmas for me is bitter-sweet. My mom and dad, Jim and my sister Judy, haved passed on. I try not to dwell on this fact. Instead, I marvel at my sweet wife's energy, as she shops and decorates our home. Soon, it will be filled with guests, and the smells of good cooking. My daughter, son-in-law, his wonderful parents, and our closest friends and relatives will soon be here to celebrate Christmas Eve.

On this night we will share good cheer. We will think of Christ and the meaning of Christmas. We will pray, laugh, hug and cry. We will share tears of joy and love. We will pray for a good future for all the people of the world. I will bask in the warmth of today's Christmas, and make new memories for me and my family in the days to come. I wish you all a very, Merry Christmas! God bless you all.

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