by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
“and it was always said of Ebenezer Scrooge, that he knew
how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the
knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so,
as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
The words, of course, are from Charles Dickens’
masterful “A Christmas Carol” published in 1843,
a present the world gratefully rediscovers each and
every year. They remind us that Christmas, to be
Christmas, must be about magic and memories,
remembering both those who are with us and (especially)
those who are not..
Christmas this year, as every year, began for me
by unpacking my little electrified tree. It is battered
now and bears its many bruises proudly if carefully.
All at once, I give way to memories insistent,
vivid, one tumbling over another. The box opens
and recollections of one year of my life after another
pour out. First, I remember the day my grandmother gave
me this marvelous present and how she solemnly
told me to take good care of it, as she had done.
I agreed to do so, little knowing the significance or the
power of what I promised. Now I know, for this year I am older
than she was when she gave it to me… and I now ponder
who, in due course, I must present this tree to and who will
keep the faith of generations with me. You see, I have
arrived at the stage of life when Christmas is far more
about who I shall give to… rather than who will give to me.
My little tree (circa 1935), just 16 inches tall, literally
bubbles with colorful cheer. It is called a bubbler because
its bulbs not only light up and glow… but one after
another they bubble, except (some days) the
one at the very top which, eccentrically,often
fails to bubble at all. Moreover, when one bulb
goes out…. they all go out which means a patient
review of all. However, I wouldn’t have it any
other way. Age means appreciating even flaws,
for they, too, are a part of the whole.
Because I am an historian and like many such
have a tendency to collect and keep for a lifetime,
I have been designated by my extended family as
the “keeper”, the one it is safe to leave with the
mementoes we all agree are important, but
which no one but me wants to take care of.
Once the bubbler tree is set up, other boxes
must be opened… and they can only be opened
when there is sufficient time to pause, remember,
reflect, and again and again be seized by their
heart-tugging memories. One cannot rush this
process for the memories will not be denied.
They are forever bittersweet… featuring as they do those
loved and gone before. Yes, one must have sufficient
time for them for the memories that cascade at this time
of the year are always vivid, poignant, rich… with new
meanings that come as I age.
I smile, for instance, at a styrofoam bell given to me
(as to all class members) by Mrs. Eigenbraugh, my third
grade teacher. This ornament, a liberty bell, features my
teacher in a stately formal pose. She looks at me as the dedicated
prairie teacher she was. The autograph reads simply
“Mrs. Eigenbraugh, 1955.”
I am older now than Mrs. Eigenbraugh was then… and
I clearly see her at her desk dutifully, carefully signing
each gift in her copperplate hand. She no doubt paid
for these herself… and gave them as a small memento
of her and the season… little thinking that I, a half
century later, should be so moved at her gift… or
her conscientious generosity. Do teachers give
as much today?
Just one left
I was born in 1947 to young parents who had,
in those post war years, few dollars and sky-high
aspirations, with days and energy to spare. Like
everyone else in the neighborhood they had a
young child, part of that baby boomer wave.
For him, they bought a box of colored glass
ornaments which I broke one by one by
getting in my petal powered red car, pushing
it backwards across the living room… then
running car into Christmas tree… full speed ahead. No
one seemed to mind. We were young, and we
all had time and youth to spend without care.
Now I hold that glass ball in my hand, of faded
purple hue. It, along with my father and I, are
the survivors of this tale. And now this glass
ornament, once so little valued that we all
laughed every time I, with my running feet
and determined glint, scored a direct hit…
now this glass, I say, is precious and deeply
valued as a memento of youth, both my
parents and my own, and of the beautiful
dark-haired woman whose carefree laughter
and love are as clear in this ornament as if
it were a crystal ball. She told me to take good
care of this for there could never be another…
I have and I will. And in time I shall ask of
another what she asked of me: to remember….
and to take good care. For I am entitled to that
as well., having well and truly kept the promise.
Remember and reconnect
Each year about this time, I set out to reconnect
with someone from my past with whom I have
lost touch, the way one does. Sometimes I succeed in
this task; sometimes I don’t. When I do… I make a point
of writing them a memorable letter… about
how important they are to me… and how well and what
I remember. Such letters in a lifetime are rare to
write and rarer still to receive. I am pleased
to say they always stimulate a similar letter
in response. That letter is always amongst
my best Christmas presents. As such I
place it carefully among my other treasured gifts
and mementos and savor them as, each year,
I take them out and let memory hold sway.
Thus, with the help of my dearly beloved, I keep
Christmas in my heart all year long, like the better,
reformed, wiser Ebenezer Scrooge.
And so I say to you: God bless us everyone and every loving
memory of yore. They make us what we are and remind us,
lovingly, of where we have been and the people who
have helped us along the way in so very many ways.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
About the Author
Now with near seven decades of a successful writing career, Dr. Lant is, he likes to say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.
To get your copy go to www.drjeffreylant.com
George J. Quacker Production
Div. Jeffrey Lant Associates, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.