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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



And so this is ChristmasÖ.and what have you done?

Itís been a strange year. Even though Christmas is only a few days away now, it has been really hard for me to get into the jolly holiday spirit. Iím not sure if it is the combination of just being busy and not really concentrating on the season, or the fact that since Iím sequestered in a room with no windows for most of each day Iím not really aware of the world outside.

It has make me think of Christmases of old. Someone sent me one of those questionnaires the other day about Christmas memories and I began to drift back to the days of my youth scrounging up the ghosts of Christmas past.

There was always something exciting about Christmas on the farm. We had real trees when I was very young. Always a cedar that dad found along a ditch or farm field fence somewhere. As we got older and moved to the big farmhouse Mom started in with the fake trees. I donít think I ever really minded what kind of tree we had. But it always went up the day after Thanksgiving (that was back before that day became all about shopping) and it stood in our living room in front of the big picture window until sometime in January when Mom would take it down and pack it away for the year. She took great pride in her tree, but there was one special thing that survives even to this day. A small green frog. A childs bathtub toy somehow made it onto the tree one year and every year since itís been there. It always is moving, hopping from branch to branch with a little help from all of us, and if itís not on the tree Mom never hears the end of it from my brothers and I. Usually she relents and goes back digging through boxes until itís found and returned to itís rightful placeÖnext to the Christmas star.

We were fortunate to get some really neat presents. There were always clothes. A pair of socks, jeans, shirts that were more often than not made by Mom when we boys were all in bed asleep. Sometimes we even got store bought clothes. Black five buckle overshoes were often a Christmas routine. And we always knew that if our presents smelled like cigars that someone had been to Evanís Clothing in Dexter to get us something. We got farm toys, including one John Deere tractor that I remember finding by poking a hole in the top of the present. I always felt that it was kind of a let down after I had discovered the secret of that gift, and it cured me pretty quickly of wanting to know what they were before Christmas. But my favorite gift of all was a radio. There were two that I rememberÖone was in the shape of a Pepsi can, but the one I most like was shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle. You turned the bottle cap to turn it on and the bottom rotated to select the station.

Most of all though, Christmas was about family. There were very few times that I remember any of us not making it for Christmas day dinner at my grandparents. It was a time to see cousins and aunts and uncles. I remember also times when we had extended family with us. It was always dinner first and then resting for the big people, until the children all circled the tree like buzzards and they would relent and let us open gifts. It is the memories of those days that I treasure most now. Not only because itís been more than half my life having Christmas without granddad, but because of the closeness of family that day.

Today all the cousins are off living different lives, they gather in their own small groups for Christmas with their respective parents, and Christmas with Grandma seems to be somewhat an afterthought for most of them. I look around sometimes and think about the memories of those younger days. They sing to me a sweet song and bring me back to the warmth of those times. And in the end, they lift my spirits and take a hold of me, urging me forward and wrapping me in the love of the Christmas gift.

See you next weekÖremember, weíre all in this together.