The Holiday Season is upon us, but the only holiday this resembles is maybe July 4th. The weather, this time of year, has been absolutely balmy; it has been so unseasonably warm that I have been playing golf a couple of times a week as normal. I’m writing this column a week before Thanksgiving and my petunias are still in bloom and little green peppers hang from a sorrowful looking pepper plant sitting on the deck. It has only frosted a couple of times until now. When you are reading this page a couple of weeks from now of course, there could be snow up to our “you-know-whats” and the temperature could be hovering around our ankles or lower. But for now it doesn’t look like that.
It’s funny how we remember our best and worst holidays. My best was when my parents and I went to visit my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Charlie over the Thanksgiving of 1950.
My father had just bought a new Mercury two-door sedan that fall and this was the first road trip we had ever taken in it. When we arrived in my little Southern Ohio hometown that winter, it had been snowing lightly all day. Since the Weather Channel and any hint of modern weather forecasting techniques were many years away, we had no way of knowing that on Thanksgiving Day we would be hit by one of the biggest winter storms to ever hit that part of the country. As the snow started piling up my father said, “We better get out of here, while we can.” What a horrible thought. We had just gotten there and I hadn’t even got to play with my two cousins, Linda and Georgia. My cousins and I pleaded with him to stay another day since he wasn’t planning on going home till Saturday. Well, Friday dawned and it was still snowing. My uncle and dad went out to try to dig the Mercury out from the snow hump it had created. They succeeded in a couple of hours of digging, but then realized that there was no place to go since all of the roads were closed between southern Ohio and our home in Erie. We cheered, we yelled, we threw snowballs. We were stuck and it would be several days before we would be rescued by the Highway Patrol’s plow trucks.
In the meantime, us kids made the most of the unexpected vacation. Since the snow was so high on the back door that we could open it inward, we dug a tunnel to the outhouse, which was welcomed by a rush out the back. We had enough food left over from Thanksgiving that we had plenty to eat and the house was merry with warm cocoa and goodhearted talk and laughter all around.
A decade later on Christmas 1960, I was alone, living in Long Beach, Calif. I awoke Christmas morning and, at first, didn’t realize it was Christmas Day. There was a box sitting on the table, which contained my Christmas. It was a box from my mother with gifts and, most importantly, a small Christmas tree that was about six inches tall. I don’t remember what I got for that Christmas except for that little tree.
My calendar that day was empty, so I walked across Ocean Blvd. and sat in the park across from my Silver Eagle Hotel and watched the ocean waves brush the sand in and out, in and out. The day was mild, roughly 60 degrees with a high sky and bright sunshine. As I sat on the beach I realized that I was virtually the only person on it except for a few gulls and a jogger every now and then. I watched the sun slowly sink into the horizon and got a chill that was not part of the cooling day. I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to spend another Christmas by myself and that the home I had left for the sunny shores of California was not without its charm and comfort. What I would have given that day to be back in cold Ohio nestled within the warmth of my family—my mother who sent me letters with a couple of dollars tucked inside, my father who surprised me when he was the one who cried as I left home for the first time, my little sister for whom I had bought the biggest stuffed chimpanzee toy I could find for Christmas, and of course my little dog Blackie, who I was convinced understood me better than anyone else.
Many, many Holiday Seasons have come and passed since then and I have never spent another Christmas alone. The first time I walked into our new home a few years ago, I announced, “Christmas,” because for the first time we would be able to host the Holidays with plenty of room for our five children, 10 grandchildren, one great granddaughter and two dogs. My life has been blessed in so many ways since those early days. Here is wishing you and yours a very happy and blessed Holiday Season. I am grateful that I live in the best spot on the face of the earth and at the best of all possible times. Happy Holidays!