A Christmas Eve tradition in my house is the visit
from jolly Bob Katzen on his way to an annual party in Marblehead. You
may remember Bob as one of the WRKO "Governors" with me and Jerry
Williams, after Howie Carr left for his own show.
Bob had a question that came to him on his way over last year. Why, he
asked, do some people insist on having a nativity scene on the town
common but don't have one on their own lawns to go with the snowmen,
Santas and reindeer?
Well, maybe he doesn't see any on his route from Boston. But in my
hometown of St. Marys, Pa., the baby Jesus is usually tucked between
Frosty and a bunch of elves.
I couldn't answer this question from another friend: Why do some of the
same people who don't understand how gay marriage can affect the
institution of marriage think that having a creche on the town common
can threaten religious freedom?
Bet they don't know, as I didn't until this month, that the
Massachusetts Constitution, authored by John Adams, begins, "We ... the
people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the
goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe ..." My co-grandmother,
Lola, e-mailed from Texas a list of the preambles to the state
constitutions, all 50 of which begin with a reference to God.
One thing I won't be doing this season is watching "It's a Wonderful
Life," which I've never liked. In the alternate world, George leaves to
follow his dream, so Donna Reed becomes a bitter old maid. What is THAT
Longtime readers of this column know I like to exchange Christmas
newsletters with distant relatives and friends. My partner, Chip,
otherwise uninterested in the 80-card project, designs them for me. This
year's photos are of the grandtwins and me during their May visit and
Chip's September sunrise on Cadillac Mountain.
I am happy to report, from the newsletter of my cousin Chuck's son's
wife, that his teenage granddaughters, the two cats and Terry the
tarantula are doing well. No mention this year of Chester the rat. I
fear the worst.
The post office does such a good job with my cards and packages that I
must apologize again for the gazillion catalogs it has to deliver.
Finally, last month I took a few hours to call 800 numbers canceling
most of them. Another once-wonderful enterprise that got greedy, with
some companies selling names to a lot of others.
Didn't cancel them all though. Still must order poteca — an eastern
European walnut bread similar to the one my Croatian aunt made — from
the Vermont County Store, or spend hours grinding walnuts myself.
Another catalog I like is Sundance, from Robert Redford's Western shop.
Say what you will about liberal Hollywood actors, but his greeting on
the inside cover sends all his customers a politically incorrect "Merry
Two miracles last Saturday, Dec. 10 — an amazing, cover-the-entire-sky
sunset and a young man named Justin came to my door asking for a job
shoveling my sidewalk. No one has done that in at least seven years.
One of my favorite holiday traditions is the caroling party at the
Peabody home of Bob and Peg Kelly. Bob, who also has a column in this
newspaper, plays the organ and leads over 20 of his area friends in the
singing of lyrics that he prints for us. Two of the men sing a solo each
I do not do solos, ever. But a highlight for me this year was singing
"Silent Night" in harmony with Fran Page of Lynn, Jack Dowd of Salem,
George Meehan of Danvers and Charlie Leo from Melrose. Nice to see
Cathy, Mary, Emma and Al again, all the J's — Jane, Jeanne, Janet and
Jim. John "Dutchy" Smith of Lynnfield and Robert "Pic" Walsh of
Wakefield were reunited this year, having not seen each other since high
Bob runs a tight ship. We get two breaks for cider, cheese and cookies,
but then must halt all conversation when the organ starts again. Dorothy
was scolded for talking to me during "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen."
At Christmas I still feel warmly toward my Catholic upbringing. Feel a
little sad that my grandchildren are probably not learning "Away in a
Manger" in school or making advent gifts for the baby Jesus. I remember
the glow of heavenly happiness as we choir members sang "Gloria in
excelsis Deo" at the end of Christmas Eve Mass.
No matter what anyone says, Christmas is a good thing, representing love
and joy and hope for peace, somewhere, somehow, when all the bad guys
have been vanquished and freedom rings throughout the world. Holiday
thanks to all the troops who are working on this project.
I found a beautiful new song this year, from Disney's "Beauty and the
Beast Enchanted Christmas" CD. It begins, "As long as there's Christmas,
I truly believe, that hope is the greatest of the gifts we'll receive."
Hope and joy to you all.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.