‘Tis the season again when families gather around a hearth and a tree, forgiving past slights while holding close memories that linger like the woody aroma of a log-burning fire rising from a neighbor’s chimney.
In the spirit of hope that attends this holiday season, I thought I’d share a message I received several years ago from my younger brother in Northern California recalling a talk he’d had then a letter he’d received from our father in St. Louis during a Christmas past.
“I was driving back from an early court appearance in Sacramento and the morning was thick with the tule fog. And as I drove west towards other appearances in my neck of the woods, I’d see at times these wonderful sights of green fields and copses of trees emerging and fading in the fog.
I’d called home to St. Louis, and Pop and I were just talking about one thing and the other. And as I drove, I mentioned a few times what I was seeing as it unfolded around me.
Just this Saturday, then, I received the note from Pop which follows. I tried to follow Pop’s formatting (it was, of course, handwritten) but don’t know if you’ll receive it that way. Emails often don’t seem to visually translate the same way as they’re written. It doesn’t really matter, I guess, but I kind of view Pop’s letters like poetry and so the words as they appear on each line are like stanzas. You’ll know the meaning nonetheless.
Your phone call this morning touched me.
I don’t know how, but maybe
it was the green fields, but I went back in memory
to a time long past when I was young
and the world was, too.
There I was again,
it was about 11 PM. A friend
and I, both 22-years old, were walking
home from a movie at the Pageant Theater
this December night near Christmas.
I was wearing a dark overcoat. It
was snowing, large lazy flakes
drifting down, and it was silent, no
cars, no people, just we two.
We walked over to a tavern.
Even though the Depression was in full bloom
then, many men sought peace in
the company of others and a glass or [two]
of beer. I walked in.
The lights were low as was the murmur of the
conversation. And there, with all
those men, the smoke and the warmth
and the aroma of whiskey in this
room, I stood for a moment
completely alone in my thoughts.
It was almost Christmas and I
was a very lost young man. But
in this moment, for the first
time in many years, I was at peace.
It was just for a brief second, and
then I came back to reality and
had a glass of beer.
I wonder what brought
back to my mind that single moment
in my life 70 years ago. It was
probably you, the fog, and
the green fields.
Our father passed nearly a decade ago now, but like all families at Christmas time ours continues to pass around such family stories and reread old letters to keep those no longer with us closer to heart.
Here’s wishing that all today’s lost souls, young and old alike, find a measure of comfort – even if just for a brief second – in this season of sharing and hope. Wishing everyone, too, a very merry and joyful Christmas. 🎄