Can your hear them? Last night I thought I heard, way off in the distance, the sound of sleigh bells. It might be my imagination, but I'm almost positive I heard them. Maybe I'm just getting too wrapped up in this "holiday" thing. Or, maybe it's just the sound of electric meters spinning all over town.
I love Christmastime. It's an interesting time for a guy who spends a large part of his life observing the people around him. For example, harried folks bustling around in the strip malls and shopping centers trying to find just the right present will still take the time to say "thank you" when you hold the door for them. Of course, those same people will dash out to their cars, take off - dialing their cell phones - and become that wild-eyed character from the Goofy cartoon they show at traffic school.
I love the our neighborhood cookie exchange, which brings everyone in our little slice of heaven together on a pre-Christmas afternoon to swap confections, sip hot cider and re-kindle acquaintances. It's a great time to meet those "new" neighbors - the ones who moved in eight months ago. I love the fact that little kids arrive ready to chow down the cookies by the fistful. I love the fact that the teenagers will take an hour out from their video games, cell phones and other distractions to actually mingle and speak with us geezers from the neighborhood. I love to see the bright, young people home from college and hear their solutions to all the world's problems. Ah, the exuberance of youth...
This time of the year can also be one of transition. For example, on the day of our cookie exchange - when neighbors meet to swap recipes, catch up on lives and count heads - one of our newest neighbors celebrated her first birthday and, on the same day, one of our long-time neighbors passed away peacefully in her sleep in her home a couple doors away... Transitions...
I love the holiday parties, like the one we attended in our neighborhood last weekend after the cookie exchange. Our neighbor's home was so beautifully decorated inside that it could, and should, have been a feature piece in a magazine. We shared good food, good friends and the real holiday spirit.
Do you like the picture at the top of this column? It's a small piece of our neighbor's Christmas Tree, which she only decorates every other year. This baby is ten feet tall, has something like 3600 light bulbs and more than 1,000 ornaments on it! It must be plugged into two separate electrical circuits or it will blow the panel! Her whole house is decorated for the season and is wonderful to behold. It takes her two weeks to decorate the tree and another two weeks to put it all away... but it's worth it.
I love the holiday cards that have been flowing into our mail box for the past several weeks, building to a crescendo this week. I love seeing photos of old friends and their growing families that sometimes accompany their cards. I love receiving family Christmas letters - yes, I do! I read every word on every one and am grateful that our friends want us to know about every nuance of their lives. I like knowing that, even if it's only when they put a mailing label on an envelope and apply the postage stamp, our friends think about us at this time of the year.
I love giving gifts, and especially this time of the year. I love the process of trying to find just the right gift and watching the reaction when it's opened. I love the looks of surprise and curiosity when the recipient tries to figure out what the heck would posses someone to buy "this"!
I love what this season does to my sweet and patient wife, with whom I will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our very first date on New Year's Eve. I love how she prepares for the house full of folks who will share this holiday with us. I love the care with which she decorates our home, trying to get it to look "just right". I love how she is unfazed by the fact that, if it drizzles on the day of our celebration making our back yard unusable, we'll have standing room only in the house, with people juggling brunch plates and drinks while playing musical chairs for the few seats available.
I love the curious paradox of Christmas in southern California, where we sit, wearing Reyn-Spooner shirts, walking shorts and sandals, and open cards depicting snowy scenes, with horse-drawn sleighs and people bundled up against the cold. I love the fact that we can sit on the beach, soaking up the sun, and turn around to see snow on the local mountains. I love the fact that, this time of the year, kids can surf in the morning and snowboard in the afternoon.
The Costa Mesa City Council gave itself, and us, a nice Christmas present - they took the rest of the month off. Their absence gives me an opportunity to thank all of you who read this blog for your continuing interest and comments. Some of you don't agree with some of the things I write here, but that's OK. You don't necessarily have to agree with me, although I prefer that you did. To those of you who like what you read here, I'm happy to provide a little joy - and information - in your lives.
I'm grateful to those of you who care enough to occasionally write a comment. I'm even grateful to those of you who slide right up to the edge of bad taste, but stop short of that line. Of course, there have been a few who just blasted right past that line and found their comments rejected. That's OK, too... it's my blog, so we'll follow my rules.
I doubt there will be many new entries on this blog over the holidays. I'm going to embrace the spirit of the season to try to get into a positive frame of mind for the upcoming year. I'm hoping I've been wrong about the new majority on the city council, and that they will rule Costa Mesa with an even hand and wisdom not previously displayed. (Yes, I'm keeping a straight face when I type those words.)
On this first day of winter, I want to wish each of you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays. I hope Santa fills your every wish.
So, until the urge moves me to post another entry, MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR from A Bubbling Cauldron. May this holiday season find you surrounded by those you love, with joy in your heart.