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Alonzo Weston (copy)

Alonzo Weston

More and more, it seems I hear people saying it doesn’t feel like Christmas. I’ve heard this for several years now.

But Christmas is what we make it, what we feel it to be.

We want the nostalgic Burl Ives, Hallmark-style Christmas, yet turn it into a consumer-driven frenzy to get the hottest deals. By golly, we’ll fight you right there in the store aisle for that new iPhone. We’ll attack you for saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” as if it’s an insult.

We dream of a white Christmas but curse the snow when it comes because we have to shovel it off our walks and clean it off our windshields.

Christmas isn’t the same as it was for me and you as a kid. As kids, we never worried about if Santa Claus would come. We just knew he would.

Today, social service agencies like AFL-CIO and the Salvation Army have to make that true for so many of our children. We find out that we are Santa Claus now.

But I feel painfully nostalgic for the Christmases of my youth. I miss the house full of family, the food and gifts of those days. Today I find, like many, family members and friends who shared our Christmas cheer in those early days are gone, passed on as we like to say. It’s less painful to say it that way.

On nights like this Christmas Eve, I’ll stay up until early morning replaying the visions in my head of Christmases past.

I remember our silver aluminum Christmas tree, illuminated by a colored light so passersby could see it change colors in our living room window. The mounds of presents covering its base spent weeks on layaway at Katz Drugstore, where my mom and grandmother worked to help the gifts find the way to our home.

I remember my childhood home that for years was kept warm on winter nights by a coal stove in the middle of the dining room that had a metal grate in the ceiling so the heat could travel to the upstairs rooms. In front of that stove is where family and friends gathered on Christmas nights to eat, drink and get merry on Mogen David wine and family.

James Brown, Donnie Hathaway, Mahalia Jackson and others sang Christmas songs from the stereo my uncle Curtis upholstered to match the rest of the sparse furnishings.

In later years when our kids were young, we’d go to mom and dad’s to listen to my dad sing and play Christmas music on his organ in the living room. What also made it special was the fact that Christmas was one of the few times family was allowed in the plastic-covered living room. The living room was a hallowed place where the best and oldest furniture resided covered in plastic like dinosaurs preserved in amber.

All the plates at the table were full of food waiting for the family to sit in front of them. As years passed, more plates sat empty as more family passed on.

But it was Christmas, with paper bags full of oranges, apples, nuts and peppermint candy and the latest toys wrapped in colored paper underneath the silver tree. Even the family dog had a Christmas stocking full of treats.

Yes, those memories I keep alive today because so much has passed on. Dad and many of our friends and relatives have been replaced by their spirits. Mom is in assisted living and aunts, uncles and grandmothers have long since gone.

But I can still say merry Christmas for my wife, kids, grandkids and family and friends who are still here to keep the spirit alive for a new day.

It’s still Christmas and the spirit is there when you look for it instead of looking where it’s missing.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

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