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This time of year has very profound effects on me. I become Sappy McSappyson. Nostalgia washes over me on a daily basis. All it takes is a song, a smell, the first strains of any number of Rankin-Bass opening themes. One minute I’m playing with the kids, the next I’m thinking about…

…my parents’s living room and there I am in my pj’s helping to decorate the tree. The very fake tree with it’s color-coded and bendable branches. But it was our tree and for 11 months of the year it sat up in its original box in the rafters in the garage. Right next to another box filled with other, smaller boxes like some Russian nesting doll filled with holiday cheer. Each smaller box lined and filled with newspapers detailing events long since passed; dates that seemed ancient even then: January 4, 1969, January 10, 1972. Newspapers wrapped around the more delicate of keepsakes and ornaments, or stuffed into the manger that had been my parents’ first. A manger scene with a chipped Melchior; an archangel that had to to be secured with a straightened out paperclip; a shepherd whose disembodied hand hung from a camel’s reins; and a Baby Jesus taped to a bed of straw lest he get lost again…
…which won’t happen again. The manger scene, this creche, is in storage now at our house bequeathed to me as if it were some portion of the estate. But I was the only one that wanted it. Because I am Mr. Sappy (cue Auto-Tune – Im so sappy, I’m Mr. Sappy). I have a lot of things from those childhood Christmases. As we decorate the tree with the kids, I’m pointing out ornaments to my son or daughter or to whomever is paying attention. Ornaments from my own childhood that have found their way onto our tree now. I reach into the box and pull out the ornament cut from an old Christmas card. On the back it reads…
…Warren 1972. Written there by my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Hinson. It is among several that receive preferential treatment. They take places of prominence, not on the back side of the tree that faces the corner. No, they are hung where they can be seen by anyone looking at the tree. Warren 1975…Warren 1976…Warren 1977 and so they went up to 1980. My brothers’ are similar and they receive the same treatment. Ornaments done, garland is draped over the branches — so much shiny gold garland, so 1970s. An angel is placed atop the tree. An angel whose candle sometimes lights, sometimes doesn’t. It was just temperamental that way. Finally the tree slides into its rightful spot in the corner next to the fireplace, its stand covered with the red velour and white faux-fur-trimmed tree skirt. The stereo drops another record onto the turntable, the arm moves and drops the needle to the vinyl. Church bells chime as…
…Bing Crosby sings about a little lamb and shepherd boy. My laptop is hooked up to the Bose Wave Radio and Christmas music fills the house. Songs that remind me of childhood Christmases sung by long-dead entertainers – Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, the aforementioned Bing. But others are there too – The Pogues, U2, The Boss, Belle & Sebastian, Ben Folds, Eels. The tree is in its corner. Our angel’s candle – a haloed and gowned Tweety – lights without fail. We gather up the stockings…
…five of them. Dad, Mom, Warren, Jay and Craig. All of them knit by my grandmother. We, the kids, like them because they stretch allowing for more goodies to be placed inside. Each one is taped to the mantel between the plastic candles at each end and below the holly Noel on the mirror. A stretch of green garland…
…with white lights gives the mantel a little something extra. The five needlepoint stockings – Daddy, Mammy, Declan, Ainsley, Conal – are hung from five silver letters spelling PEACE. Below them a fire roars and fills the house with warmth. Back in the living room, the tree is lit, its white lights faintly flickering…
…the colored lights are ablaze. Reds, greens, yellows and blues fill the spaces in the tree. The garland sends off glints of colored light throughout the room. We all sit now, on the couch, looking at the tree as Nat King Cole…
…sings about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. The kids on the couch between the wife and I. And, at this moment, all seems right with the world.