Special to the Tribune-Star
As I glide through the September of my years, Christmas doesn’t mean as much to me, personally, as it used to. But I’m one grouchy old man who loves the holiday, even the things about it that are not true.
Jesus, of course, was not born in December … I think by now everybody knows that. It was Christianizing an old Roman holiday and making it the celebration of Christ’s birth. But I don’t care. The holiday is so huge all over the world that if it brings a little joy to a dark spot, to quote Charles Dickens, “Merry Christmas.”
Some Christmases stand out in my mind, almost all of them when I was a small boy. One year I wanted to leave cookies for Santa and my mother told me she didn’t have any cookies, maybe I would like to leave Santa a half-grapefruit. So, I did. Christmas morning Santa had left me a note which was read to me (I was about three) by an older cousin. The note said, “Ronnie, I hope you enjoy all the toys Santa left for you. You have been a good boy and I hope you will be a good boy next year as well. Sincerely, Santa Claus. P.S. Santa doesn’t like grapefruit.” (It would be years before they would get me to eat grapefruit after the denial from Santa Claus. It would also be years later when I would learn my parents had been having a little fun-filled spat and this was Mother’s trick on Father with the help of her young son.)
About that same time, I must have been near five so it would be the Christmas when I was four and a half, everybody who asked me what I wanted, I said, “drums.” And at least three people gave me bass drums. I was very noisy in the yard, in the house, pounding on my new drums. In the next six months, we moved from Newport to Clinton and one of the drums developed a slit in the drumhead and the other two fell off the truck in the move, or at least that’s what I was told. No one ever mentioned the missing drums, and no one ever bought me another drum.
It was the Christmas of 1945 that all of my relatives bought me toy soldiers. (I was famous amongst my family for collecting many toy soldiers, and that Christmas somebody even bought me German soldiers for my large contingent to have an enemy. That was also the Christmas when I got my first bicycle, and that sense of freedom a bicycle gives you was just as great at age nine that driving a car gives you at age 16.
One Christmas that could have been a disaster was saved by a few hockey players. It was the Christmas that my two daughters had collectively decided Santa was a fantasy and I didn’t have to do it anymore. The wife and I decided to keep the mystery alive … everything would be wrapped and only I, Father Christmas, would know what presents went to what person.
At the time, among other things, I was the voice of the Sioux City hockey team. And the weekend before Christmas, the holiday was on a Wednesday, I would be with the team broadcasting their games in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Calumet, and Marquette, Michigan.
The hockey club flew the team and its broadcaster in its C47, a type of plane that would later become infamous for going down with the entire University of Evansville basketball team. Coming out of Marquette, Michigan, we learned of a huge winter storm that was many miles wide and many miles high. It was too far to fly around and too high to fly over. So, we set down in Minneapolis and were sequestered at a local Holiday Inn.
For the guys who were single, which was the majority of the hockey team, it was fine. But some of us needed to get back to Sioux City before Christmas Day. After the storm had passed and buried us in snow, five of us rented a car and headed home. It was a difficult drive back. At 5:10 Christmas morning, we pulled up in front of my house and when my foot hit the front porch steps, the light in my daughters’ bedroom went on. By less than minutes, I had made it back so I could hand out the gifts that only I knew to whom they belonged. That was a rather fulfilling Christmas even though I made it by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.
I look forward to the decorations, I look forward to the music, which I have always loved, and while we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child and peace on earth, even though we rarely get to celebrate a full peace, it’s still something to look forward to.
We know it won’t be this year, but maybe next. Maybe.
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.