Well, a Saturday morning in the middle of July can only mean one thing: go and buy your Christmas ornaments from the local Hallmark store. I know it seems a wee bit early, since Walmart and Target are just now putting out the back-to-school supplies – school starts in about 6 weeks, so why wait until the last minute? But Christmas is still 5 ½ months away. It’s just Hallmark’s shrewd marketing campaign which is coupled with them showing Christmas love story movies on the Hallmark Movie Channel this month. I mean, you have to get people in the mood for Christmas, right?
We actually bought our very first Hallmark ornament in 1984. It was a little Victorian house, which just happened to be the first in the series that seemingly will never end. We put it up in our tree next to the myriad of colored glass ball ornaments that you could buy for about $2/dozen. Actually, the very first ornament Cheri and I owned together was a little Snoopy skating with Woodstock that Cheri’s mom gave to us in 1979 – a good year before we were engaged. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to that ornament if the grand scheme for us to fall in love and for Cheri to finally say yes, and then wait a year before I was out of seminary would have gone awry. I expect she would have gotten the ornament, but I have to hand it to Cheri’s mom to do all she could to align the future!
So, over the last 40 years or so, we have purchased a wide range of ornaments to hang on the tree. Lots of Santas, some Noah’s arks, star athletes from both basketball and football, including the famed Emmitt Smith from the Dallas Cowboys, who each year has to be the highest placed ornament on the tree, just below the white bulb that is always just below the Belleek tree topper that some dear friends brought back from Ireland years ago. Can you sense the tradition that makes up our Christmases?
In recent years, with the boys still with us for Christmas time, certain “modification” had to be made in the distribution of ornaments on the tree. One year, without vote or debate, Aaron decided that all the house ornaments from decades of collecting would not go on the tree – instead, they would be arranged – by Aaron, a self-trained urban developer when it comes to little houses, and take up the entire top of our walnut dresser in the entryway. Next, you knew it would be just a matter of time before the elegant, well-crafted Santas and their matching reindeer would also come off the tree, and be organized on the mantle. I am not sure what we will lose next, but it’s all part of the boys campaign to lighten the load on the tree. Now, I’m of the opposite opinion – I love to cram a tree full of ornaments, and then remember how they came to be part of our celebration. However, I am only a voice crying in the wilderness, as progress marches on.
That does not, however, preclude me from buying new ornaments each year! In about April, as the catalog for the Hallmark ornaments comes out, I take one home, go through the pages, circle the ones I think would enhance our Christmas experience, and then fill out the advance order form, and wait for the second Saturday in July – today – to drive over and pick the bundle up, which I then put into the closet and forget about until the tree comes up, about five months later, and – well, it’s like Christmas!
Cheri has long ago just quietly shaken her head, since she knows that if this is the worst vice I have, she’s in pretty good shape. You see, I don’t buy tons of shoes, or shirts, or pants or other wearing apparel. I’m retired, and have a rather small wardrobe. What I do buy, however, are ornaments, and I think she has given in, so long as I stay away from ones I wouldn’t buy anyway, like Harry Potter or Star Trek, or some other gruesome movie figure that really don’t belong on a tree.
So, we know for certain it’s summer – because it’s time for something we really won’t appreciate until the middle of winter.
All of us have hobbies of sorts. Some include the art of collecting, others are crafty and artistic, still others require a lawn mower and pruning shears. I say to all of us – go ahead. Just do it on purpose, and enjoy what you are doing. When something becomes a drudgery, or an obligation, set it down by the side of the road and continue your life’s path without that burden anymore. Your life, and your joy, is up to you. But you know that already.
Word for the day: aplomb. Pronounced uh-PLUM. Actually an interesting word that was transformed from its original definition. Aplomb is French for “self-possessed.” One is “poised upright” kind of like the weight at the end of a plumb line, which always hangs perfectly vertical. Of course, the weight is from the Latin plumbum, defined as “lead,” the weight one uses for the plumb line.
So if someone is “aplomb,” they act like a hunk of lead? No – they always are perfectly balanced, with a self-confidence and assurance, always poised, and able to use tact and other devices to come off as someone who really knows who he or she is inside, and can sway a room without swaying themselves.
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.