The Paregien Journal – Issue 370 – Dec. 4, 2017
Ah, here we are. Another holiday season with both Christmas and New Years Day fast approaching. Amid the din of noisy TV and radio commerials and the ads packing each issue of our newspaper, there is still an opportunity now and then to push the pause button and reflect on what the Christmas season means to me and to our society.
Oh, sure, there are those who see Christmas as just a time for more than a “cup of cheer,” more like a keg of beer and pretzels and tacos. Their anthem is,. “Let’s party! And, oh yeah, Merry Christmas and all that stuff.”
I was reminded recently about how a great many Americans and people in other cultures around the world still pause on Christmas to speak a word of kindness or to actually do a neighborly act for someone as a way of honoring the man Jesus who outgrew that manger in Bethleham and devoted his life to doing good for everyone.
On Saturday, November 17, 2017, we were guests of our son and his wife at whole day walking around Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri. People were there for the amusement rides, the Christmas parade, the lights and the vast selection of food items. In addition, though, at about 1:30 pm we joined an overflow crowd (I’d guess about 500 people) who found seats in the beautiful theater there. And then we were all treated to a live play, a really fine production of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” Like many of you grey-haired or no-haired folks, I have seen several versions of that play.
However, I must say that this production on that day was the best I’ve ever experienced. The actors were simply superb. The orchestra was magnificent. The sets were like candy for the eyes. And the audience, . . . well, they clapped enthusiastically at the right times and wiped their eyes, as did I, at the quiet and emotional moments. I was so glad I got to experience that production and to do so with family and friends. Despite the fridgid north wind and the occasional rain, I was overjoyed to be there. Again I was reminded that people really do enjoy good stories with good moral values — honesty, loyalty to family and friends, sacrificial love of dedicated mothers and fathers for their children, and that still wonderful bond of community between people of diverse backgrounds.
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On Sunday, Dec. 3rd, we were out kicking around with friends Michael & Penny Letichevsky. Since Peggy and I had outfitted in “Christmas colors,” we all stopped by the Desoto Mall in Bradenton for Penny to take a few photos to try to get one we could insert in a few Christmas cards.
This shot was a great one, by our standards, but it came in 2nd place.
The “1st Place” photo was totally unexpected. Ol’ Santa himself left his station where he was available for photos with kids . . . and sneaked up behind us and got into one of our photos. We love it, because we were blissfully ignorant he was right behind us and getting in on the fun.
Yep, as you can probably tell from the above photo, both Peggy and I have trimmed down considerably over the last four months or so. I feel better now than I have in many years. And prettier, too. Yuk-yuk.
And Now, . . . A Word About
Yes, as in the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team. They sport a record of 12 wins and one loss. And on New Years Day they will play the University of Georgia Bulldogs at the one-and-only Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Later that night, the Clemson Tigers will play the Univerity of Alabama Tide. Then the winners of those two games will play for the National Championship.
Congratulations to the OU football players, to their coaches and to their supporters — “the Sooner Nation.” I am of the humble, unbiased opinion that the Sooners will neuter the Dogs in their semi-finals game and will finally reign as the National Champions.
After all, we have a not-too-secret weapon in our quarterback, Baker Mayfield, likely the next Heisman Trophy winner as the best football player in America, the world and our universe.
[Don Betts’ poem, Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale]
Bravo, Mr. Betts. Another amazingly creative and always linguistically challenging poem. Keep up the fine work, my dear friend.
[“Blondie” cartoon about an ugly Christmas tree and how Dagwood made it uglier.]
Christmas Trees Don’t Have To Be Perfect
To Be Beautiful
By Curtis K. Shelburne
My earliest Christmas memories are mostly wrapped around our family’s Christmas trees.
I remember Mom making creamy hot chocolate and my sister stacking the spindle of the old record player with an inch-high pile of vintage vinyl Christmas music by Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the Norman Luboff Choir.
Most years the tree had already been bought at (where else?) Amarillo’s Boy Scout Troop 80 Christmas tree lot. I was a member of Troop 80 and thus expected to help sell trees each year. My younger brother was not, but he was a wheeler-dealer sort who liked selling trees and often, as I recall, managed to pawn off more trees than most of the bona fide boy scouts. Jacob (I mean, Jim) always felt Jacob of old settled for far too little when he sold his hungry brother Esau that bowl of stew and only got a birthright for it. Jim would’ve held out for hard cash and then the birthright at the end as a balloon payment.
[photo of a not-too perfect tree]
We’d lean the tree in the garage for a day or a few on its amputation-site stump in a bucket of water while it waited to be lit and glorified. Anchoring the tree in the stand was a chore. Jim and I would crawl under the scratchy boughs and slide around on our wood floor to turn each screw just the right amount. It was never straight the first time.
Then my 15-years-older sister, the unquestioned head honcho of the process, would ascend to perform the task of highest honor as she put on the lights (bubble lights, snowball lights, and all), a job in later years graciously bequeathed to me.
Then we would hang the ornaments, a tedious task but nothing like as bad as the final stage in the process: hanging the icicles.
I don’t see those long, thin, silvery strands of foil or plastic, those “icicles,” on trees much anymore. I hope never again to have to put them on one of mine.
[ photo of a 1940s style Christmas tree with lots of icicles]
According to my sister, they had to be hung with great care, one at a time. Ten million or so came in a box. You’d drag one out of the box and carefully place it over a tree branch. It was essential, my sister assured us, to start at the back near the trunk and make sure the icicle hung straight down on both sides of the branch. Straight down. No clumps. Which is why Jim’s preferred method of grabbing a paw-full of icicles and launching the whole wad in the general direction of the tree was sternly forbidden. No. One at a time. Until you froze there, died there, decayed there, and Christmas never came, and it was spring and you were still hanging icicles. One at a time.
I don’t know what we thought would happen—apart from sure death—if we didn’t hang the icicles exactly right. Would Santa’s sleigh suddenly crash in flight and the FAA later determine and publish for the whole world full of weeping giftless children to see that the cause was icing—not on the sleigh but improper tree icicling by two Shelburne boys at 125 N. Goliad, Amarillo, Texas, whose wanton and reckless disregard had killed Santa?
I’m sure we never did it “right.” But I remember wandering into the living room as a little lad clad in those great PJs that came complete with feet, lying down almost under the tree, looking up through its branches, and drinking in the beauty.
By God’s grace, Christmas trees don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Neither do lives.
[Copyright 2011 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.]
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[ Stan Paregien’s poem, “The Truth About Santa” ]
[Stan Paregien’s poem, “A Holliday Greeting” ]
[ Stan Paregien’s poem, “Christmas Time in Florida” ]
[ S. Omar Barker’s poem, “One Snowy Christmas Eve” ]
[ S. Omar Barker’s poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” ]
[ “Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ]
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Honor Roll of Visitors
to The Paregien Journal
I enjoy writing, as all of you can attest. My first published article was in the student newspaper at the first college I attended, back in the fall of 1961. Since then I have had hundreds of articles appear in scores of different newspapers and magazines. And three hardback books, two paperback books and 15 eBooks later, I haven’t lost that drive to find ideas worthy of sharing with all of you.
There is something singularly satisfying about my little blogs published as the title of THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL at http://www.paregienjournal.com. That satisfaction comes from knowing that on any given day there may be people visiting my site from all over the world. Instantly. Amazing.
I am pleased and thankful that – just since January 1, 2017 — people from 72 nations visited this web page. Heck, I don’t even know where many of them are on a map of the world. But here is that list as of Nov. 10, 2017:
Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
Thanks to all those who live in other nations and have honored us with a visit to this site. We appreciate it very much. Please feel free to leave a comment.
I’m giving some serious thought to doing a series of profiles next year about each of the nations listed above. I’m start with the first three — Albania, Algeria, Andorra — and see how that goes. If you are from one of those nations or can put me in touch with a knowledgeable person with first-hand, recent information, I’d appreciate a note to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks.
A very merry Christmas to each and every one of you. And if you haven’t done so as yet, why not take a small gift or a dish of food to someone who is sick or lonely? You could certainly cheer them up. Then that person would be blessed and so would you, especially if you warmly and graciously offer to pick that person up in your car and spend maybe just an hour driving around looking at all the Christmas lights.
Until next year, Lord willing.
— Stan Paregien