Man, oh man, people are really gearing up for Christmas. The big day is nigh, and that jolly old elf will soon be circumnavigating the globe in his flying sleigh looking for chimneys to slide down with his big sack of toys. If you don’t have a chimney, maybe a video of a fireplace on a cell phone will suffice or just some stockings hung in plain sight, but come what may, Santa never misses the homes of good little boys and girls.
How he does this all in one night is a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a mystery, not to mention the international dateline and time zones to take into consideration. And then there’s the southern hemisphere where the winter solstice is the summer solstice, which means on Christmas Eve, Santa might be guiding his sleigh wearing a red fur-trimmed tank top, but for the life of me, I couldn’t say how he would change clothes going from the Northern to Southern hemispheres. Maybe he does one hemisphere and then the other, and really, like lickety-split fast. Like time is standing still. Personally, I’m of the belief that time itself stands still for just one night.
Or, he could be a Schrödinger’s Santa; you know, “he shows up and not shows up at the same time.” It’s only if you find the cookies and milk gone do you know which it is.
It got me thinking of Christmases’ past and reminiscing about the ones that stick out in my mind. There are at least two or three that I’ll never forget, each of which was not the best, but rather the ones that get retold ad nauseam, as in, “Oh no, John’s gonna’ tell that story again about how he almost burned down the house.”
That was the one Christmas morning back in Nashville when I thought it would be cozy and homey to start a fire in the fireplace; the fireplace we seldom used because of central heating. It was only after I got the kindling burning that I remembered that the fireplace had a damper. A damper I forgot to open. The living room filled with smoke and everybody was shouting and flinging open windows and doors and I was scrambling to find a record album cover to fan under the smoke detector. Then we started laughing.
Then there was Christmas Eve back in Vietnam. There was a 24-hour Christmas cease-fire with a break in bombing and we in the Air Force were given the night off. So my buddies and I consumed lots of warm Carlings Black Label and serenaded everybody on the base shuttle bus all night with Christmas carols. I don’t know if Black Label is even made anymore but that was about all we could get. That, and Hamm’s, or Coors – the 3.2 kind – if we were really lucky. It all depended on who got dibs when the shipments were unloaded at the Qui Nhon docks by the Navy, and since Phu Cat was at the edge of the central highlands our little base exchange got what was left after the bigger bases got their pick. The other side of the Black Label coin was that a case costs only $2.40, the same as a case of Coke.
But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, Christmas.
Me, I’m more of a traditionalist and I like to think of Christmas as if through the eyes of my children when they were young. Christmas Day was a thing separate from all other reality. It was apart from any day of the week. It was the one day which nothing else mattered but just being at home and together as a family, as if time is standing still.
When I was growing up all stores were closed on Christmas, even gas stations. If you needed batteries, well, you should’ve thought about that before. At home, the only TV we were allowed to watch were Christmas-themed programs, like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Stuff like that. While we’re on the time-stands-still idea, it just occurred to me that the Frank Capra movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is all about a time set apart. Poor ol’ George Bailey gets to see what would’ve happened if he’d never been born. Made in 1946, it’s still a holiday fave, as is Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street and any one of the 10 or so movie versions of A Christmas Carol.
Frankly, in this day and age of Hollywood remakes, I’m surprised some older movies haven’t been re-done to fit a Christmas theme. Can you imagine 3 Wise Men and a Baby, Citizen Sugar Kane, There’s Something About Mary and Joseph, No Christmas For Old Men, North By North Pole, or perhaps Lord of the Five Golden Rings?
Perish the thought.