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Mark L. Hopkins: The most wonderful time of year

I’m sure no child ever loved Christmas more than I did and, thank God, the thrill of it all is still with me. When Gene Autry sings “Rudolph” and Bing Cosby reaches down into the resonance of his deep baritone voice and tells us about the “White Christmas” he sees in his dreams, it generates emotions in me that were spawned by three generations of Christmas memories.

When I envision my perfect Christmas, Scrooge is an irascible uncle who never got a present he didn’t already have two of and, if he didn’t, this one was certainly the wrong color. It includes an aging grandmother who always gave each grandchild two one dollar bills, lovingly pressed with each corner carefully smoothed out. It includes a succession of visiting great aunts: Aunt Pearle, Aunt Goldie, Aunt Nora, Aunt Philomena and Aunt Lela. (Don’t you just love those names from the 19th century?) Each would arrive at my grandmother’s house with their tray of divinity, fudge, brownies and my favorite of favorites, chocolate chip cookies.

Is it any wonder I can close my eyes today and still smell the wonderful kitchen fragrance that filled the house each year at Christmas time? Is it any wonder I still spend several hours a week at the “Y” doing battle with the bulge created by the remnants of all those wonderful memories?

My children are mid-lifers now, but if I close my eyes for just a minute, I can still see them rushing to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning so excited that their feet barely seemed to touch the floor. Amy would go from present to present tearing paper in all directions. Sara, always the little lady, would take each bow off and carefully remove and fold the wrapping paper. Steve usually crawled up on his Mother’s lap and woke up slowly to all the excitement before heading for his presents.

To me, the spirit of Christmas culminates each year with Christmas cantatas telling again that wonderful story of a babe lying in a manger with shepherds and wise men kneeling at his feet, of families gathering to renew the bond that was kindled in all of those Christmases past.

Glorious is a Christmas with family, with children sitting in the midst of paper and boxes and this or that toy of the month. Sad is a Christmas with children as hungry for love as they are for food. Glorious is a Christmas where we reach out to those less fortunate. Satisfying is the feeling of giving not only to your own but, also, to others of God’s children. Let it be that kind of Christmas.

Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.

Mark L. Hopkins: The most wonderful time of year