Thursday, December 9, 2010

Clear the Way!

Winter is not what it used to be. Especially winter life in the city.

I think back to days in my life like the picture above. I'm reminded of the small 300 population village I lived in for years. As I wrote a year ago, we would go out in the woods - not a tree farm - to find our tree. We'd haul it back to the car on a hand-pulled sled and once in the house we would trim it with hand-me-down old ornaments or ornaments we made ourselves. Some were made out of colored paper; others were strings of popcorn and cranberries. No lights - after all, the wonderful world of REA electricity had not reached our house. We had pot-belly stoves and a wood-burning cooking range and it was still cold. We had lots of snow and we would use snowshoes to get to town at times.

I had a pair of skis with primitive bindings. I could ski on a hill across the creek from the house (it was before I planted hundreds of evergreen trees) (Norway Spruce and Scotch Pine)on that same slope. Or I would go behind a neighbor's house. It was always easier to go down than ski herringbone style back up the hill to home. Even more fun was using a home-made six-person bobsled that we steered with ropes. No steering wheel - no brakes - we just hoped that the clothesline ropes would not break before we got to the bottom of the hill. It was a winding road that almost never got cleared before spring and we frequently ended up going off the road into the snow-filled ditch. It was miraculous that no one ever got really hurt because that primitive bobsled sure did move down the hill.

I remember Christmas eve in that village. The Presbyterian church was like the ones you see in Vermont calendars. We'd make it to town and the stars were beautifully bright. Then we'd approach the church which was lit with candles. I marvel at times that it did not burn down from all the candles but it still exists to this day. I like to think of that church and houses as the perfect Christmas village and I miss that scene every Christmas. Sparkling snow on the ground - the sound of Christmas carols filtering through the darkness of night - and candles in the windows of the church.

Like many others, I am sad at Christmas in some ways. I resent the efforts of the entertainment world and media as they try to downplay the word "Christmas" and simply relate a holy time to a mere holiday. I'm getting along in years and I miss some of the old days. To be sure, there were a lot of hard times in the decades of yesteryear - but times were simpler, less strident, and faith was strong. Miracles still undergirded Christmas and the love of God was central to every-day life.

John Denver once sang...."Take me home, country roads..." and I wish I could. But like our eldest son has said to me, "Dad, you're old fashioned - times have changed - you don't understand.." But I do - and still I cling to memories that centered on faith and simplicity. I'm not ready to send the Spirit of Christmas to the landfill.
MERRY CHRISTMAS - and a very happy new year!

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