The Jackson Herald
December 25, 2002
The day I became Santa Claus
The day before Thanksgiving I got this note from Helen. Helen Buffington.
Helen used to be editor of The Jackson Herald. Now she is editor emeritus.
I called her Madam Editor then, and I call her Madam Editor now.
Helen and Herman (thats Helens husband) ran the whole show down at the paper until Mike and Scott grew up, came of age, and graduated from college.
Helen and Herman would not like me saying that they ran the whole show. They were careful to give credit to every employee, every reader, every advertiser. Mike and Scott are following in their mama and daddys footsteps, and that is very nice. All I do is write this simple column, and they brag on me like I owned stock in the company.
Hey, Im digressing already and havent even gotten started. Im supposed to be telling you about Helens note and how I responded to it.
Virgil, Im glad you and Shirley are coming to the MSN Christmas supper. (She said supper, not dinner. Thats one reason I like her.)
In that connection, Im asking a favor (which you can, of course, turn down, if you like). We are asking a few people to give a 3-4 minute report on a memorable Christmas they have experienced, and I wanted you to be one of those.
Please think about it and let me or Candice know whether you will.
Many thanks, either way.
Naturally, I accepted. Being a frustrated preacher, I never pass up an opportunity to say a few words.
What follows is the 3-4 minute (plus a few) report that I gave at the MSN Christmas supper at the Ila Restaurant on December 5.
I held in front of me a recent Peanuts comic strip. Marcie is sitting at her desk working on an English theme entitled The Meaning of Christmas.
She writes, To me, Christmas is the joy of getting.
Charlie Brown, looking over her shoulder, says, You mean giving, Christmas is the joy of giving.
Marcie looks at him in disgust and disbelief, and replies, I dont have the slightest idea what youre talking about.
For the first 24 years of my life, I was just like Marcie. Christmas was all about getting.
Santa Claus occupied the early years. He was the BIG giver.
At home and at Sunday school, we sang Jesus Loves Me, but it was a long time before we realized Jesus loved us more than Santa Claus.
Santa gave us material things, things we could see, taste, touch, hold, feel and play with. He was real. When I started to school and began to hear rumors that he wasnt, it was a very disturbing time in my young life.
Even when I grew older and became suspicious, I kept the faith. I mean, Santa had been so good to me.
I wrote letters to him, and Daddy took the letters to town and mailed them to him at the North Pole. I knew he got the letters, because he answered with everything I asked for.
When I was 7 or 8 (kids wise up a lot faster today), I asked Santa for a BB gun. Just before Christmas, while Mama and Daddy were out of the house, I had a hunch to look under the bed. There was my BB gun.
Then I knew, not that there was a Santa Claus, but who the old fellow was.
But I didnt let on. I wasnt about to mess with a good thing. Mr. and Mrs. Claus continued to give me more stuff than I deserved.
The giving continued into high school. When I dropped out and joined the Navy in 1941, the gifts kept on coming. They found their way to Norfolk, Long Island, North Africa.
After the war, I continued to get, get, get. I got Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, clothes for college, and special treats and surprises when I came home on weekends.
Yes, Virginia, there was a Santa Claus, and he and his helpmate were alive and well and very generous.
I remember many of the things that I received during those early years. I dont remember much of anything that I gave. It was all about getting. Although a man in his mid-20s, I was still like little Marcie.
On July 15, 1947, I began to grow up. I got married.
At first, I was still more interested in getting than giving. But slowly but surely, I began to realize that I would not always get my way. I discovered that, sometimes, I had to give. Give in. Give up. I was becoming the man I was created to be.
On April 14, 1948, I became Santa Claus.
That was the day mine and Marys little girl was born, and the world has never been the same since. Old Self (I love you, Louise Duke!) began to get out of the way. Others became more important than Ol Virgil. Getting decreased. Giving increased.
This phenomenon, this feeling inside, grew stronger as three sons were born, and as five grandkids blessed our family.
What Charlie Brown tried to tell Marcie is more than a cliché. It is truth, just as Santa Claus is truth. It really is more blessed to give than to get.
A lot of us mamas and daddies know that now. And we can rest in the knowledge that our kids and grandkids will know it, too when they grow up and become Santa Claus.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
December 25, 2002
Grandparents are a treasure
This will be the 23rd Christmas in my life when Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be filled with visits to all four of my grandparents. I know that I am truly blessed to have all four wonderful people still enriching my life, but I dont know whether they know how much they continue to mean to me today. My life is so filled with work and Piper and home that I dont stop often enough to pick up the phone to say I love you or to tell them that I think of them during my hectic day. And I fully expect all four of them to be in my holiday plans for the next 15 or so years, but I think I may have reached the point where I am willing to concede that I probably dont have as many years left as are already spent. We are not immortal. So Ill take the next hour and thank them for making me the person I am today.
Grandpa. Thank you for the fishing trips to the bridge with the homemade, cane poles. And for letting me keep that fish even though you knew it would die on the floor of the Volkswagen beetle on the way home. It was the best way to teach me the difference between life and death. I have never killed another thing since when I didnt think about that fish and the power I have between life and death. There is always a choice. Thank you for the tree fort and for the little circular fort in the woods made of chicken wire and plastic. There is no one else who would let three kids haul out one perfectly good chair and place it up in a tree where it was perfectly ruined within months. Because of you I know the value of material things. Theyre only worth is in the pleasure we get from them.
Grandma. Thank you for the long flower walks. I will never know anyone else who knows so much about growing things. With you in my heart, I have attempted to grow numerous things without success and I have managed to kill the unkillable. But because of your patience and wisdom, I know I will continue to try until perhaps I can take my granddaughter on walks through my gardens. Persistence is a virtue. Thank you for being the best cook in the world. Im trying. Thank you for all of the encouragement and for telling me to trust myself. I know youre right, that time and practice will make my biscuits and my creamed corn better. And thank you for letting me sleep on your floor when the poison ivy got so bad I thought I would go crazy and for making me wash with bleach every time I came in the house thereafter. Because of you I know love can be shared in the smallest ways like in gentle reminders that say you know me and youre watching out for me.
Poppa. Thank you for taking me on every single level of spaghetti junction when the burned toast smoked us out of the house. You taught me that catastrophes can be the impetus for an adventure. And that little dreams are important, too, even if fulfilling them means having to take a break from the daily humdrum. Thank you for wet noodles and secrets. It was a special language between you and your grandchildren and one Im still not too old to love. Thank you for our earnest talks. You always took me seriously. Because of you I remember how important it is to make children feel special.
Ginky. Thank you for cheese toast and cartoons and staying in our pajamas all day. You taught me that taking a day off and lounging is fun at any age. And thank you for teaching me how love feels-good all over. I still feel happy inside every time I see you. Thank you for Go Fish and War and playing tea party. No one does it better than you. Youve always been the queen of fun in my mind. Thank you for your strength and understanding. I hope I managed to win both in the gene pool.
You all have made me into a person I can be proud of, but Im not nearly as proud of myself as I am of you. I love you all.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.