By Ron VandenBoom
As I watched my granddaughter climb up on Santa's knee last weekend, I was struck by the memory of a similar time years ago when I was the one on the lap of the jolly old elf.
It was an intimidating experience to say the least. This overly large man in a bright red suit and long white beard was the same guy who kept the naughty and nice list in his hip pocket.
As I stood in line waiting my turn, my mind would wonder through a list of bad deeds I had committed throughout the year. Would he remind me of the time that I dropped the family cat in my mother's wash-tub or the time I lied about playing with matches? Then there was the time I fought with my sister over who would carry a loaf of bread home from the store. On that occasion we walked home with her carrying the bread and me carrying the wrapper.
Well, as was always the case with Santa, none of my bad deeds were even mentioned. It was as if he had suffered a case of permanent amnesia as I unloaded my long list of Christmas desires on him, received a peppermint candy cane, and scurried off to tell my mother about the close call.
This was just a part of the panorama I remember today as my childhood holiday season. It was a wondrous and mystical time back then. Sugarplums really did seem to dance in my head. It was a time when the spirit of the season seemed to permeate every fiber of my being. The world had transformed itself from the mundane into the magical.
I remember hours spent looking at toys in the Sears, Montgomery Ward, and JC Penney catalogs. I remember Christmas cookies baking in the oven and the special eggnog my mother used to make. I remember the smell of the family Christmas tree as it filled the house with the scent of pine. At school we made special Christmas gifts for the family and spent hours preparing for the annual Christmas concert.
There was also the annual Candle Light Service at our church where only candles lit the sanctuary and the beautiful holiday hymns rang out a message of peace and hope and love for one another.
There was indeed something special about this time of the year. Holiday lights, special Christmas programs on TV, and what seemed like hundreds of Christmas cards, all added to the wonderful mosaic of the Yuletide season.
Over the years the ravages of time and the realities of life have, for me, tarnished some of the glow that once dominated the holiday season. But watching my granddaughter occupy the spot on Santa's knee that once held such apprehension for me makes me realize that for the young, nothing has changed. It's still a magical time of the year.
In that respect my role has changed. Today it's up to me to create the Yuletide spirit. I, like all adults, hold in my hands the future of the Christmas spirit. Where once I received, it is now my mission to give - to provide for the children that same mystical wonder that held such special appeal for me.
Whenever my cynical side threatens to overpower the pleasant aspects of the holiday season and I'm confronted with despairing comments about Christmas being too commercial, starting too early, or being little more than a celebration of greed, it's never long before I'm reminded of my mission. All I need to do is see the child on Santa's knee, or hear a choir sing a carol, or see a sign saying "peace on earth good will toward men," and I'm reminded that Christmas is not a given but a sacred trust. A trust that like the child, needs constant attention and diligent care to survive.
Fortunately, I'm not worried. The pleasant memories shared by parents the world over has insured the future of Christmas for their children. And that's the way it should be, that's the magic of Christmas, the spirit that never grows up, never fades away, and lives forever in our hearts.