Saturday, December 22, 2012

'Santa Rescue' gives St. Nick-knacks a happy home

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved Santa Claus. And by that, I mean pretty much anything that has anything to do with Santa Claus. And I think I might even be able to pinpoint the exact moment that it all started ...
It was Christmas Eve of 1971. I was four years old, and I guess, as children often do on that magical night, I was resisting my Mom’s reminders that it was time for bed. Of course, she told me what we all now know: If you are not in bed on Christmas Eve when Santa tries to visit your house, he will not come. And JUST AT THAT MOMENT as my Mom was saying those words – and this ACTUALLY HAPPENED – I looked out the front window of our second floor apartment in South Wilkes-Barre, and would you believe who was walking down our street?

Santa Claus.

I am not kidding. Apparently “Santa” just happened to be visiting a holiday party on our street, and just at the moment that my Mom was telling me that I better get to bed or he wouldn’t be visiting us that night, there he was.

Mom seemed to be just as surprised as I was, and I can't tell you how fast I ran down the hallway into my room and jumped into bed. It was such an incredibly magical feeling, I guess it’s still there inside me somewhere.
Throughout my childhood, I continued to love Santa. I absolutely loved - and still do - when people have big illuminated Santas on their front porches or rooftops and I always looked forward to watching the “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” TV special every year. And because my sister was 10 years my junior, we were able to have the magic of Santa in our house all throughout my high school years. Today, I share my love for all-things-Santa with my two children, Mary Ann and A.J.

As you might imagine, we have a few Santas in our house, including a big ’70s-style illuminated Santa on the front porch. It's the same kind I remember seeing around the neighborhoods when I was a kid, and whenever we put it out, it takes me back to those times.

This year, I decided to start a new Santa tradition with my two children. We call it the “Santa Rescue.”  Though I don't often frequent stores such as the Salvation Army or The Goodwill, whenever I do find myself there – usually looking for an old cassette deck or something to do with vintage music – I always notice one thing:

They always seem to have a lot of cool little Santa knick-knacks for sale. Even if you go to one of those stores in the summertime,  you see Santas. Every August, my church holds a bazaar and flea market, and there is always a Christmas table at the flea market, and one of the things I’ve always noticed is that there are also usually a few Santas.
Well, starting today, some of those Santas are getting a new home. Today, Mary Ann, A.J. and I went out on our first “Santa Rescue.” We went to a few of those stores, all within just a few miles of home, and we bought five nice little Santas. They are of good quality, they feature nice detail, and they looked like they needed a good home for Christmas. We spent about $3 dollars.

Under the base of each Santa, I wrote a number “12,” so that we will always know that 2012 was the year when that particular Santa joined our own mini North Pole.  I told the kids that this is something that we’ll do every year around Christmastime, and that over the years, little by little, our collection will grow, and that when it’s time to decorate for the holidays, we’ll always find a shelf or a nice place in the house to display our Santas. I also told them that, even in the summer, at a place like the church bazaar, it was OK to rescue a Santa. If we find one or two next year, we’ll just write a “13” under the base and, at Christmastime, we’ll add him to our collection.
Like most families, we have quite a few nice holiday traditions. There are people and places that we visit and customs that we enjoy. This year, we started a new one. And though it only took about an hour or so and it came with no great expense, I think it’s something we’ll come to look forward to each year. It feels good to rescue a Santa, and perhaps return to him a little of that special Christmas magic that he gave to me on that memorable Chirstmas Eve all of those years ago.

Someone told me once, many years ago, that there is no greater compliment than when someone feels welcome in your home. And, through another holiday story - which I will share as we get a little closer to Christmas - I've learned that welcoming someone into your home, though a simple gesture, is one of the kindest things that you can do for someone.

Santa – or, should I say, Santas – will always be welcome in ours. As will everyone that we know and love. 

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


The flag flies at half-staff at the Wyoming Valley West Middle School in Kingston, PA. When I attended the school in 1980-81, we didn't  think about things like what happened last week in Connecticut. Times have changed. 

It's now been almost a week since the tragic and devastating shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It's been a week of numbing newscasts and heartbreaking  headlines. There's been a lot to digest. Here are some of my thoughts:
I am 45 years old. And I have never held a gun in my life. Why? Because I am not a soldier, I am not a police officer and I don’t hunt. Therefore, I have never had any reason to hold a gun. I would like to go to my grave, hopefully quite a few years from now, being able to say that I never held a gun. At the same time, growing up in Pennsylvania, where kids now actually get the first day of hunting off from school, I have had many friends that enjoy hunting. Please let it be clear that nobody cares about that. Nobody wants to take their guns. As long as they are registered properly, and they keep them locked up at home in a very safe place away from their kids, nobody cares if somebody takes a rifle out a few times a year and goes hunting. I personally couldn’t shoot an innocent animal simply going about its day out in the woods, but in fairness to the hunters, most of them do eat what they hunt, and it would be hypocritical of me to condem them when I enjoy a good steak or cheeseburger as much as the next guy.

What irritates the hell of out me is when things like this happen in Connecticut, or Colorado, or Arizona, and people start talking about getting some better legislation and laws on gun control, and some of these pro-gun zealots get all up in arms. (No pun intended.) They start crying about how the government is going to take away their guns, and how much they need their guns, and how it is their “constitutional right to bear arms.”


You’re going to cite the constitution as the reason you have the right to own an automatic weapon that was probably designed for warfare?

 Do they know that when the constitution was written 230 years ago, guns were carved out of wood and shot one round at a time? Do they know that when the constitution was written women could not vote, and that you could actually go to an auction somewhere and actually purchase another human being to work your farm or be your servant? Wake up, gun nuts. Things have changed. And for the most part, new laws and legislation usually make things better and safer for everyone. For the last time: Nobody wants to take away your hunting rifle. And if you’re as good at shooting that thing as you probably think you are, that should be plenty to make you feel safe in your home.

The President is only person in the country who has personally gone and met with the families of all of these victims in all of these towns and cities, and he is the only one who has hugged all of them and has seen the heartache in their eyes. And if he has promised them - when they have asked him, which you know they have - that he will do something about the regulation of handguns and automatic weapons, then we all better just step aside and let him do what he has to do.

And yes, I understand mental illness is also an issue here. But unfortunately, that is a part of the human consdition that dates back to the beginning of mankind. Some people, unfortunately, will always suffer from it. Always have. Always will. All we can do is try to help them as best we can. We can’t legislate them. But we can legislate the guns.

There. I vented. Now I will go back to tearing up every time I see a picture of one of those little kids and praying for their families.