Just a quick Christmas note from the sprawling, exurban countryside of East Vincent Township, Pa., hard by the cooling towers of the Limerick Generating Station.
Maybe it’s a cry for help, who knows?
I used to be a sucker for the Christmas Spirit. Despite the ubiquitous inequity which runs amok in 21st century America, I wish I still were. I once reveled in the Dickensian miracle of the season. I took joy in the triumph of the Spirits of Christmas Past and George Bailey, of Kris Kringle and Fred Gailey.
Every year I took demented pleasure in grabbing hold of my mom’s Scrooge and Marley figurines and tormenting my poor, old dog with an animated recitation of Scrooge’s harrowing meeting with his late partner’s ghost.
“Business!” I wailed while the dog cowered, “Mankind was my business!”
In my first newspaper job, I wrote a sappy editorial extolling the magic of the season. I even quoted that hoary line from Scrooge’s nephew Fred, that Christmas is “the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
As I drove the behemoth over Valley Forge Mountain this morning, I wondered where the feeling had gone. Lately I’ve looked in vain toward my fellow-passengers to the grave in an effort to recover that spirit of seasonal commonality.
Somewhere along the way, I allowed Christmas to die inside me. Try as I might, I can’t seem to revive that old-time feeling of seasonal bonhomie.
Maybe I haven’t tried that hard. Maybe I’m just an old, embittered cynic. Maybe I’ve allowed my inner Scrooge to take command and shut up my heart.
In any case, I’ve got a 5-year-old son, and it’s a hell of a thing to be immune to Yuletide cheer when you’ve got an impressionable kid on your hands. It’s no good. Not at all.
Consider this an effort to resuscitate a bit of that elusive Christmas idealism and to celebrate the spirit of our communal roots, even as they come under assault on all fronts.
And so, to all the wonderful friends and family who are elsewhere, be it in Costa Rica, Bremerton or Gig Harbor, Linglestown, Orting or Olympia, Minden, Tacoma or Tumwater, Fircrest or Fort Worth, Mumbai or Beijing, Chicago or Atlanta or the Interstate Highway System, or anywhere else in this troubled, resilient world, we wish you a Merry Christmas. Really. And a Happy New Year, of course.
In that spirit, with a little dash of the cynic mixed in, I offer this seasonal message courtesy of Robert Earl Keen:
And one more thing …
I normally don’t go in for the sentimentality that surrounds celebrity deaths, but as I’m wallowing knee-deep in feelings, I’ll double down on sentiment and nostalgia. Last night I was saddened to read about Jack Klugman’s passing. I immediately went to Becky and, in a morbid take on What’s My Line?, asked her to play Guess the Dead Celebrity.
One of her first guesses was Charles Durning.
Now that she’s killed him off, too, I thought I’d use this space of little value to pay tribute to a nonpareil character actor who endured unfathomable hell during World War II.
And so, without further belabored sentiment or unnecessary ado, here’s a little holiday cheer from my favorite Durning character: