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So, it’s foolish! I have the cutest little green and red plastic elf, powered by solar, sitting on the kitchen windowsill. You know how often one stands in front of the kitchen sink! He makes me smile whenever the sun shines on him and he wriggles away.  

My eye doctor’s office has a gaggle of colored plastic animals and imaginary things sitting all over the countertop, and they all jiggle from the overhead light. For those of us who can still see something, it makes one happy to be there for dilating and whatever else might ensue.

This morning after smiling at my elf wiggling, I put two and two together. You know how elderly women sometimes carry their “babies” around in nursing homes? They aren’t always dolls — sometimes they are teddy bears or other animals. I always thought they were reverting to their childhoods. I guess I thought right. However, I never had an elf in my childhood life, so maybe no relapsing is going on here.

What I think I can say with some certainty is that we seniors continue to try to make the holidays merry and bright for our loved ones year after year.  Putting up the seven-foot high tree and the 50 years’ worth of decorations seems like such an effort these days. Besides, the kitten would have way too much fun. On the other hand, I love the festivities, the happiness oozing from almost everyone you meet, and the dozens of cookies, everywhere, just waiting for you to savor them.

On the other hand, we all have childhood memories of the holidays — some happy and others not so much. I remember one year, I really wanted the 33 1/3 rpm record of Nat King Cole’s hit songs. Under the tree on Christmas morning was another album — it was the 20 top hits of the year (I won’t tell you which year) recorded by people other than those who made the songs famous. The disappointment showed on my face in photographs taken in front of the tree that year.

Another bittersweet memory is trudging four blocks through the snow to the Post Office to check our box to see who had sent me Christmas cards.  Whichever boys did send cards meant they “liked” me. There was one in particular who never got the deed done till new years (or after my card to him had arrived). Why in the world does this enter my mind with each and every Christmas holiday? 

There are other memories — too many to write here.  One showed me as a high school kid what Christmas is really about. The snowstorm on the eve of Christmas Eve which stopped highway traffic in all directions found every household in our village of 1,800 people taking in strangers over night until roads were cleared. Plainfield, Illinois, where Routes 66 and 30 crossed was completely snowbound.  

Of course there was no texting or cell phoning. Churches called their congregations and found places for complete strangers to overnight. We had a house full — maybe 25 of us in our home that night. I remember my grandparents high tailed it to their bed right after dinner to make sure they would have one.

As pleasant as that memory is, I don’t relish snow and closed roads. With horror everywhere, let’s look for kindness now and in the new year. If you’re not feeling so cheerful, just get yourself a little plastic elf, put it near sunshine and watch your mood change to joyful.  If you smile at the little urchin a few times a day, you’ll get my drift. Happy Holidays!

Sandra Brian Lore

Sandra Brian Lore had a typical small-town and suburban life outside Chicago — until she served for 32 years in the Foreign Service.

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