By: Virgil Adams
December 22, 2004
Santa is alive and well. Rejoice!
This will be my 81st Christmas. I dont remember the first one. But I am reasonably sure it was good. The reason I say that is because Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus were good.
I wish I could remember clearly that Christmas in 1923, but I cant. I was only 6 months and 14 days old. The reason Id like to remember is because Id like to know what G.T. got that year. My brother was 4 years old at the time.
I know he got some good stuff because Mr. and Mrs. Claus not only were good people. They were also giving people.
Good and giving go together, I guess. They are marks of character. Which came first? Its one of those chicken or egg things. Is one good because he gives? Or does one give because he is good?
Be that as it may, Im sure G.T. didnt get nearly as much stuff 81 years ago as 4-year-olds will get this Christmas. For one thing, there was not nearly as much stuff available back then. And even if there had been, I doubt Mr. and Mrs. Claus could afford it.
A two-mule, dirt farmer didnt make a whole lot of money in the 1920s and 30s. He farmed full-time 364 days to feed his family for a year and have enough money left over to be Santa for one day in December.
In 1927, when I was 4, I had a pretty good idea of what G.T. got that Christmas in 1923. I suspect he got the same things I did: wooden blocks with the ABCs on them, a toy car or truck to push across the floor in front of the fireplace, and a stocking filled with an orange, an apple, a banana, an assortment of nuts, and some hard candy.
Time passed very slowly as I became 5, then 6, then 7. It seemed like there were 24 months between Christmases not just 12.
But as I grew from a baby to a boy, I made an amazing discovery. Mr. and Mrs. Claus were not just good and giving at Christmastime; they were that way all year. And not just to each other and their own kids. They loved everybody.
That is why they never accumulated a lot of money or worldly goods. They spent their lives giving stuff away to anybody in need, and to some folks who werent. I remember Mr. Claus telling me it was more blessed that way.
I believe it was in 1931, when I was 8, that I met Mr. and Mrs. Claus face to face, came to know them intimately, and developed a personal relationship with them. It happened like this:
I was in third grade and figured I was old enough for a BB gun. I found the one I wanted in the Sears-Roebuck Catalog, and wrote a letter to ol Santa up at the North Pole. I know the letter was delivered because it was printed the following week in both The Carroll County Democrat and The Carroll County Republican. But I didnt hold out much hope of getting the gun. Based on past Christmases, I wasnt sure Mr. and Mrs. Claus had the money for it.
About a week before Christmas, I just happened, for some reason, to peek under the bed in the front bedroom. There, under that bed, was a BB gun just like the one in the Sears-Roebuck Catalog. And suddenly I knew: the rumors I had been hearing from some of the older kids at school were true. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus were my Daddy and Mama.
For about ten seconds I was shocked and disappointed - even devastated. My faith in God - in everything - just up and died.
Then I rejoiced. My Dad and Mom, two good and giving people, had been giving all these years, not telling anybody it was them, expecting nothing in return, giving the credit to some old fat guy who came riding in on a sleigh and, after hitching his reindeer to the lightening rod, climbed down the chimney. Mama, always the generous one, left out a glass of milk and some cookies for the old man, and he didnt even exist. Talk about good and giving! My Daddy and Mama epitomized it.
Well, the later years passed quicker than the earlier years had passed slowly, and somewhere in there Mary and I became Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. We tried to carry on the tradition until our kids came along, and now it is their turn. They have five kids of their own - one boy and four girls - and before long they will be Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Dont let anybody ever tell you theres no Santa. Ever since the world began, the old fat guy has been around, giving gifts, spreading joy, doing that silly laugh: Ho, Ho, Ho. And as long as there are dads and moms, and kids, and extended families, and friends, and oh, yes, love, the species will thrive. I know for a fact that it has been alive and well for 81 years.
And what have I learned during that time?
I learned that used bicycles repaired by Jefferson Mills employees and delivered by Lions and Rotarians made poor kids as happy as rich kids who got brand new motorbikes.
I have come to realize that sometimes a small gift with lots of love is better than a large gift with little or no love.
Somewhere along the way I learned that an abundance of stuff (lots of presents) doesnt make a good Christmas, but an abundance of love does.
And this: No matter how large the surplus of stuff, it cant make up for a shortage of caring.
Ive seen some dogs and cats get more for Christmas than some poor kids get, and that bothers me still.
Its a tragedy that some little kids grow to manhood and womanhood and quit believing in Santa Claus. Even worse, they quit being Santa Claus. The world will never outgrow its need for Santa Claus.
You wonder how I know all this stuff? I speak from 81 years of experience.
Before I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Ill leave you with this thought:
They say its the thought that counts. If thats true, why dont we shop at the Dollar Tree where nothing costs more than . . . you guessed it, a dollar - plus tax of course - and give the money we save to somebody who needs it more than we do? Its just a (Christmas) thought.
Happy Holidays, everybody! Rejoice! Santa is alive and well.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
By: Susan Harper
December 22, 2004
Faces Of Christmas In Commerce
When I first lived here, my kind-hearted West Coast friends used to ask me sympathetically what it was like to spend Christmas in Commerce. They knew that if youre ever going to be homesick, it will be during the holidays.
I tried to be kind in return, and not rub it in too much about the short lines at the post office here, or the fact that there are always plenty of parking spaces. After all, I was talking to people who couldnt be sure of parking within six blocks, let alone getting to the head of a postal line during their one-hour lunch break.
But I couldnt help telling them about Brenda and Melba, our cheerful, helpful postal clerks who always have something crazy to wear at Christmas: antlers and a blinking red nose, or Santa hats with colored lights. (This year Brenda added a special display: a battery-operated dog who barked Jingle Bells.)
And I know I talked about the library patrons who come bearing gifts during this season. Our staff lunch table looks like the dessert bar at Chateau Elan, laden with home-made cookies and cakes, preserves and pretzels, candy and cider and punch. Come get you a plate! call the garden club members, the Cold Sassy Quilters, the folks having holiday luncheons at the library; theyre probably trying to make sure we dont just eat desserts all day long!
I may also have mentioned the Christmas ornament contest at the elementary school, and the Kiwanis Christmas party for children. And I know I brought up the door-decorating contest, and the way the whole town looks like a jewel-box at this time of year.
Im sure I brought up the Christmas cantatas, too. Last Sunday nights Many Moods of Christmas at the First Baptist Church featured a dazzling prelude on piano and organ, and then a 23-piece orchestra and a 50-voice choir under the direction of Commerces own Todd Chandler, and if it didnt bring you to your feet, its because you were too stunned to stand up. I watched the radiant faces of the choir members so many of them dear and familiar through the slight wobble and shine of my own tears of gratitude for such music.
But perhaps dearest of all to me this year are the faces I didnt get to see. They belong to the gentlemen from the Commerce 76 service station who rescued my mother the other night when she got a flat tire just as they were closing up shop. Instead of going home, they went to her aid, out in the bitter cold, and when her spare turned out to be flat too (ah, the holidays!), they made a trip back to the shop to fix it, and got her safely home. Isnt that just Commerce all over? And, this being Commerce, I expect that somewhere, someone was keeping their supper warm on the stove. I hope so. Merry Christmas, folks, and God bless us every one.
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.