Consider this a Christmas sampler of sorts - of notes, afterthoughts and impressions.
Of all the extravagant Christmas decorations and festive collections of lights, there is no display as heartfelt - or as sobering - as the trees decorated in front of the Army National Guard headquarters in Draper. Motorists driving by the pine trees laden with symbolic yellow ribbons - representing people called up to active duty in conjunction with Operation Desert Shield - can't help but be reminded that some families and friends are without loved ones this holiday season.A big part of the holidays at the Taylor home is Christmas music - carols, hymns, songs and the like. Two of the most-listened-to Christmas cassettes - at home and in the car - are the popular "Manheim Steamroller Christmas" and "A Fresh Aire Christmas" by Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller. The two provide a smorgasbord of favorites in traditional musical arrangements representing past centuries as well as contemporary, synthesized treatments.
Half the fun is reading the jacket notes on each piece and learning of the historical background, intent of arrangement, composition used and styles mimicked.
Another cassette that gets considerable play with the Taylor clan is actor William Hurt's reading of "The Polar Express," the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg that won the 1986 Caldecott Medal for the "most distinguished American picture book for children." Both the book and the reading are superb on their merits - combine the two together for a memorable audiovisual experience for the whole family.
At the age of 7, I clipped out a newspaper item on revised Christmas carols, written as part of Dick West's "The Lighter Side" column and distributed by UPI. I know exactly where the clipping can be found in the scrapbook of my adolescent years - it's part of the two-page layout that I accidentally pasted in upside down.
West bemoaned that many Christmas songs, poems and stories no longer fit the times, especially since the advent of holiday NFL football games. To wit, here is one of his revisions (note the names that date his writings to the late 1960s):
Weekend of Christmas
'Twas the weekend of Christmas; she wanted to party.
But I wanted to be with Coach Vincent Lombardi.
And I tried to ignore her hysterical laugh
When I refused to wrap presents, except during the half.
On, Gariel! on, Lundy! on, Schafrath and Neely!
On Perkins! on, Kelley! on, Andrie and Lilly.
There still is some question, but we'll learn in due course
Whether football at Christmas is grounds for divorce.
For most of December, we're reminded of the importance of spreading Christmas cheer during the holidays.
While many of us are cozy and comfortable with friends and families, presents and parties during the holidays, some will be experiencing a more dismal December - periods of doldrums, despair, discouragement, drunkenness or even death.
Perhaps in those instances, Christmas cheer might be a bit inappropriate. Better instead would be Christmas concern . . . Christmas encouragement . . . Christmas comfort.