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Christmas memories

No Santa?

The Holiday Spirit seems elusive this year but I figured out why. Usually I rally when I put the lights on my front yard apple tree but I haven't even opened some Christmas cards and have not sent any either.

I remember how depressed I was when I found out there was no Santa Claus. My (supposedly) best kindergarten friend told me the hard, cold facts on the school bus going home for Christmas vacation. I remember I was holding a 4-by-4 inch sheet of cold, blue rubber. We had brought Christmas gifts to exchange that day. I had spent what seemed like hours at the five-and-dime store picking out the perfect little doll, one that I would have liked. My gift was that ugly piece of blue rubber that was a rain coat for that same perfect doll, except I didn't have the doll. Riding home, my mind was as blue as that stupid piece of rubber. I couldn't wait to throw it away.

She was never my friend after that. I think it shows that we don't really want to know the truth — at least what someone else thinks the truth is. Let us have our pie-in-the sky daydream. One day the truth will dawn on us and it will be a gentle revelation instead of a rude, painful shock. I don't remember her name but it shows that when memories from the past surface we need to face them and let them go or they will linger like old ghosts, causing depression.

Lesson seven in my favorite spiritual book is: "I see only the past." And I realize this is the choice: We can choose to hang on and be miserable or let it go because ... it no longer exists.

Of course, I pretended there was a Santa Claus for my sons. It was probably a disappointment to them as well, but the dream of a kind soul somewhere seemed, to be such a hopeful thing. I remember my youngest son, then 5 years old, telling me he found out there was no Santa and asked me for the truth. I lied! I said, YES, YES, YES there is and don't believe them.

As I look at the needs in our community newspaper I realize I can be Santa Claus to someone. I'm not a fat man, I don't smoke a pipe and I won't fit through a chimney but I can let the spirit of Santa live through me and continually prove that poor little girl wrong. I can't wait.

Far away at Christmas

&byline;By Lawrence Nagel

&byline2;For the Tidings

While working in Turkey many years ago a group of friends and I conjured up a Christmas-New Year's holiday journey to Uludag, the 8,000-foot mountain several hours from Istanbul and eighth-century site of Greek monasteries.

The name means "Sublime Mountain," or "Mountain of the Monks." We chartered a bus to take us from Bursa, winding up and up and up on a Van Gogh-starry night to the very primitive and rustic ski lodge. The snow was deep along the shoulders of the road and we wondered about the skill of the driver.

Someone had had the novel idea to bring a case of Champagne. We rented skis (we're talkin' wood boards, leather boots and cable bindings here). I tried to learn only by watching and soon did a yard sale on a beginners' slope. Bad news for one of my knees and the end of downhill skiing for many more years, until I moved to Ashland and discovered our local "Uludag." The cozy old lodge had a good stone fireplace near which I sat on New Year's Eve, keeping my leg close to the warmth while a festive dinner was served at a long harvest table.

It was learned that there were some staff people in great need. So, we set up an auction and sold off most of the bottles of bubbly to guests and gave the loot to the staff. Their smiles were as bright as the stars.

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