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CHRISTMAS EVE     1997
 

by Bob Harrison
December 1997

This is the one day of the year when all of my memory cells kick into overdrive and I begin to recall all of the wonderful Christmases past. There is also the other part of me that wonders about the Christmases yet to come.

For many years I have made a tradition of looking out at the night sky on Christmas Eve in a few moments of silent meditation. Nothing very profound, just a wonderment at the magic that seems to permeate the night. Everything is quiet, all of the family is now asleep, the kids sleeping in restless anticipation, the grownups, too, but for different reasons.

This is my 73rd Christmas and each one of those Christmases was a special occasion, seemingly a bit more exciting, more memorable than the previous one. There were exceptions, of course, those Christmases spent in the Navy, far from home and family. But in some ways, they were extra special because Mom and Dad and my wife always managed to do something, to send some little gift or card or letter that made me feel they were very close to me on that day.

There was a Christmas in 1959 that was almost lost. Dad died in November and when the Magical Day arrived, the entire family was on the ropes. But we did what we had to do for the kids and for each other and believe it or not, we managed to turn a dark gloom into a day of remembrance as we knew Dad would have wanted.

There were days of need and days of plenty. Sometimes we were so poor that we bought the kids three and four-dollar gifts and we were apprehensive about what to expect from them, whether they would appreciate our efforts of not. We shouldnít have worried. Our kids always seemed to look past the material, the commercial part, of Christmas and to see the fun in the exchange. Lucky parents!!

Now I look at this Christmas and compare it to all of those other happy times. I know that our kids will wander in tomorrow with their kids and they will all have some token of their love and thoughtfulness for us. And we will ooh and aah and say something like "Thatís what I wanted" but really the best part of the day will be knowing that they think enough of us to make the effort and to take special pains to make another Christmas an enjoyable experience for us.

Last spring, while browsing the internet, I suddenly received a surprising message via E-Mail from someone who said "Hi, Cuz". I thought "Who in the world is this?". It was signed "Sid". The last time that Sid and I had seen each other was back around 1970 or 1971. Since that time we had lost track of each other. I had no idea where he lived or even if he did live. Since then we have maintained our correspondence, exchanging family anecdotes, photographs, etc., re-establishing family ties, so to speak.

I hope this doesnít come across as too personal or too sentimental but Iím gonna say it anyhow. Sid has seemed more like a brother than a cousin. I have found him to be warm, thoughtful, at times inspirational, helpful, considerate, and caring. And I love him like a brother. Sid may not appreciate this sentimentalism but Iíve said it and Iím glad!! Sid steered me to Ron Martiniís BBS.

Since then, a big part of my day has been on the BBS, the chat rooms, and the ICQ. I have read most of the posts and have learned that there are some pretty nice people out there. Did I say "nice"? I meant wonderful people. Warm, caring individuals, some who try to appear hard-nosed, tough, and macho but underneath, just a boatload of softies.

Who are they? I couldnít possibly name them all. Thereís Roger Burliegh, Bob Berry, Ron Martini, Mike Maloney, Mike Grimm, whom we just lost, and his son, Mike, John Ackerman who took some heavy hits this year, Roy Ator and his Brat, Gil Raynor, who is always a source of inspiration to me, Frank Toon, Myron Howard, Ramon Samson, Warren, Len Ledgerman, John Cole, Luke, Fred Smith, Lanny, Jim Steinmetz, Bobby Barbee, Gerald Buscemi, Mike Rankin, Joe Roche, and so many, many others whose names may have slipped my mind but who are in my thoughts. And if I missed you, please forgive me. There must be a thousand or more on the BBS.

However, to all those whom I named and all of those whom I didnít name, you have made this Christmas an extra special one for me. Making all of these new friends is a gift that cannot be surpassed.

To paraphrase my own poetry, "ten thousand mates and I can state, not one of them was losers." Just in case any of you missed the only Christmas poem I ever wrote, Iím submitting it once again.

CHRISTMAS REMEMBERED

Mom, do you remember the Christmas of thirty-six?
I got a gun and holster set so I could play Tom Mix.
And the very next year, I'm sure it was, when Christmas came around,
I got a bat, a ball, and glove, the proudest boy in town!

In 'thirty-eight, a ping pong set, and it wasn't very long
'Til I was undisputed champ of all who played ping pong.
I got a bike in 'thirty-nine, the only one I ever had;
No matter how hard the times, you always managed, you and Dad.

Then came the time in 'forty-two, when I had to go away,
To do my part to win a war, no time for Christmas Day.
A homesick boy in Navy blues stared at the barracks wall,
And longed for home at Christmas, and family most of all.

Then came the call, the one call, that sailors love to hear,
Mail call was the call I heard and the sound meant Christmas cheer.
A package, large and gaily wrapped, was handed back to me,
I read the tag, "From Mom and Dad", though I could scarcely see.

Down through the years, you taught me that Christmas is for giving,
And I learned from you love must abide or there is no joy in living,
And, Mom, I've taught my children and my grandchildren, too,
The greatest gift that they can give is love the whole year through.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOODNIGHT!!!

Bob Harrison

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