Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Christmas; we should be joyful

     Our girl loves Christmas time, and she always has. Now, so does her girl, our Josie.
     Rachel got it honestly, from her mother, who even when Rachel was little was eager to have her help decorate the tree. Of course, Rachel's favorite part was checking -- and re-checking -- the packages that gradually stacked up under that tree.
      Now we also have two little guys -- Jacob and Kaden -- who are quick to get into the Christmas spirit. And we'll be delivering their gifts Sunday.
      Opa -- that's me -- for many years was not much of a Christmas person. But with the influence of Beatrice, Jason and Rachel, it's grown on me. So today I decided to write a blog piece about Christmas.
      I was going to write on the Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty controversy; in fact, I did write a piece to tell you some things about Phil's views you might not realize. Oh, relax, it's not what you might think. This is about athletics, not what everyone's talking about.
      Don't know about you, but, hey, I've had enough of it (didn't take much; Facebook is full of posts with people choosing sides). Don't want to go there. Decided I did not want to publish what I'd written; don't want to touch the controversy. I'll just say it's stupid and sad -- all of it.
      (If you want to see what I wrote, I'll be glad to send you a copy; I'm not going to make it public.)

Freddie the elf and Tinker Bell
      This is Christmas week, and I want to feel good about the world and the holidays.
      And mostly my daughter and my wife -- and their Christmas joy make it that way. Rachel each year is eager to buy their tree (I'm sure Russell is just as eager) and get it decorated, and now she has Josie to help her.
       Plus, Rachel a few years ago purchased one of the familiar Freddie the elf figures -- the elf on the shelf -- and he appears daily somewhere in their house. Josie loves it, and the last two times we've done Facetime with them, she was quick to show us where Freddie was -- literally -- hanging out that day.
        (If you check the accompanying photo Rachel posted on Facebook, it appears that Freddie might be making a move on Tinker Bell. I'm just sayin' ...)
        When our kids were growing up, Bea and I had a tree every year. The year I met Bea, in 1976, she and Jason, then 2 going on 3, had a little tree in their apartment. When they moved in with me, the tree came with them.
          It was, I guarantee you, my first Christmas tree. My mother called it a Chanukah bush, of course.
          When my sister (Elsa) and I were kids, we didn't know much about Christmas. In Holland, Saint Nicholas -- Sinterklaas -- Day was Dec. 6; that's when we got the presents. That, and on the eight days of Chanukah. For every day that we lit the candles, we received a present -- some big, some small. But eight days worth.
           That beat the one-day Christmas rush. By the time, almost every other kid in our neighborhood got their Christmas presents, we were done for a week or two. (Each year we also received a chocolate letter -- in my case "N" -- ordered from Holland; it's a Dutch tradition, and it carried on until a couple of years ago. Without my mother, it's not quite the same.)                      
            Bea and I didn't have a Christmas tree this year because we don't have the kids and grandkids coming here. In fact, we got into the Chanukah spirit a little by attending the annual dinner and program at the Beth-El Congregation (reform synagogue), a few miles from our apartment here in Fort Worth.
            But we're still Christmas-ing, too. We love the Christmas-related Facebook posts -- Rachel just today posted photos of the librarian's shirt and book she received ("thank you, Mommy," she wrote); and we love the Christmas music.
             We've been playing our Christmas CDs each day; for the past six years, our friend Ron Nierman has sent us a Christmas CD he put together, two dozen songs on each one. Not bad for a Jewish guy and music aficionado.
              My favorite Christmas songs: Any version of Silent Night, but especially Barbra Streisand's (see, we keep the Jewish theme going); Feliz Navidad, by Jose Feliciano; and A Holly Jolly Christmas by Mr. Burl Ives (that's for you, Dan Fleser). But most any tune will do for me.
              I think Josie likes Rudolph. Who doesn't?
              We are thankful for all the Christmas cards we receive, can hardly wait each day to see what comes in. What a thrill to receive cards in recent days from Ann Thaxton and Lou Gwin, two very special ladies in Shreveport who were such long and great friends to my parents.
               Look forward, too, to the Christmas meal(s), hoping to avoid eating too much, too many sweets. We'll be getting together with some of our oldest, dearest friends from Shreveport on Sunday at Ann and Jason's new Cajun Tailgators cafe in historic downtown Plano (we highly recommend it).

My daughter sent me this blanket -- a
surprise gift for Christmas.
              And, of course, the gifts. What a joy it is to watch the kids -- well, the adults -- be surprised at what they receive. I used to cringe at the abundance of gifts Bea would get for our kids, a little too much I always thought. I was wrong ... but you knew that, didn't you?
              I was never a good gift buyer (or receiver, for that matter). Bea knew what to get everyone, and Rachel and Jason learned from her.
              Three days a package came in the mail for me -- from Rachel -- and when I opened it, I knew right away it was a blanket wrap. We don't really need another blanket wrap ... but when I unfolded this one, it said "NEW YORK (huge interlocked NY logo)  Yankees." Quite a surprise.
              Rachel found it at the school where she is the media-center (library) specialist; the person who bought it -- on a cold night at Yankee Stadium -- didn't want it. Think Rachel didn't know the right person for it?
               Goes very well with my navy blue shirt with that same NY logo on it and "Mantle 7" on the back that a friend brought me from Cooperstown -- the Baseball Hall of Fame.
               So I have my special gifts for Christmas, although I think my wife, kids and grandkids are my everyday special gifts.
                It's the most wonderful time of the year, the happiest season of all. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, and happy holidays from the Van Thyns.    

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