Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas past

I consider myself blessed when I think of my childhood Christmas memories. I remember the many sleepless Christmas Eves when I would lie awake wondering what gifts might be under the tree. I remember the arguments between us (the kids) and my folks determining when the waking hour would be.

We would always push for 6:30 at the latest, while the folks would try to make us stay in bed until at least 7:30. A compromise of 6:38 was usually the result. After the gift opening ceremony, a large feast of fry bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit would satisfy the body, as well as the soul.

For my siblings and I, there were two events that never failed to prep our spirits for the Christmas season. One was gathering around the television to watch the annual showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The other was the Christmas production the grade school would put on.

Each class, consisting of 15 to 30 students, would either sing, play instruments, dance, or perform a play for the crowd of teachers, students, parents, grandparents, and family friends. With the stage lit only with black lighting, the evening was topped with a mass song of Silent Night.

I attended grade school in the 1980s. I am saddened how today’s generation, only 20+ years later, is not allowed to have Christmas specials like that. They can have a holiday special, but not one that represents Christmas. Having the group sing a song like Silent Night together would result in someone getting fired, or perhaps end in a lawsuit.

As an adult, Christmas has evolved somewhat since my earlier years. I’ve found myself trying to bargain with my nieces and nephews hoping to get to sleep until 7:30, though usually receiving a rude phone call at about 6:38 telling me to hurry up and get to my folks house. I’ve also found myself excited about my gift to someone, not from someone.

We still gather around the television and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, eat a low-fat fry bread breakfast (you mean fry bread isn’t low fat? Even with canola oil?), and go on a long walk with everybody to help the food settle.

As my fiancée and I gear up to be married, one area of concern is the Christmas tree. Last year, I pushed her into the pickup on an 18-degree day and made her search the forest with me looking for the perfect tree. She thought the tree was too vacant and needed to be much fuller.

Her idea of a great Christmas tree is to go purchase one from the nearest tree-lot. I explained how I didn’t want to spend $30 on a dried up, dead piece of shrubbery. Also, the romanticism of going to a tree-lot is just not there.

“Kevin, last year you lost the Thermos of hot chocolate, you got the pickup stuck in the snow, and the Forest Service guy gave you a warning because of the size of tree you cut down,” she argued.

“It wasn’t all my fault. You were the one who wanted the top 8 feet of that 50-foot tree, and then you had the nerve to complain about it once we brought it home!”

After a compromise this year, we agreed to have her store-bought tree (shrubbery) put in the house. I got to decorate the little pine tree in the corner of my yard. I’ve never been too fond of the compromising process.

Remember, the spirit of Christmas is about giving. If you’ve been given something freely, freely give back. If you know of someone who needs comfort, give them comfort. If you know an elderly person who would just like to visit, give them a visit.

The world may try to take Christ out of Christmas, but the world cannot take Christ out of us. Merry Christmas to all.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, December 2007, Kevin Duling

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