I believe we have finally hauled up the last bin from the basement storage that has anything to do with Christmas. I also believe that, for now, I have for the last time uttered, “What are we doing with all this stuff? We have to get this straightened up somehow! It’s really time to throw some things out and just get rid of this unnecessary clutter…” It’s what I call, in religious terms, my “Litany for Advent – or the Getting Ready Season.” I know I say it every year, and I also know I sound exactly like my dad, who, when it was time to get things, not out of the basement, but out of the attic, and into their garage which never had one of their cars parked in it, would echo that same sentiment, although knowing then as I know now that it is the same as spitting into the Grand Canyon. It may make you feel better for a moment, but it practically has nothing to do with the universe as we know it. Really – nothing is going to change, except that in about three weeks, I will have to go back downstairs and haul up empty bins, which then will gather all the paraphernalia of Christmas into them, and then get hauled back downstairs for another year.
Have I told you my idea for home construction? First of all, I think you folks in the south have the key, in not building a basement. Now, I know when tornadoes come, it’s good to go downstairs so that when it hits, even more of the house can come crashing down on your heads, but frankly, after 50 years of living in the Dakotas, the closest I have come to a tornado was to have it pass by our neighborhood about 7 miles out of town. Of course, at that time, every male on the entire street stood outside to watch it go by, and every female on the street stood in the front door and yelled at every male to come inside because they were going to all die with a tornado 7 miles away.
So, instead of having a basement, everything you own is on the same level, and the regulation would be that you would be required to build a one-level storage area equal to the size of your garage, where then you could comfortably and neatly store all the ballast of your life until you desperately need it, like to decorate a Christmas tree.
Anyway – now that birthdays in December were done, except for Jesus’, we needed to work on the next phase of getting ready. I’ve mentioned before that I really hate to put up the tree until after the birthdays are done, just to keep some definition in the celebrations. This year, however, the birthdays ate up an entire weekend, and that meant we lost some valuable non-working time, at least as Cheri is concerned. I, of course, see every day as a new Saturday, but I am still managing to have to-do lists materialize before my eyes. What all this means is that about an hour after Cheri opened her presents for birthday, we hauled up the ornament bin, in anticipation of tree decorating.
First of all, we had a bit of confusion. As I traversed my way back to Christmasland in the storage area, I kept looking for the huge blue bin that contained all the ornaments. However, when I found the bin, I opened it only to see the empty boxes that originally held the ornaments – mostly from Hallmark, and so the rule is you never throw out the boxes because they make the ornament WAY more valuable, although never in a million years will you sell them, of course. So we have bins full of boxes. The ornaments for a number of years have been wrapped and stored in white tissue paper, which seems to have kept them pretty well, but now I couldn’t find that bin. All I had was a smaller white bin that didn’t seem to be enormous enough to hold it all.
It’s interesting how memory works. As Cheri and I checked and rechecked every container in that area, we both were convinced that we were just missing it somewhere. Finally, though, I had a whisper of a glimmer of a memory in my mind. I recalled that last year, in an amazing burst of brilliance, we decided to alter the universe a little bit. The big blue bin that had held a conglomeration of both ornaments and boxes over the years would be dedicated only to boxes, and that instead, we would use a sleek, white-binned model to store the ornaments. But wait? How could they all fit in that small container, you ask? Here’s the story.
Hallmark is very shrewd in their sales plan. Instead of having you buy one ornament and be happy, they have developed series of ornaments that, of course, once you buy the important first in the series, you are going to want to make sure you get every one that follows! So, going back in time, for Cheri’s and my very first Christmas together in 1981, we bought a tree, and some glass ball ornaments, since they were cheap, and then we also bought one Hallmark ornament. It was the first year for what would become the Nostalgic Houses and Shops series. It was a little peachy colored Victorian house. Nice. 39 years later, also adding in special this-year-we-are-going-to-try-to-sell-you-two-ornaments because it’s the 10th anniversary and such, we have ended up with a rather large collection of houses.
This was unsatisfactory to our sons. For some reason, they now believe they control almost every aspect of Christmas in our home. And even though they can have hundreds of sport figures of all sorts of sports on the tree, they decided that the houses should not be placed on the tree. Now, I like to overload the tree, but I guess I am a vanishing breed in the Cross home. Instead, what evolved was that Aaron, who for some reason considers himself an urban developer when it comes to house ornaments, took over the entire collection and arranged an ever-growing community on our front entryway walnut dresser, also stuffed with things I never see. To tell the truth, it did and does look pretty good, and they are displayed, but not on the tree, where Emmitt Smith has to be the highest placed ornament. Tradition, you know.
So, back to the story. When Christmas was being put away last year, instead of mixing up the houses into the other bin of ornaments, we made use of one of our 20 gallon stoneware crocks that has a lid, and tenderly wrapped and stored the houses there until – this year, when we would once again create the village of the… blessed.
And that, my friends, is why we were able to put the other ornaments in a smaller bin. We reorganized! How exciting. When we finally remembered what we had done, sure enough, we started hanging the ornaments, while Aaron went into construction, and they were all there, along with the new ornaments for this year, since the series all continue, and you have sports figures and Santas and such all finding their place on the tree.
When the last ornament was hung, ol’ Dad took the Belleek star given to our family by dear friends years ago, and placed it on top. We stood back, used the brand new remote on and off device so as to not have to climb under the tree and plug it in – we pushed the button, and along with lighting the third Advent candle later that evening, we were “mostly” ready for Christmas. Sure, there is still some pretty important activity to get done, like mailing the brittle and wrapping packages and deciding the meal and on and on – but the wrong tree, in a new place in the living room, filled with our life’s memories of sweet times (don’t forget the two-piece ornament that has little cats playing with a ball of yarn…), we chased CoVid pretty well out of the picture for that time, and – intentionally – loved each other.
I hope that whatever you do to prepare your home and your life for Christmas this year is as sweet and meaningful as it is for me. Intend that, and make it so.
Word for the day: ackamarackus. This is a doozy. Pronounced ak-uh-muh-RACK-us. It sounds sort of like what it is. I’d like to say it comes from the Latin, because it sort of sounds that way, but it doesn’t. Probably one of our newest words, it was first found in the 1930s in a book by Damon Runyan. The word has been defined in a number of different ways, from “pretentious or deceptive nonsense,” to “meaningless activity engaged for show,” to “a long-winded nonsensical story.” It carries with it a hint of trying to pull something over on someone, or a slyness, or someone trying to be clever by making up a bunch of baloney. It’s often quoted as “The ol’ ackamarackus.” When Harold Hill, the con artist in the Music Man tries to get the entire town of River City to purchase musical instruments for a band to keep the young people out of the pool hall, he uses the ol’ ackamarackus, as soon as he says, “There’s trouble, my friends, right here in River City!”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.