And it is perhaps in keeping with the story of the First Christmas that in my case there were three high spots to make “my day” a particularly bright one. And speaking of this First Christmas, let me digress a moment by quoting a columnist we all read quite regularly here – Walter Kiernan, writing under the daily heading “One Man’s Opinion”. Here is his account in modern parlance of this first Christmas:
Well, it was quite a night there at the Inn. Some of the boys were in town to get enrolled with the tax collector and one reunion led to another and the joint was jumping. And along came this couple and wanted to put up for the night. The man got the proprietor over in the corner and gave him a sales talk on why he needed the spot for his wife. But they weren’t regulars and didn’t look like much fun — the quiet type — and out they went. The “No Rooms” sign was up anyway. It was his hometown but he had been away and he didn’t know which way to turn. Bethlehem can get pretty cold at night. So they finally headed for a cattle barn. Anyplace was better than just being outdoors, and the cattle didn’t seem to mind. In fact, cattle aren’t supposed to be very intelligent, they were more friendly and gave the people a better break than the mob at the Inn. And during the night the woman had a baby. And they put it in the manger and the cows breath kept it warm. And one of the boys came stumbling out of the Inn later, buttoning his coat up. It was cold, like I said before. And there was a big bright star shining down on the old barn. BUT HE DIIDN”T SEE IT.
Here are my three big moments. First I must explain that as you know for some ten years I have been receiving and sending letters to you boys and have accumulated clippings and booklets on travel, island cottages, Income taxes, investments; accumulated records must be saved such as Justice of the Peace records, old checks (canceled), receipts, etc., so that the place had become pretty much cluttered. For some time I have wished I had a filing cabinet in which I could store these things for easy record, so much to my surprise and gratification, toward the end
Christmas Report – page 3
of the gift distribution, Lad and Dick left the room and came back carrying a four-drawer Shaw-Walker metal filing cabinet, which all had chipped in to purchase — one of those lasting gifts that one longs for for years but, because of the cost, never gets around to purchasing. It was a most welcome gift.
The second high spot is a bit difficult to get over to you in the way it hit me. You would have had to be here, seeing the sequence of events that led up to it, observed the lordly, yet gracious manner in which the deed was done, the expression of voice, and of face, in fact all those intangibles that lose so much in the telling. It illustrated for me the true spirit of Christmas, innocently and unconsciously symbolized by the youngest of us all. Following the old custom, Butch and Marty, some days ago, had dictated to Elizabeth a letter to Santa Claus in which a formidably long list of gifts wanted by each of them was duly recorded. As the great day drew nearer, perhaps warned by their mother that they might not expect to receive everything on their list, they began to be a bit fearful that they would not get enough presents, but when the Day came and one after one presents from the big pile under the tree were labeled Marty or Butch, it must have dawned on Marty that his erstwhile fears were indeed unnecessary. At least he was thoroughly enjoying himself, stopping quite frequently in his job of handing me packages to unwrap his own, keeping up meanwhile a running comment on events, not noticing or caring whether anyone heard him or not. During one spot when a particularly frequent run of gifts bore his name, he said, half to himself, “I guess I’m getting too many presents. I’ll give some to Butch”, and tearing off the gift wrapping of an attractive picture book he had just received, he unconcertedly, but with a kingly grace and nonchalance, yet with a conscious knowledge that he was bestowing something of real value, he carelessly passed the book to Butch and went on with the business of the day. It was all so matter of fact I don’t believe he really remembers even now that he did anything to give his Grandpa and perhaps, others that may have noticed it, such an big kick.
My third big moment came toward the last of the gift distribution and while not strictly material, like my filing cabinet, nor purely a thing of the spirit, like Marty’s symbolization of the Christmas idea, it occupies sort of an intermediate niche of its own, and no one, not a Grandfather, can fully appreciate it. It came by way of one of Lad and Marian’s attractive homemade photographic Christmas cards, addressed to Dad, and reading as follows: “We can’t let the rest of the family get too far ahead of us. The doctor tells us that we can expect our baby in July”. Now what more appropriate than Christmas Day for the great news. We have our own “herald Angels” singing to us, and while coming to us not strictly speaking “on a midnight clear”, it was nevertheless a “glorious song of old”, and as the secret had been well-kept, it was a real Christmas surprise to all of us. (Lad and Marian’s “baby” was actually twins, my brother and I, born at the end of June, 1946.)
Since this is a 7-page letter, this week’s posts will be longer than usual, but I think you will enjoy them. On Saturday and Sunday, more Special Pictures.