Memories define holiday season

By Clyde Davis: Columnist

The other day, while doing some browse-shopping in our local chain bookstore, I came across two books to put on the “maybe” list.

Complete scripts, or at least apparently complete, for “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle On 34th Street.”

Since both rank high on my favorite blond’s list of touching and heartwarming holiday stories, I filed them in the category of “check later.” Maybe we will even act them out on Christmas night.

This introduces, then, the idea of holiday stories. Precious as the holiday stories we share as a culture can be — and certainly the Nativity is the most precious — I want you to reflect this week on your holiday stories. What events have come to define the season for you ? Handed down or experienced personally, what is embedded in your heart ?

Three of mine would have to be The Dad Story, The Deer Season, and Christmas 1990.

The Dad Story is, of course, handed down. I was not there; the year was 1944. My dad, a young Navy trainee from western Pennsylvania, was spending Christmas at Corpus Christi, Texas, and as has often been the case near installations, the base instituted a “take a sailor for the holidays” program. My dad and a young sailor from Ohio ended up spending the Christmas Eve and day with a family who surmised, rightly so, that these two northeastern boys had never been on a beach picnic for Christmas. So they took my dad and his buddy to the ocean and went swimming, had a picnic, played around on the beach for Christmas Day. It is significant that, 60-plus years later, Dad still remembers that experience.

The second story is not a single event, but a mosaic of growing up. In the time and place where I grew up, the day after Thanksgiving also marked the opening day of deer season. It seems unnatural that here, in the land of complex hunting regulations, that is not the case. It was also the case in Ohio where I lived for many years, and as I write this, the day before Thanksgiving, I wonder at some level why I am not getting a deer rifle and hunting clothes ready for an early Friday morning. (True, it may no longer be so in those states, either.)

Christmas 1990 I was at Fort Benning, Ga., preparing to see Desert Shield become Desert Storm. I had a chaplain assistant who, borrowed from another unit, did not understand how sniper units work. Thus, when we went out to the training woods, parked the vehicle and walked a mile or two to an empty semi-clearing, he thought he had made a mistake and was ready to turn around and go back to finish watching the Falcons game on TV. I wish I had a picture of his face when shadowy figures began to emerge from the surrounding underbrush, some so well hidden that you could touch them before you could see them.

Any of these, though, has to be topped by The Rose Garden Story. It was Thanksgiving 1998, when I took my then-girlfriend down to the church which she has attended since her teenage years. There was at the time, outside Sacred Heart, a rose garden which has sadly been removed since then. At that time and place, I presented to her the engagement ring which Kathi and Don David had kept hidden for me, and slipped to me at the Festival of The Trees which we used to have.

What are the stories that define holidays for you?