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Outback Observations: Heralding the Holidays

Lakeview heralded in this year’s Christmas season on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 1, with its annual tree-lighting ceremony, some homey caroling and even hot chocolate and cookies at the Lake County Chamber of Commerce.

The pinnacle of the night, of course, was the arrival of Santa Claus, the season’s most iconic elfin figure, via fire truck, meeting and greeting the youngsters that had turned out for the night for the festivities.

I won’t pull any punches about this time of year; I often get pensive about the Christmas season, and for a variety of reasons.  More than anything, I wish I could get myself back into that ‘child like’ state of mind when the excitement mounted with each passing day, from the first day of December forward.

Although there were, without question, specific items I had on my ‘Wish List’ during those Christmases between the ages of, say, seven and 10 years of age, I remember more of the excitement and the feeling of the season as the Big Day approached.

Once school emptied out for winter vacation, of course, the challenge for my older brother and I evolved in keeping our minds off the approaching holiday.

Flipping through the JCPenney’s, Montgomery Wards and Sears toy wish book catalogs only further fueled our fervor, however, as did nightly or near nightly conferences in which we ranked our Christmas list items by priority of desirability.

And then the big night would arrive – in our early years we opened our presents on Christmas Eve — and we would thrash into the treasure underneath the Christmas tree, gradually becoming nearly buried in a sea of torn wrapping paper, with every rip and tear revealing one shining new earthly delight after another.

The scene in ‘A Christmas Story’ on Christmas morning (“Oh, boy, that’s mine!” wailed Ralphy Parker’s kid brother repeatedly) nailed the feeling perfectly.

But, then, as years went on, the flavor changed, as did the things I chose to remember.

For me, toys evolved into chemistry sets (for a while, I was a science geek – being a nerdy-looking kid with glasses, it seemed to be practically expected of me) and then I turned gearhead by the time I reached driving age; bring on the chrome running boards and Volkswagen parts.

The avarice was still there; only the inventory itself changed.

In 1994, my perception changed forever, as my older brother, Matt, passed away at the age of 21, just over a week before Christmas on Wednesday, Dec. 14, early on in the first term of my senior year of high school.  That was a rough year, as our folks had divorced 10 months prior.

From that point on, the things I would remember about the holidays and Christmas season changed permanently.  Sure, we got excited about things we hoped to receive for Christmas, but more than toy, book or knick-knack I ever received as a gift I remember the enthusiasm effused by my brother at this time of year.

In the last couple of Christmases we had together, we bumped the gift-opening session to Christmas morning because he wanted to prolong that excitement as long as possible.  In our earlier years, it would have been a sleepless night and a torturous proposition, but I welcomed that change, myself, when it presented itself.

It’s hard to believe 19 years have passed since such a major life change, but if there’s any positive aspect to come out of it, it would be that I began to examine and appreciate more fully the most important things about not just the holiday season but life in general.

Standing on the corner of North 2nd and F streets on a dark Sunday night, it kind of felt like strangers became family in the spirit of the season, if only for a little while.

Ultimately, that’s how I see the holidays through the eyes of an adult, now.  It’s important to enjoy those moments as they come along.


-— Ryan Bonham

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