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Christmas season is here

Christmas is here! I remember the magic I felt as a child when the Christmas season began.

Even if life was difficult, the excitement of what could happen permeated everything I saw.

Though she was extremely limited on what she could purchase for us, Mom made sure we had many special traditions.

At night time, she would drive us to look at the homes with beautiful light displays. There were three particular houses we watched for. They were side by side on State Route 93, just before getting to Ironton. These homes always had bright colors illuminating from every corner of their roofs and covering the bushes and trees. Mom drove slowly past the homes so we could take in the beauty.

Ironton was a huge city, to my child-eyes. Here we watched the Christmas parade and marveled at the store window displays. We especially enjoyed admiring the mechanical elf and reindeer displays of Santa’s workshop.

Once a year, only at Christmastime, JC Penney would open their ‘Toy Land’ section. It was a small room, probably a storage closet the rest of the year. But during this season it was filled from floor to ceiling with toys and games. Mom would allow us to roam the tight-fitted isles examining every detail of every toy.

Another highlight of the season, something we looked forward to all year long, was the JC Penny Wish Book. It was their special Christmas catalogue with a huge toy section. My siblings and I took turns laying on our bellies on the floor, peering over each page. I remember making my Christmas list, turning page after page, writing down the item, page number, order number and price. I then would tape the list to the wall where, just in case Santa didn’t know, my mom would see.

For a Christmas tree, we’d climb the hill determined to find just the perfect tree. We’d examine every tree, but always pull a ‘Charlie Brown’ and choose the ugliest tree on the hill.

We’d talk about how sad it was that it knew it would never get to be decorated and admired.

So we’d chop down the ugly tree. Mom would tie extra limbs on it to fill in the holes and often she’d nail the tree to the wall so it wouldn’t fall down. We’d cover it with old ornaments, tinsel and lights and step back and declare it was the prettiest tree ever.

Christmas is a complicated season stirring up mixed emotions. On one hand, it is a season that revives hope, that confident expectation of good to come. On the other hand, it seems to magnify the longing we all have for something better, to be a part of something bigger than us. We tend to compare our lives to the ‘ideal’ and see how we fall short.

The truth is no one’s life is perfect and trouble comes to everyone’s door at one time or another. You can be, and probably already are, part of something much bigger than you. My husband often says, “The only thing that matters is that which lasts forever. And only people last forever.” Look at the people you have in your family, friends, co-workers and even the people you interact with in passing. What magical happenings can you be a part of by the way you live and how you love? Don’t discount the simple, non-materialistic, eternal encounters that cross your path.

How I wish we could all approach Christmas, and life as a whole, as a small child.


Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com.