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Small Wonders: A classical take on Christmas

December 18, 2010

Christmas. It's the most wonderful time of the year; with scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago. I don't have any scary stories to tell, unless you count the year my brother and I got caught snooping for presents in Mom's closet. But we all have memories, if not glories.

Maybe you have warm thoughts of family excursions deep into the woods to find the perfect tree, cut it down and haul it out with the Forest Service in hot pursuit. Or of being forced to go door-to-door singing Christmas carols to dumbstruck folks who simply want to get back to watching "The Honeymooners." Or of sitting by a roaring fire wondering why Aunt Mabel calls her hot cocoa "special" and won't let you sip it.

But when these memories are played back, they release "the joy of Christmas" into our bloodstream like tryptophan after Thanksgiving dinner. Am I naïve and wistful? Sure. It's not all sugarplum fairies; there's misery and regret too. I spent last Saturday afternoon at the Glendale Galleria as proof of that. But the accuracy of these memories is unimportant. They serve as triggers for that much-needed yuletide mood each year.

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I've never had a white Christmas. But I do get warm inside when I recall Christmas tree shopping with my family as a boy; going from one small lot to another hunting for the perfect tree; running through mazes of Douglas and Noble firs as if they were clothing racks at Bullock's.

I remember decorating the tree, hanging ornaments randomly, throwing on large clumps of tinsel without care; then watching as my older sisters rearranged everything I'd done; sipping hot chocolate with my back to the fireplace until it burned, then laying on the coolness of the tile floor. And Al Jarreau on the 8-track player bringing it holiday style.

It makes me wonder what my daughters will remember. Though I wish I could make every moment magical for them, leave them with postcard snapshots to conjure idyllic visions of the seasons from their youth, reality may have other plans.

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