Being the "only child" at Christmas time was great. I have glowing memories of a Flexi-Racer, a Roadmaster Bike, and an authentic Red Ryder BB gun. On Christmas Eve, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmas assembled at one of our homes, and we kids opened a mountain of gifts. To top it off, hot cocoa with marshmallows flowed nonstop, and we were given all the hard candy we could eat. It was heaven.
As parents, Orllyene and I soon learned the joys of Christmas were found in the eyes of our children. She has a wonderful talent for knowing the special gift each one of our three children wanted. Alas however, the occasional, "Oh no. More clothes," was heard and another present quickly sought.
Now in my vintage years, the meaning of Christmas encompasses much more than gift giving. True, gifts are an expression of love, but it's the feeling of love for others that claims prominence. Have you noticed how cheerful the checkers are at the grocery store, and over at the bank they practically hold my hand, they're so glad to see me.
Christmas is also about neighborliness. Melinda, Wade and Marsia, our neighbors across the street, gave a potluck dinner party the other night. The entire neighborhood showed up, dressed all spiffy and ready to have a good time. Melinda also organized a party for the teenagers out in their warehouse-size shop. They even had a disco-ball. In a separate room, Amanda, a young hospitality professional, organized games, divided up prizes, let the younger kids raise a rumpus, and at the same time, gave their parents a rest.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are my happiest of the year. The Christmas lights go up on the trim of the house, Orllyene wraps presents, and guess who writes the Christmas Letter? "Miracle on 34th Street" is watched, and lights are hung on our 6-foot-tall ficus bush. Every weekend, Orllyene has me baking cookies. My next project will be stuffing dates with walnuts and rolling them in cinnamon sugar.
Another Christmas surprise was an invitation Orllyene and I recently received from Jim and Georgia, who are the valley's top organizers. "Ron, I just had a brilliant idea," Georgia says and proceeds to tell me she's rounded up a group of friends for a Christmas tree cutting safari. Orllyene and I are invited. Later her sister Laura calls and we join her, and Marta, another sister. They drive us up to Green Creek, where the picnic is held. Catching up on what has been going on in all our lives makes the miles seem like inches.
At the top of my Yuletide calendar, are performances by "Steel Magnolias" at the Mason Valley Residence and the Lyon County Long Term Care Facility in Yerington. "The Steel Magnolias" are a group of women who take my dance class to say fit. They also enjoy performing. Seeing these mature women dance to the Chipmunk's version of "Jingle Bells" with the vigor of teenagers, is just about as much levity as the residents can stand.
The Christmas season is a time of caring and sharing. Sometimes we exchange gifts. Sometimes a smile, or speaking to a stranger will do. Angels are everywhere. If you are one, I'll bet I know you by your smile. Merry Christmas.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley, Nevada.