HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

December 22, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner



We're having an awful lot of snow here in Vermont. As I write this it is still snowing outside and it has been snowing for the past twenty-four hours. And that came on top of our having been already pretty thoroughly buried.

Nothing induces in me more mixed feelings than snow. People say it is beautiful, and they're right. As I look out my window right now I see a landscape that would make for a wonderful Christmas card. But I see also, the big lump that I hope still contains my car. And I know that digging it out and getting it up the driveway, which I am told that I must do, is going to take a lot of huffing and puffing, while my fingers gradually lose all feeling and, after a while, I have to look to see if I still have hold of the shovel. So, there are pros and cons. Snow is a bit like life, when you come to think of it.

Christmas is a time when people spend vast amounts of money on things nobody wants. These are gifts purchased in desperation, under the drive of thinking that you simply have to get something for people like Cousin George, even though you know he will hate anything you give him. I have a theory that no one will adopt. I think we should give gifts only when we come on something we know the receiver will really like. That would mean that our gift-giving would be sort of hit or miss. You might end up sending a present to a person you really like and feel close to only once every four years or so. But, when you did send it, you could feel good about it, and he, or she, when it was received could know it came from genuine thought and consideration. I exclude the children from this plan, of course. They have to get stuff every year.

Our tree this year was clipped. It's a new practice to make the tree almost perfectly symmetrical. We have mixed feelings about it. In the past, we have spent long, cold half-hours trying to find a tree that was symmetrical. But having it done for you, by a machine, seems almost not quite right, even though, I'm sure the tree will look wonderful when we have draped all our ornamentation over it.

I do like one practice that has come to us over the past several years. After we have bought our tree, it gets wrapped up in plastic netting, which reduces it to about a third of its normal volume. This makes it much easier to carry and much easier to set up in its stand. Our tree now is in our living room, still netted, and looming like a trim, gigantic sentinel. We have a theory that our grandson will like to cut the net off when he arrives here in a few hours, after a long drive from Chicago.

This reminds me of a piece of advice I have for everyone. Do not drive from Chicago to Vermont in winter if you can avoid it. You will be assaulted by snow in the most devious ways snow can find to launch an assault. And, there is nothing heroic in finding a way to bear it. It will just make you miserable.

I confess the Christmas season does not thrill me as much as it once did. Still, I do have a feeling for it, perhaps a deeper feeling than when it was nothing but pure delight. And I am glad that there are children for whom it is still pure delight, and, perhaps, even more glad that two of them will be in my house when Christmas morning arrives. I plan to get as much fun out of it -- and them -- as I can, and I hope that all of you will do something similar.


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