Luella Dicker, an old family friend, said that on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, she was a teenager working at Newberry’s in Lincoln putting up Christmas decorations.

Her story stuck with me because all seem to remember where they were that day. I’m also struck by the fact that she was decorating the store on the seventh of December.

It’s not like today, when Christmas is in the air almost a month earlier. But I don’t mind seeing those early ads or hearing happy Christmas music at a shopping mall. Bring it on.

Indeed, from Halloween through Thanksgiving and all the way to New Year’s, we seem to be happier, focusing on celebrating and looking back to earlier days when we were young and those days had their own special magic.

Being the family of a pastor, we always got into Christmas early. There were the Christmas boxes to pass out. My father and I would make the rounds, often on snowy roads, the back seat of our old car filled with boxes where turkey legs stuck up amid canned goods and potatoes and all the other fixings that made a complete Christmas dinner.

We stopped first at Wilma Taylor’s little house. She was old and wrinkled, frail, sitting in a wheelchair. She liked to brag that her uncle fought in the Civil War. She lived with her son, Ralph, who was a handyman of sorts, and his wife, Ruth, known for her hairdressing skills.

Wilma had a fine singing voice, and before we left, I knew Dad would ask her to sing. The house would be winter-hot, the wood stove almost glowing from the fire in its belly. Ralph would stop whatever project he was working on and sit quietly when his mother sang.

Wilma would take a deep breath, and her pure voice filled the house with “Silent Night” or “O Little Town Of Bethlehem.” Her cat winked at me and sneaked closer to the stove.

Dad would pat Wilma on the knee, say a prayer and we’d leave. In the car, the sight of Wilma, head back, her throat full of Christmas, lingered, and once I brushed away a tear. I felt Dad’s hand on my shoulder, and he told me I had to toughen up.

There were other stops, and it was late when we got back to the parsonage. Dad and Mother would drink tea while he told her of our stops and how everyone was getting along.

My father did chalk talk drawings, and he liked to do one on the Sunday evening service just before Christmas. He had an easel set up with a row of colored lights just above the drawing. He usually did a winter scene with a sleigh pushing up snow as it moved toward a house with lights sparkling in the front windows.

Then the colored lights were switched on, one at a time, and the scene took on a red, blue or green glow. He’d ask a Bible trivia question, and the one who had the answer first got to take the coveted drawing home.

When I was a kid, we always seemed to have snow at Christmas. I remember my father and I shoveling a path to old Arthur’s house.

Arthur, a crusty man in his 80s, didn’t have running water, so he came to the parsonage daily with a couple of water buckets. Those were cold, crisp nights, and the stars twinkled so, it seemed they were straining to tell us something.

We shoveled and talked and often took a break. Dad usually spoke of the Depression, when times were not so good. He said people back then thought the Depression would never end and that it would always be like that in America. He told me I was lucky to be growing up when times were better.

Arthur would come over for Christmas dinner. He’d marvel at the Christmas bounty laid out on the kitchen table. Arthur told stories of his days panning for gold in Alaska and how he loved to build boats. When he left, Mother made sure he took a box of Christmas food with him to share with his two cats.

Old Arthur has been gone for many years The parsonage was torn down, and my folks passed away a few years ago. I live in a different day, a different time, but Christmas doesn’t change.

There is still the hope of peace and good will brought to us by the Babe of Bethlehem. Mankind still struggles with caring for all no matter race or color, and though there are many pockets of prosperity, there are still even more going without.

But we do try to make the Christmas dream a reality. We think of these heavy challenges as we celebrate the birth of Christ — but Christmas is forever a time of laughter, joy and good cheer, and, for most of us, a time to shed a tear or two.

Ted Wallace is a former teacher and radio announcer. He can be contacted at:

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