coming on winter, they’re cutting down trees, they’re
putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Oh, I wish
I had a river I could skate away on.” Joni Mitchell wrote
and sang those words 32 years ago, words I’ve found dancing
in my head lately. As I write this, winter is coming on strong,
it’s snowing heavily and Hudson’s Winter Walk has been
Christmas came on quickly and too early this year as well. I first
heard Christmas music playing in a store two weeks before Thanksgiving.
I saw decorations up around Halloween. I prefer to celebrate holidays
when they are, as they are, in their own moment and time. Running
holidays together creates an indistinguishable mess, a rubbish pile.
Holidays now resonate but one thing, consumption and Christmas is
the big Kahuna. The miracle of Christmas, the joy and peace, the
giving, the goodwill toward our fellow man has been so watered down
it is barely recognizable. Don’t you find it rather bizarre
and unnerving that the first Christmas season shopping day is cheerily
referred to as, “Black Friday?” The police had to be
called to one local establishment on that ghastly day this year
to quell a mob clamoring for bargains galore. The frenetic duty
of obligation with regard to gift giving, snuffs out all joy associated
with this beautiful holiday. To many, the miracle of Christmas is
simply getting out of the mall alive.
I was raised in a family that was not actively religious, but belief
held great significance. My first acting role was at the age of
seven or eight. I was cast to play Joseph in a Christmas pageant.
I thought it was a starring role, but soon learned I had no lines,
I was merely to kneel, along with Pam Wade, before a straw filled
box that cradled a doll. The doll was the blessed child and I was
to admire it. I wished I were older. The older boys got to play
the speaking roles, the important roles of the three wise men. These
camel mounted kings traveled great distances, a heavenly light their
only guide, that they might bestow exotic gifts upon a poor child
in a stable, a child of miracles.
I took my role seriously. Clad in my flannel bathrobe, I knelt beside
the cradle and fixed my gaze upon that doll. I imagined I could
see his tiny fingers moving, imagined I could hear the infant breathing.
Children believe in miracles and I was no exception. I believed
in and longed to experience a miracle.
Many years later, one Christmas Eve, I found myself riding the down
side of life’s slope. I stopped at the Turnpike Inn on Route
66. The place was busy that afternoon as I walked in; apparently
others were searching for that indefinable sense of home.
The bar’s owner was perched on a stool behind the bar, dressed
in a Santa Claus suit. The back bar was decorated with Christmas
lights, a small tree and Christmas cards, dozens of them. Someone
asked him to read a sampling and he obliged. They were from every
part of the country and abroad, they were clever, smart, very funny,
and sincere. I began to wonder where I was. The place was delightfully
Someone rang a small bell and we all began to laugh and joke about
angels getting their wings and the spirit of Christmas infected
me. Then someone suggested the man dressed as Santa Claus play the
violin. I figured it was a good time to leave, but before I could
pay the check, the violin was in his hands. I braced myself and
then he played. Whatever my expectation may have been, it was not
what materialized. The sound that emanated from that instrument
in the hands of the round man in a Santa suit was exquisite. He
played not just with great skill, he played from his heart and when
he finished there was not a dry eye in the place.
That brief afternoon in that small roadhouse bar in Ghent was one
the finest Christmas Eves I ever spent, one I shall not ever forget.
Miracles are most often simple and leap upon you when least expected.
They are found in the most improbable locations and times; we need
only slow sufficiently to allow ourselves the experience.
Christmas is the celebration of joy and of miracles. Joy fills the
tears that come whenever I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Joy is in the selfless giving of simple gifts, it is the light in
the eyes of a loved one, it is in the closeness of family. Joy is
a miracle unto itself; it is in a child’s laugh, it is the
miracle of the next breath you will take. Life itself is a miracle
and it is here for celebrating. May you give from your heart, may
you be near those you love and may you have a joyous and very Merry
We’ll talk next time From The Road.
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