The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 19 Dec 2012. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
You know, what our mind and heart chooses to remember can be so peculiar sometimes.
As my life comes rapidly toward the end of its sixth decade, I choose more and more to cherish those simple little memories.
Especially at Christmastime.
Even if they are a bit...must I say it... "strange".
For example, a humorous memory is about my brother's "Bass Weejun" shoes.
When I was a boy in the 1960's, "Bass Weejuns" was the shoe any teenager wanted to wear. It was a penny loafer style shoe that had been made since the 1930's, but had become popular again. The "Bass" brand name mattered, and my teenage older brother, Dale, was dying for a real pair in order to be cool and original like everyone else.
Dale somehow saved up enough money to buy those shoes and was SO proud of them.
But my father, an otherwise good man, was not impressed. One icy winter night, as our family sat beside the fireplace in our basement, Dad decided to go outside to get some more wood for the fire.
Much to my brother's horror, Dad grabbed my brother's new Weejuns from the shoe rack, popped them on, and started out to the woodpile.
Well, the soles of Weejuns were slick leather, so you might expect what happened next.
Dad, running up the carpeted basement stairs, quickly slipped and fell halfway up the stairs.
With a grumble, my normally pretty peaceable Dad hopped up and continued out to the wood pile, and promptly slipped and fell again outside on the ice.
Coming back in with an armload of firewood and fussing about my brother's now wet and icy Weejuns, Dad immediately slipped again on the staircase and bump-bumped all the way down the stairs, wet logs flying everywhere.
Mumbling something about useless, no-good shoes, Dad jumped up, yanked off the Weejuns from his feet, and threw them in the fire.
Dale was speechless, overcome with the evil of mankind.
Dad was content that he had rid the world of some dangerous shoes.
I was simply amazed at how a calm winter night could so quickly become entertaining.
One of the favorite memories of my life was in high school choir at Christmastime, singing the awe-inspiring "Halleluiah Chorus."
If you love music, the "Chorus" is thrilling to hear.
It is even more thrilling to sing.
I think our choir sang it in some huge holiday program at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds combined with a lot of other schools. But what I really remember is singing it at practice, at school. We had a good choir and a great teacher. I remember us all singing that wonderful song with all our heart. At the end of it, we actually would be exhausted.
Then we would look at each other...smile...and say, "Let's do THAT again!!"
It was, indeed, a wonderful experience to remember.
When I was a child, we had very little money. So my Dad, doing the best he could, would bring home a small cedar tree for Christmas, and we all would decorate it with a string of lights, a few store-bought ornaments, some home-made ones of aluminum foil, and lots of tinsel.
It was grand and wonderful to me.
So, years later when I married, my two new brothers-in-law and I got to talking and decided that we would go out, ourselves, and cut a wild-grown, natural tree straight from the woods.
You know. Real macho woodmen.
The problem was that none of us suburban boys had any real idea what we were doing.
Nevertheless, early one icy morning, we headed out into the countryside to a friend's farm, driving down a frozen dirt road into a little valley, looking for just the right tree for each of our homes.
We took too long.
By the time we had found something resembling a decent tree, and headed back up out of the valley, the sun had changed the little frozen dirt road into a muddy trap.
We city boys quickly got stuck, spinning tires everywhere, and had to go find a farmer to come pull us out of our mess with his tractor.
By the time I got home, I was muddy and exhausted, but proud that "the man of the family had brought a fresh tree home from the woods."
But then other problems quickly became apparent of which I had not considered.
First, my wife came out to look at the tree.
Then she looked at me.
You see, wild-growing pine trees are almost nothing like the nicely trimmed, farm-raised trees meant for the Christmas market. There were huge gaps between the limbs that somehow I had not noticed.
Second, things look much smaller outside than they do inside. The tree I had so proudly brought home was maybe fourteen feet tall and we had an eight foot ceiling. AND the trunk of the tree was at least twice as big as the little tree-stand that we had to put it in.
So, I cut and hacked and hacked and cut, and finally got it small enough to fit in the house.
You have never seen such a pitiful Christmas tree. There were maybe three big limbs, with a fourth limply added with wire to try to fill a gap.
It looked like some sort of freakish monster version of the Charlie Brown cartoon character tree.
Bonnie and I finally just threw it out and bought a new one from a tree lot.
We went several more years buying natural trees from a lot and making it almost a family tradition for me to fight and fuss with the tree every year to make it fit in our little tree stand.
Eventually, we bought an artificial tree and have been happy ever since.
Merry Christmas everyone. Happy Holidays. May your days be bright and your memories be full.
As friend Randy Pace often says, "Be Blessed."
Copyright 2012 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.