Christmas is almost here, and there is much for most of us to do-gifts to buy and wrap, more cards to send, and even a few more decorations to hang. But for me, I feel it is a time to reflect about the troubles in the world—our nation at war, terrorists seeking to harm innocents, not to mention a great loss of lives. The message of this season is, “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” Yet where is it?
This is when many of us reflect on the gentler times of our past. It was 1957, in the Cold War, but I didn’t much understand or care about such things. I was 8 years old, living in a corner house in Queens Village with my mother and father and two elderly blind boarders my mother cared for. We didn’t have much money, but always had a good Christmas—full of love and sharing, and plenty of music, which my mother said was “tonic for the soul.”
A few evenings before Christmas we set out to buy our Christmas tree, but my father’s car would not start. It was a crisp, cold night and snow was on the ground and still falling. My father had an idea so my mother wouldn’t be disappointed: We took my sled to a place where they sold trees on Francis Lewis Boulevard which was about a half-mile away. When we got there, my father picked out a beautiful six-footer, we tied it on top of my sled and guided it home on 213th Street. We sang Christmas carols all the way.
Back at home my mother had a special place in front of the fireplace for the tree. Our job was done once it was settled in the stand, than my mother took over, decorating it with love and devotion to every detail. Kindness and love seemed to bounce from house to house in those days, and neighbors greeted one another with a “Merry Christmas” as carolers sang from house to house. Churches were beaming with worshipers. Christmas meant a lot back than, and I just can’t help but wonder if that kind of Christmas will ever return.
The picture-perfect Christmases of our memories may have been laced with imperfections, but I still think that they were better than the frenzied days we have now. I can’t help but hope that America returns to family values, to live out the true meaning of Christmas—peace and goodwill.
—Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village, NY