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I Love to Shop… Online

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Shopping-Bags

There were blood baths at the entry doors to K-Mart and Sears.

Remember those Cabbage Patch Kid days when people stampeded and bludgeoned each other to get the hot doll toy of the day? Shoppers gone wild.

Every couple of years a toy phenomenon like Cabbage Patch Kids vomits from the earth like a volcano, capturing munchkins’ imaginations the way that APPLE  iProducts (you DO have an Apple Watch by now surely!) enrapture adults’ attention and excitement today.

Our society is captivated by shopping and consuming. Many of us love to accumulate pretty things.

in-the-patch-3

  • Some folks abhor shopping.

  • Some people tolerate shopping as a necessary evil.

  • Some people love to shop.

  • Some people live to shop.

I generally find myself in the middle where shopping goes.

I don’t love shopping for the sheer joy of wanderlust walking through stores, eyeballing lovely things that I have no premeditated intent of bringing home with me, like lovable lost golden lab puppies.

The EXCEPTION? When travelling, I love to meander through shops and markets, observing people, absorbing local sounds and exotic scents, hoping for a stupendous surprise of a piece of art or clothing that calls out my name.

But that’s something completely different.

Shopping as a hobby or sport is pretty new to our world.

Disposable incomes have risen in the past few generations and worldwide trade has brought enormous selections of products at low prices to our local shops.

Stores are filled to the gunnels with food and drink items from every corner of the globe; clothing and hard goods fill enormous ships traversing the oceans before landing like exotic Orient spices for our eyes to wonder and wander over.

It’s an amazing miracle of our 21st century world that items within reach of only the super wealthy a generation or two back, are widely available to almost anyone  with something resembling a middle class income. It’s a breathtaking transformation that makes me starry-eyed.

I know that it’s only May and early springtime, but let me share with you a Christmas fear that I lived with for years.

Christmas Shopping. Christmas shopping struck terror in my heart.

Christmas-Shopping-01

The hunt through malls and shops in search of gifts for my family and friends felt like a shock-and-awe journey through a steamy Vietnamese swamp in the 1960’s.

I felt tense and worried; my heart pounded in my chest with fears that I would go home empty-handed. It was a sojourn filled with a glimmering hope of success, but without a map, it was so often doomed to failure.

I wanted the perfect gift to present itself to me like the Northern Star pointing out baby Jesus in the stable. The inner dream was that a bright light would shine gloriously on an item that I knew was perfect and meant to be purchased and brought home with delight and glee.

Alas, it was all mostly just a dream and any dollars I spent felt more like bleary desperation than comfort and joy.

And the hurried presence of hoards of other shoppers merely added a greater essence of urgency.

It was as if everyone else knew exactly their quest while I foundered hopelessly… and the normally pleasurable sounds of Christmas music wrapped tightly around me like a noose, pleasantly but irritatingly yelling out that I must succeed at all costs.

Those were difficult days for me.

But, fortunately, the world has found a new way to make my shopping “trips” a relaxing, joyful experience and I now feel the comfort and joy I was always promised in song by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

Internet shopping has given me a new lease on life and consumerism that is totally freeing and joyful.

Mnan Xmas shopping

I can do my searching day or night… there are no snowstorms, packed mall parking lots, frenetic shoppers making my blood pressure rise. The selection I want is unlimited and available at my fingertips. The costs are often less than I would pay if I shopped in person.

What’s not to love about this?

Now when I choose to enter a shop or a mall to look around, I feel relaxed and happy.

There is no elephant weighing me down, no pressure to buy. I can breathe and observe and enjoy the ambiance as if I were in a foreign marketplace just wandering and taking in all that my senses can absorb.

If I see something that I like or am intrigued by, I make a mental note and later, when I’m relaxed by my computer sipping a hot cup of tea, I shop and compare and take my time to make a decision that fills me with a good, warm feeling.

Technology irritates and frustrates many people. But I’ve finally come round to firmly and joyously believing that Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. 

Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas joy that lives inside my computer – as silly as that may sound.

When the inevitable day arrives that Cabbage Patch Kids are all the rage once again, I won’t fear the shopping devil that had me so terrified in earlier times. I’ll just shift my mouse and find the best price at my favourite online retailer.

Then, laying one finger aside of my nose,
And giving a nod, and one click of a mouse I suppose,
I’ll finish my shopping ‘ere I call it a night,
Shopping in your pyjamas is such a delight.

 

 

 

 

An Okanagan Christmas Story

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Summerland lights

It was an unusual year in that there was snow on the ground.

Not just a skiff of the white, but enough fluffy ivory to strap on the cross-country skis and glide quietly between the rows of trees in the apple orchard. Just a muffled swoosh swoosh swoosh and the occasional chirp of a tiny pine siskin perched in the tall evergreens at the edge of the field.

The sky was a dull-grey and the unseasonally chill air froze my eyelashes with a frosty glaze. No more than 15 minutes, I figured. A good hard ski to get the blood flow running and then back into the warmth in front of the woodstove, ablaze with the fragrant chunks of fir I’d cut last spring.

The morning’s light had surfaced only an hour earlier as the moments grew close to the winter solstice.

I got dressed in my day clothes after the combination of muscle heat and fire warmth had penetrated sufficiently. Then popping on my Sorel boots at the back door, I headed out into the cold once again.

My retirement “job” this morning was to spend a few hours at One-to-One reading with some grade schoolers at Trout Creek Elementary – kids who were struggling with their reading ability and could benefit from some one-on-one coaching.

I slipped through the fence gate into the school’s playground. It was fun to see and encounter the little tykes as they chatted excitedly about their families and friends as if we were old buddies. The experience was all the more heartwarming because in the back halls of my mind were the memories of the days I spent here on the same playground and classrooms in my childhood.

A snowy day like this in the Okanagan Valley was confirmation that Christmas day and Santa’s arrival would come about with certainty.

The morning passed. I saw four youngsters in half hour segments.

We sat next to each other in short chairs at a small shiny amber veneer-top table in the small library across from the computer room next to the school’s front entry door.

First, little Tyler, a 7 year-old who wanted to be a drummer-musician like his uncle Teddy and knew with robust confidence the life histories of each of the Beatles, as well as their song catalogue. When he was able to refrain from wiggling, his reading skills were not too bad – clearly he could read the words – although when asked a question about the story, understanding the words read was a totally different matter.

Next up to practice her reading was 9 year-old Melissa, a dark-haired princess with baby-blue-painted fingernails  – she might have been confused for a little Ariana Grande in a dimmed room. Melissa was very socially aware and would eye each student entering the library as if she were a talent scout seeking America’s Next Great Model. “Did you see the belt on that Grade 5 girl’s skirt, it’s the wrong colour. I’d choose something red for her.

Reading wasn’t a problem for little adult Melissa, she could likely pick up and understand words beyond my comprehension if she was able to focus on the page rather than on the social scene passing by.

Next. Joseph. Not Joe. Joseph. Taking his biblical name to heart, this Grade 1 youngster was timid but made it clear that the books he wanted to read were stories from the Bible. Public schools in this province don’t carry a selection of biblical material, so I convinced him that story books filled with characters of strong moral values, like Mortimer Moose, could be seen through a context of the Bible. He bought into this and we were on our way. Amen.

Finally, a skinny log of a kid with tousled blond hair and red red cheeks post snowy-recess, stood, looking in through the library door. “Are you Peter?“, I asked.

He nodded shyly and moved forward a step and stopped. “Come in and have a chair, Peter. I’m Mr. Green. You’re my last reading buddy before Christmas break.”

Peter nudged forward and plunked himself on the seat, arms flat at his sides. He looked down at the table and said nothing. No smile. No movement.

Never having read with Peter before, I glanced silently through the brief notes left in a manila folder given to me by his teacher Mrs. Jermyn.

Hmmmm. “Peter Briskman. 8 years-old. Grade 3. Moved to Summerland one year ago with his father, Jacob Briskman. Mother Carla, died from cancer 2 years ago in Calgary. Quiet boy – advanced for age in most academic areas.” Such a sad story, I thought to myself.

Thinking I’d break the ice first before we settled into reading, I asked, “I like snow days like today. Is one of the snowmen I saw in the playground yours?

Keeping his face pointed downwards, he spoke reluctantly in a quiet voice.

I used to build snowmen when I was little and lived in Calgary. But not anymore. Now I make Mountain Goats.

– Really? Mountain goats? That’s kind of unusual. Why mountain goats and not snowmen? Is there a Disney movie about mountain goats that I missed?

No. Mountain goats live on steep hillsides where it’s dangerous and they eat the little bits of grass that grow between the stones. It’s very hard for them to live, but they find a way, even if it’s -50 outside. And, even if they’re injured they protect their babies against cougars and eagles. Have you seen one before?

I had seen the white shaggy goats many times, clambering along the rocky screed hillsides overlooking Okanagan Lake north of Summerland. Often, I would see groups of 3, sometimes 5 or 6 way up high in the distance of the steep rises above the highway. But I didn’t want to stop Peter from talking since we were just establishing some rapport so I said, “No, never.

– I can show you one I made on the back field today. I started it before the bell rang at the beginning of classes and then finished it at recess. Would you like to see it? We don’t have to go outside, I can show it to you through the window.

– Sure.

Peter ran ahead, leading me past a few scattered little tables to the window in the corner of the library.

mountain_goat_

 

He stopped and pointed towards the area in front of the tetherball court in the centre of the playground. There was a lot of white out there; it took a moment for my eyes to adjust and take note of the large snow animal in the yard. It was an amazing likeness of the real thing. Even the sharp tapered white horns appeared genuine.

How had one little boy created such a sculpture? Had his Dad helped him build it before school began for the day? It was striking that it stood almost as big as the real animal; then, something unusual caught my eye.

– You’ve done an incredible job there Peter, but did you see that one of the goat’s legs is missing? Do you think maybe the snow wasn’t packed tightly and it crumbled?

The mountain goat had only 3 legs, a gap existed where the front right leg should be.

– Nope, that looks just like the one I see at home. I see it when I wake up and look out my bedroom window in the morning. It stands there and nudges its nose on my window. It gets the glass all steamy and gooey. Then it wont leave until I go and make it a cup of green tea and set it on the ledge outside the window. After it licks the tea all up, it turns and runs off into the trees behind our house.

I was about to respond when a man’s voice called out from behind.

– Peter? I’m sorry to interrupt, I’m Peter’s Dad, Jacob… I need to steal Peter away from you. I told Mrs. Jermyn I’d be here at a quarter to eleven to take him for his therapy session. I’m sorry if my timing is bad.

Peter turned and ran up to his father, “Hey Dad. Just gotta grab my backpack and coat and I’ll be set. See you in the new year Mr. Green.” 

I reached forward to shake Peter’s father’s hand.

Hi Mr. Briskman, I’m Mr. Green. Peter and I were going to do a reading one-to-one session but we never actually got started. It’s funny, but we got caught up talking about the snow creation he made outside. He’s an amazing little artist, such incredible talent for a youngster.

– Thank you. Yeah, Peter seems to have acquired some artistic skills from his mother, not me. I can’t draw a stick man that’s recognizable. But his mother, she could draw or make anything. She would sit around for hours – actually, she died a couple of years ago – but before she became sick, she’d be in her back art room drinking green tea, making charcoal sketches and working with clay, making sculptures of animals. Her animals looked so true-to-life that when people visited and saw her deer and mountain goat sculptures in the yard, they thought the beasts were real. We laughed so many times when visitors came to our door and mentioned the creatures standing in our yard. I guess Peter picked up her creative gene.

Mr. Briskman turned and began moving toward the library door. It was a moment of confusion for me listening to his words and the similarities with Peter’s story. I mulled the ideas about in my mind, trying to discern what was real and what was imagined; before he left the room, I asked,

 – I’m so sorry about your wife, Mr. Briskman. It must be very difficult for you and Peter coping with her loss. What was the cause of your wife’s death?

He paused momentarily at the door, and with a haunted look of longing for days gone by and a love that had left far too early, he replied,

She had an aggressive osteosarcoma in her right leg.

His eyes grew dewy and I could see a slight quiver at the corner of his mouth. He hesitated a few seconds before continuing.

– They eventually amputated her leg when the chemo couldn’t stop the tumour from growing. It was just too late to save her.

Shaking his head, he snapped back to the moment, regaining his composure.

– I’ve got to run now. Peter needs to get to his counselling appointment. He’s had a really hard time finding ways to deal with his Mom’s death. 

He paused.

– Mr. Green? Thanks for helping Peter … and … Have a Merry Christmas.

We shook hands once more; Mr. Briskman disappeared and I too paused in thought.

Then as I began to gather my things to leave, I turned to look out the window once more at the noble snow sculpture standing proud in the schoolyard and wondered if young Peter had somehow, already, in his own way, begun to work through the loss of a mother’s love and nurturing.

snowman

Boney M Must Die …

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Boney M

I’m such a fascist.

I know it’s the season of goodwill and peace but all I want to do is smash and burn Boney M Christmas music CD’s.

Christmas. The splendour and fears, the joys and heartbreak mix together like a multi-hued fruit cake … loved to the heavens by some, loathed to the devil’s armchair by others. Strong, strong gut-felt sensations from heart to head to toe.

Smells of pine or fir needles waft softly through the warm rooms of our hearts and homes, scents of gingerbread and vanilla and shortbread, voices of grandparents, Mommies and Daddies, the thp thp thp of excited pyjama-clad feet over wooden floors.

Laughter at turkey-festooned tables, where long simmering bitternesses are subsumed by best behaviours… the notion that no ill words will be laid on the Christmas table; not this hour, not this day, at least.

Modern Family Christmas

And in the background of all this joy and tension lies music. Seasonal tunes emanating from vinyl record and CD players, cellphones, MP3 players, songs springing from the living room’s polished piano keys or the silken strings of Aunt June’s guitar.

I love so many carols and hymns played over the Christmas season, don’t you? And if a chanteuse sings one song I don’t enjoy so much, there’s usually another they perform that lifts me skywards to nirvana.

Holly_Wreath

Years ago I lived for a time in Canada’s arctic town of Yellowknife.

As Christmas approached, I’d sit crammed with a bunch of other revellers in the cheek-numbing open-air box of a friend’s pickup truck and drive through the dark at -40C under the warm, green-tinged swirl of northern lights to co-workers’ homes for carol singing and rum drinking. Staid old Dr. Igoe was always the most generous with the spirit bottle, so we unfailingly sang our best festive tunes in the warmth of his living room.

Our Arctic choir didn’t have one, but just about every artist in the recording universe has a Christmas album or two. I can enjoy a carol, a hymn from just about anyone … exceptBONEY M.

The gritty, irritating sand of the synthetic Boney M Jamaican/Disco sounds wear at me like fingernails screeching down the blackboard.  Every verse, every chorus, every song.

I want to scream and run over sole-searing hot coals until there’s more pain in my feet than in my ears.

When I tell my family and friends of my Anti-Boney slant, they look at me like I have two heads, as if there’s something terribly wrong with me, a sickness that needs a cure.

Maybe I have an aural allergy, is this possible?

But enough. I won’t spend my Christmas season in a funk because of one musical group who, for me, massacres the sounds I love so dear.

Each of us has a selection of festive melodies that find a way into our hearts, giving rise to joy, melancholy, desire, cheer, sorrow. Our range of human emotions is brought rolling to the surface in a huge wave when the annual litany of music hits the tidal sands of Christmas.

Christmas FaMILY AT PIANO

Today, I have a question or challenge to make you exercise your mind and hold the Alzheimer demons at bay. Are you ready?

If I were to send you away Tom-Hanks-Castaway-style for the next month and your iPod or iPhone or Galaxy S would hold ONLY 3 Christmas (substitute SEASONAL if you prefer) songs/ carols/hymns … what would your choices be?

To jog your thinking, I’ve gone to the wintry streets and canvassed a few folks nearby and received a few suggestions like:

Also, just as an FYI, a recent Nielsen Company survey of most popular Christmas song downloads are as follows:

All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) (Alvin and the Chipmunks)

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)

Christmas Canon  (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)

Rockin Around the Christmas tree (Brenda Lee)

The Chanukah Song (Adam Sandler)

Where Are You Christmas (Faith Hill)

Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano)

Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)

White Christmas (Bing Crosby)

My own musical tastes at this time of year gravitate towards the melancholy end of the spectrum, maybe because I like to plumb the depths of my emotional heart. So, restricted to just 3 pieces, I would go with:

  • Holly_WreathTom Jackson (Huron Carol) … the wonderful Canadian Christmas carol (likely written in 1642 by Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons) by deep-voiced Tom Jackson. The tremelo of his “In excelsis gloria” sends shivers down my spine.
  • Holly_WreathJohnny Mathis (The Christmas Song) … a favourite from my childhood that was always heard on the record player while we decorated the tree.

Released in 1958 by Columbia Records, Percy Faith provided the album’s musical direction. The Christmas album containing this song by Mathis peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart in 1959.

  • Holly_WreathVince Guaraldi (Christmas Time Is Here)… another childhood favourite… the swish swish swish of the brushes on the snare drum just makes me feel the snowflakes falling.

This song was written for the 1965 Christmas cartoon Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. In the weeks preceding the premiere, TV producer Lee Mendelson encountered trouble finding a lyricist for Guaraldi’s instrumental intro, and penned Christmas Time is Here in “about 15 minutes” on the backside of an envelope.

The recording sessions of the childrens’ choir were conducted in late autumn 1965, and were cut in three separate sessions over two weeks. They often ran late into the night, resulting in angry parents, some who forbid their children from returning – therefore, numerous new children were present at each session.

The children were directed by Barry Mineah, who demanded perfection from the choir. Mendelson and Guaraldi disagreed, desiring the “kids to sound like kids”. Each child was paid five dollars for their participation. In addition, the children recorded dialogue for the special’s final scene, in which the crowd of kids shout “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”.

                    charlie-brown

So, as you sit sipping an egg nog latte snuggled under a warm blanket, sugar plum fairies dancing in your head, snowflakes sowing themselves gently on your window frames, take a moment to ponder over your three finalists.

If you’re brave you can share them with me and I won’t laugh … or decry you … even if … a Boney M tune is among your selections. How’s that for Christmas Spirit? HOHOHO…


 

 

Five People I’d Like to Have for Christmas Dinner 2012

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turkey-protest

HURRY…kill the turkey!

The year end is approaching quickly.  And this means that many of us spend the long, dark wintry days turning inwards (especially us Introverts!), becoming introspective, seeking meaning and reason in life. Do you think there’s more to it all than Facebook?

This search may be especially true for those of us who don’t put our trust in a higher power or being. Not believing in a deity and/or afterlife compresses the time allotted for finding significance to our existence. After all, to us heathens, existence and eternity usually means something like 40 up to about 90 years, really not a whole lot of time after you make your bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and sleep. Turn off the TV I tell myself, time is running out. Time management for the atheist is the #1 priority right after food and sex!

So I say…

Damn you Christians with your eternal time in heaven with all of your loved ones and no worries about global warming.”

Damn you Muslims and your reward of 72 (some say only 40) virgins.”

Damn you Buddhists and your Nirvana and reincarnation.”

I won’t damn YOU Jews since you’re a bit confused on the whole afterlife side of things already, so why should I make you suffer more consternation with my words.”

Christmas 2012 will be unusual in my world as this will be the first time in 27 years that we’ve not had all or most of our 3 kids at home. They’ve provided the meaning to the season for so long, that I’ve forgotten that there were other reasons, you know… all of that birth of Christ child stuff and Wise Men and Shepherds and HOHOHO and pretty girls…oops sorry, I’ve slipped off on a Charlie Brown tangent. Blockhead!

Since the Christmas dinner table will be extra light on offspring this year, I’ve decided to enjoy a very special Christmas meal serving up 6 courses of my most appealing and satisfying guests from now and days gone by.

centennial-james-a-michener         Trinity by Leon Uris

Course 1 – Appetizers

With Authors James Michener and Leon Uris…a dinner that starts with appetizers should be filled with creative ideas and thought to whet the appetite. These guys aren’t literary heavyweights. But they have written a huge volume of amazingly researched, diverse, and well-written historical fiction covering all parts of the world. I devoured their books in earlier years. And today I’d love to bite into some of their ideas on the writing process and organization. I’m astonished by those who can be so determined to focus and deliver a huge body of work in one lifetime. Sure they’re old white guys, but inspiration comes in all colours, ages, and genders. I also loved radically individualistic Ayn Rand’s ideas in my younger days, but just can’t bring myself around to her level of narcissism at this point in my life. Fortunately, just looking in my bathroom’s mirror and seeing the “funhouse” image it reflects back is enough to keep me grounded at this point in life!


Course 2 – Soup

Mom photo

With My Mom...Warm and inviting and full of goodness, this soup course will be my visit with a Ghost of Christmas Past. It will be wonderful to have my Mom at my table this year. It’s been 39 years since she died and I was last able to sit at her table and share in the Christmas feast. She made the BEST roast potatoes. Like any good, doting son, I’d want to tell her how much I love her and miss her after all of these years. As the first person I encountered in life who showed me unconditional love, I would want to tell her about my successes and mistakes, knowing that she would listen, but not judge. And I’d want to tell her that she gave me the grounding and support I needed to go out and make a pretty damn good life, despite all of my fears and worries (Mom was a HUGE worrier herself). And I’d want to apologize to her for not knowing the basics of CPR when she needed it back in 1973.

Course 3 – Salad

Warren-Buffett-ninja

Buffett is my favourite ninja…

With Legendary Investor Warren Buffett…what would a Christmas buffet be without a Buffett? Well, not overly filling, but chock full of nutritious thoughts and concepts. Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha, and probably the best investor of this generation. He’s also such a folksy kind of guy. It should be fun to have him at the table, telling little stories about life and making great stock investments. It’s not very often that you meet people who are highly intelligent and independent-thinking who can also relate to people in a relaxed and personal way. Making billions of dollars, almost all of which will go to charity when he dies, while playing a silly NINJA makes him my kind of guy.   Buffett can take a story about a one-armed baseball player and an Iowa chicken and make a heartfelt parable of it that relates directly to the reality and oftentimes insanity of the investment world.

Course 4 – Main Entree

obama_clinton

With Former U.S. President Bill Clinton…Clinton needs to be the main course because, despite his personal foibles (I’m buying you pants without a zipper for Christmas, Bill!), he’s one of the most substantial minds in the whole wide political world. Clinton, like Obama, is one of the seemingly few rational and caring political-type Americans out there today. Clinton can spontaneously dissect just about any complex world issue and bring to it a common sense approach and potential solution. There are many minds out there to admire, but Bill Clinton’s is at the top of my list. One discussion with Bill and I’ll be feeling overfull this Christmas.

Course 5 – Dessert

With Actress Reese Witherspoon…dessert should be a light, fluffy, and sugary sweet confection. The perfect dessert, like fine wine, also has an underlying layer of complexity and depth. This is why I’ve invited actress Reese Witherspoon to this occasion rather than my gut-instinctive initial choice, Pamela Anderson. The Queen of Jiggle, Anderson is just too much fluffy cotton candy that leaves me feeling sickly nauseous after consuming. The first lick is sensually encouraging, but a few bites later you can only feel regret. I like Witherspoon even though she isn’t my favourite actress… she is sweet and light, but hidden behind her fluff-laden translucent facade is a woman of some core substance. She has a nice finish on the palate that leaves me satisfied and wanting more.

pamela anderson

Jello served in two cups…

Perhaps you'd like "FUDGE"?....

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Course 6 – Cheese and Wine

With Singers/Songwriters Carole King and James Taylor…it takes two to finish this delectable Christmas dinner because they’re inescapably intertwined for me. After a large repast with so much to digest, some harmony is needed in this course for settling purposes. Other beautifully harmonious cheese and wine pairings could be Simon and Garfunkle, Karen and Richard Carpenter, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Lennon and McCartney, Milli Vanilli (just kidding there!). But ultimately, what better finish could there be to a meal filled with symbolism and meaning shared with friends and relatives than with a blending of voices in “You’ve Got A Friend”? Whenever I’ve been “down and troubled”, a touch of musical melancholy from either of these two feels like rays of warm sunshine on the first sunny April day.

TaylorKingJT Carole King Now
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Finally, the anxiously anticipated Christmas dinner is done, the turkey has been deboned and made ready for the next week’s soup and sandwiches. There’s an awareness of satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made it through another year, however tumultuous or sensational.  A year filled with events that made us jubilant, made us cry, made us impatient, made us content, made us angry, made us appreciate.
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So. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, Splendid Solstice…whatever you choose to pay tribute to, I celebrate with you and I can only hope that your gala feast with whomever you’d like to share it, is SPECTACULAR!

Dear Santa…or Sinterklaas…or Pere Noël…or Babbo Natale…

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Virgina Santa letter

.

How are you and Mrs. Claus? Are you and the elves ready for another Christmas? This must be Christmas 551 coming up for you … am I close?

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This past weekend I pretended I was you…

I hope you don’t mind.

DSCN3456

I HOHOHope my belly laughs were as good as yours Santa…

I pulled on your special red suit and affixed a fluffy white beard and a big pretend tummy. I have to admit I felt a bit nervous and pressured going into the gig. “Now what are all of the reindeers’ names again? Blitzen and Tony Danza and Margaret the Vixen…” played over and over again in my head.

A swarm of cute little poppets rushed up to me and gazed at me with hope and adoration and expectation in their eyes. Children have pretty high expectations around you Santa and there is a monstrous sense of responsibility in representing you. Who wants to screw up the magic that is Santa Claus in childrens’ eyes? I’d hate to mess up and discover myself on your — or maybe worse, a bunch of children’s — naughty list.

You have one of the glory jobs of this entire world. It’s tough and the expectations are North-Pole high, but everyone, especially little tykes, love you. You can make it onto anyone’s party invitation list. Why, politicians, movie actors, rock stars, and famous writers have a lot of admirers. Tons of people love George Clooney, millions admired Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey is a huge icon, and outside of the USA just about everyone loves Barack Obama (Sorry to you Prime Minister Harper!). But by the same token, they ALL have their detractors and boo-bears.

Not YOU Santa!

There’s a continuous stream of static concerning the over-the-top commercialism and crassness of Christmas, yet again and again you stay above the fray and are left unscathed by any critics that hunt the scent of controversial blood in the frigid, winter air.

And unlike religious prophets and apostles, no one ever suggests that you are probably a woman, or Jewish, or black-skinned, or a socialist. You don’t have a crew of spin artists out there smoothing out the bumps and scrapes that are directed your way, and still you get great PR year-in year-out.

How do you do it?

Well, after walking in your boots (and beard) for an hour or two, I think I have some ideas as to why you consistently top the global popularity charts. I hope you don’t mind me sharing the reasons why you make it onto everyone’s “NICE” list:

  • You don’t over-expose yourself…and I don’t mean that in the dark movie-theatre creepy kind of way. You show up once a year for a couple of weeks, and then we don’t see or hear about you for another 11 months or so. We don’t see you in TV commercials, movies, magazine ads, and tabloids every week or two. I’m pretty certain I’ve seen your enormous untanned tummy on some Caribbean beaches in post-Christmas relaxation though…the “all-inclusive” unlimited beer you quaff keeps you rotund for your job, I’m sure!
  • You are EVERYMAN. You don’t take political or religious views that would polarize you to one side or another. Gay, straight…you don’t care. And even though you come on the day that represents Christianity’s holiest day, you stay separate and apart from the religious side of things. I never see you popping up in Nativity stable scenes along with the lambs and wise men with a HoHoHo, or lighting the Hanukkah menorah. You don’t broadcast a message to the world like the Queen or the Pope on Christmas Day…just a simple “Merry Christmas to All, and to all a Good Night” as you fly past our rooftops is your classic annual message. It works for you!
  • You are dignified and mysterious, but fun-loving (HO HO HO!) and gentle. I do have to say you have a bit of a potential image concern on the “Naughty and Nice List” side of things. But kids and parents seem to forgive you for this as you never REALLY ever put anyone onto the naughty side of the ledger. Please be careful here Santa, this could tarnish your image if you were seen to be too judgmental.
  • Unlike almost every group that is run or headed up by men that interact with children, you’ve NEVER EVER been suggested as a touchy-feely pedophilic monster. You’ve always been a gentleman and this gives us all hope in a world filled with too many tragic events. I admit that when I played you this weekend, I was pretty careful not to touch the wee ones TOO much, or insist that they sit on my lap. Both hands on view all of the time makes a safe Santa (and kids)!

Cover of "Miracle on 34th Street (Special...

  • You are the quintessential bearer of HOPE. Anything and everything are possible when we think about or talk to you Santa. You have powers that bring people of all stripes together. In Miracle on 34th Street, when Natalie Wood wants her Mommy to marry and make John Payne her Daddy and buy a house where they can live happily ever after, you set up the conditions that make the dream possible. We all want to believe that you are capable of making our wishes come true. And every year, just as night follows day, our hopes rest in our belief in, if not the true person that is Santa, at least in the belief that a magical spirit exists within us all to make our dreams reality.

Until this past Saturday, I don’t think I ever knew how really special and important you are Santa. After wearing your robes for just an hour or two, I now realize that a germ or two of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch have lived inside me. It may take more than one attempt at living inside your world to kick Scrooge to the curb, but I feel like I’ve awakened anew on Christmas morning after being visited upon by the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future. And I think I’ve breathed in the wondrous feeling the Grinch experienced:

Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew THREE sizes that day.”

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Have a wonderful Christmas Santa, but go easy on the cookies…we need you around for a long time to come.

Your faithful elf…

christmas-scene-santa

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