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December 24, 2013

RONN MOTT: It’s about Christmas

I have quite a few cousins. On the Mott side of the family, I only had two. But on the Martin side (my mother’s folks), I had 11 cousins. All were older than me. My brother, Gary, and I were the tail end of the cousin chain. So, it wasn’t surprising I received a phone call the other day from my cousin, John Ferguson. John has been in Oklahoma for decades where he has been in television most of his career. After ISU, he took a stab at Hollywood and realized he wasn’t going to make it on the Silver Screen. He married a girl from Oklahoma and moved there, where he became a fixture on local television.

John Ferguson graduated from Clinton High School and what was then Indiana State Teachers College. He got involved as an announcer and an actor on a locally produced children’s show. It was all set to go nationally when the star, 3-D Danny, got romantically involved and did not want to leave Oklahoma City. John had many jobs off-camera, including sales, but is best known as “Count Gregor,” host of a weekly spook theater where he played Count Gregor, mystical host, and most of the other roles in this spook theater presentation. Count Gregor and Friends would interrupt and play host to this thrilling, spooky production.  

So John called me Saturday morning to wish me the merriest and we talked about old times and how things change and how much richer the memories get of the holiday as one gets older.

It has been some years since I’ve seen John in person, but it is true that good relationships never break, they just pause and pick back up when contact is made.

I suppose at Christmas you think more about family and what it means. I know living apart from my family from state to state and radio station to radio station we often shared the holidays with friends and people who also could not be home with their families. So, in a sense, families were reformed and remade to continue this grand season. Getting a call from my cousin, John, helped brighten the day and helped me remember some wonderful moments as a child.

Long before television reached this part of the country, my cousin Laura and I would lie down in front of the tree and open up this wonderful book of carols and Christmas songs, and we would go from page to page and sing all of the songs we knew.

It wasn’t the richness of those early days, but the fun and the togetherness made the Christmas rich. I went to Sunday school at the First Methodist Church and participated in those activities which gave the holidays a religious overtone you cannot capture without the activity of an organized church.  

I remember walking into my Aunt Phoebe’s house, and standing between the dining room and the living room was this beautiful, blue tree covered with what was called “angel hair.” She had decided to do all blue bulbs, blue ornaments, and other blue decorations. It looked like a blue bank of fog had settled over that tree in my Aunt Phoebe’s dining room.

I’ve always had a soft spot ever since those days for blue lights and the color blue in general.

In spite of my family’s dysfunction, I always managed to enjoy Christmas and all of the things that go with the celebration, including presents, candy, family, learning at church about this Baby Boy who was born in Bethlehem. Now, it makes me a little nostalgic about those who are no longer here to aid in the celebration.

I don’t care if you believe, or disbelieve, but you certainly have to admit the event changed the world. I would hope it is for the better. It has endured … the story of the manger, the Magi, the gifts and the trouble stirred up by Herod with the harshness of the rule of the Roman Empire, and this Babe, this Child, who brought promises of eternal salvation with Him.

So, in this week of celebration of the Birth of Christ and just a few days away from a brand new year, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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