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Bill Stancil: Christmas, here we come

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Bill Stancil

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By Bill Stancil
The Billboard

Friday, December 1, 2017

We have reached the first day of December and now it’s full speed ahead to Christmas Eve.

If you, like me, have not put up the tree, or have only recently begun your Christmas shopping, again like me, both of us can now get into the race for those perfect Christmas decorations and gifts for those on our Christmas list.

I have been spending some time deciding where the tree should go this year, and how much moving around of furniture will be involved in finding just the right spot for it.

Our tree will not be a big, bulky tree, but slim enough to fit into a corner of the room, if need be. Decorating will fill it out and make it appear to be larger.

I always think of my late sister when I think about a Christmas tree. Her trees were always big and beautiful. She had a knack for placing them just right in her home, and a knack for trimming them to the size she needed to fit the space available to her.

Our family always loved Christmas trees, and when we were children Mama always had a small Christmas tree that sat on a table in front of a window.

Since those years, my sister always had larger Christmas trees and she wanted them perfectly shaped. If there was an errant limb on the tree, she would cut it off and place it where she thought it should be on the tree. She was so good at that, it looked like the limb grew naturally in the position.

A child’s relationship with a Christmas tree often follows them into adulthood and even through old age. So, it is no wonder that Christmas memories return each year as the time nears to put up the Christmas tree.

That’s where I am at this time, thinking about past Christmas seasons and where to rearrange some furniture in order to place the Christmas tree in just the right place. Only after that is settled, will we begin Christmas shopping for decorations and gifts.

Christmas seems to always take us back in memory, and each Christmas is a new experience. We see folks, relatives and friends that we may not have seen last year, and family gatherings give us an opportunity to recall the past years we were together to celebrate the most meaningful birthday in the history of the world.

There is no place like home for the holidays as expressed in one of the most memorable Christmas songs. Fortunately, for my first Christmas in the military, I was able to get a Christmas furlough to be home with my family.

My second Christmas as a member of the U.S. Air Force was spent in England. I wanted to be home, of course, but it was not to be.

I have to give the English people and the U.S.O. credit, because we were treated to Christmas celebrations and presents, just as if we had been home in America.

It was there in Cheltenham, England that I learned what Virginia Ohanlon learned from a newspaper editor when she questioned the reality of Santa Claus:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” – and he visits all over the world.

That belief has sustained me and you through childhood and on through adulthood, and that is why people like us are still excited about the Christmas season.

I have not been downtown at night to see Rocky Mount’s decorations, but when I was a child, the Christmas season drew crowds downtown at night to see the lights and the decorations.

In one store window, a fat Santa Claus sat in a rocking chair and shouted a loud “ho-ho” to the crowds.

I remember best the Christmas trees in the windows of the neighborhood homes, including ours.

I hope your Christmas season is merry and old St. Nick is good to you.

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