THAT OLD CHRISTMAS MAGIC IS BACK THIS YEAR

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WPCNR THE SUNDAY BAILEY .By John F. Bailey. Originally published, December 12, 2021:

We need that Old Christmas Magic more than ever this year.

The Waitresses sang in the song back in the 1980s, and this is just part of “Christmas Magic”—it all has to do with you.

I admit I have not been looking forward to this Christmas Season, but Brenda Starr who lives with me, being a redhead, well Christmas is her favorite holiday and works very hard at creating Christmas magic.

She organizes! She bakes cookies, lots of them. She tosses salads. She cooks. The WPCNR Headquarters is filled with appetizing aromas.

The magic of the week starts December 12. She starts by pushing me to go out and get a Christmas Tree every year. This year she pushed me early out in the 30 degrees last weekend. Years ago I took my son and tried to get him to pick out the tree. I would tell him what to look for:

A tree which looks good on all sides no matter from which way you look at it. Know the height of tree that fits comfortably with scant inches of the ceiling of the room you’ll display it in.

The top of the tree shape is key: it needs a symmetrical ascension of branches extending higher and arched more to a single high trunk  extension. This kind of top  delivers the look to put small delicate bulbs, and decorations in ascending steps to the highest part of the tree where you place a star or spire on the top single trunk.

Well I set out to Amodio’s last week, and the courteous lads serving the Christma Tree selection showed me the six footers priced at $99. The first one was too wide at the bottom. The next too thin in a triangle with not good wide, slender shape.

Then the lad spun out THE TREE. In 50 years of selecting Christmas Trees, I know THE TREE I will get the moment I see it.  It just introduces itself!

The process of tree selection starts the Christmas Magic

So I tote it home in the trunk of the car. And convey it to the porch. Put it in water and wait to the time when Brenda Starr says it is the day to put it up.

We use the same Christmas tree stand we have used for fifty years. Always trouble screwing in the bolts that hold our tree. I  guide the tree into the stand while Brenda Starr ducks under the spread boughs of the tree to tighten or loosen the screws of the stand as need be and tells me from under the tree which direction to slant it to get it straight.  She looks at the tree determines if it is straight then turns it to the best side.

Then the lights go on. The tree seems to wait expectantly.

This year, Ms. Starr in her only mistake of the year, could not find the Christmas Tree lights. So instead of criticizing her I said, “We must have thrown out the candle lights and the candy cane lights from last  year, I’ll go to the True Value and get new ones. Let me call.”

I call and I drive on down to the store that has everything. I’ve been going there since 1976 when a big friendly man named Al ran the store.  The  new owner said we only have a few lights left. I drive on down, picked up two sets. Returned home and Ms. Starr affixed the lights with me holding the lights.  As she strung them from top of the tree to about midway., we both realized there were not enough lights to cover the tree.

But there was another problem, Ms. Starr did not like the second set of lights because the colors were wrong, orange and piurple, “not Christmas colors.” I did something most uncharacteristic, “I said you’re right. I like them because they were flashing and but purple is not a Christmas color, let me go back and exchange them for another set of the ones on the tree.”

She was stunned.  You see what I mean by Christmas Magic? The tree the atmosphere, the decorating was altering my behavior. So back to True Value, I make the exchange and even saved money.

When I returned, Ms. Starr, said “Look.”

She had opened a box of what she thought were decorations for the tree and  found the electric lights from last year. “I’m sorry.”

I did something even rarer in the face of the discovery, I laughed, “I knew this would happen, but I can string those other lights on the pine trees off the porch.”

On with the new second set of lights she liked!

Together, we put decorated bulbs collected over 50 years ever since her days as a crack reporter on The Flash.

The pictures of my daughter the skater  27 years ago, reindeer, train bulbs, glass icicles, glass stars.  The tree seemed to give off vibes of warmth  even seemed to be preening and the fresh sap got on our fingers. After an hour the tree is filled.

I then went out and decorated the pine trees outside the house, not much but it just made the trees seem so much taller standing proud and seemed to enjoy the lights being looped on to the branches. When I plugged in the long extension chord the house did not catch fire or  bulbs cause a short circuit.

The finding of the lights after I had gotten new ones, was I felt another mysterious arrival of that old Christmas Magic.

What is the Christmas Magic?

It is the magic we cast ourselves, continuing the same traditions and doing the things together that bring us close, when we decorated trees with our parents or helped Mom bake and the mellowness and teary sentimentality we feel towards family who have drifted apart, from each other frayed by the strains of any distant relationship.

Those Christmas visits at Grandma’s house on Sunnyside Avenue in Pleasantville, playing Christmas carols in high school in freezing temperatures at the Manville Road Circle in Old Pleasantville.

It all comes back. That’s Christmas Magic.

We need it more than ever this year.

Back in the 1980s, The Waitresses put out a perfect song that expresses Christmas Magic, called “Christmas Wrappings” that you can hear by doing a search on the internet. Here are the lyrics

Christmas Wrappings

Bah, humbug!” No, that’s too strong

‘Cause it is my favorite holiday

But all this year’s been a busy blur

Don’t think I have the energy

To add to my already mad rush

Just ’cause it’s ’tis the season.

The perfect gift for me would be

Completions and connections left from

Last year, ski shop,

Encounter, most interesting.

Had his number but never the time

Most of ’81 passed along those lines.

So deck those halls, trim those trees

Raise up cups of Christmas cheer,

I just need to catch my breath,

Christmas by myself this year.

Calendar picture, frozen landscape,

Chilled this room for twenty-four days,

Evergreens, sparkling snow

Get this winter over with!

Flashback to springtime, saw him again,

Would’ve been good to go for lunch,

Couldn’t agree when we were both free,

We tried, we said we’d keep in touch.

 Didn’t, of course, ’til summertime,

Out to the beach to his boat could I join him?

No, this time it was me,

Sunburn in the third degree.

Now the calendar’s just one page

And, of course, I am excited

Tonight’s the night, but I’ve set my mind

Not to do too much about it.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

But I think I’ll miss this one this year.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

But I think I’ll miss this one this year.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

But I think I’ll miss this one this year.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

But I think I’ll miss this one this year.

Hardly dashing through the snow

Cause I bundled up too tight

Last minute have-to-do’s

A few cards a few calls

‘Cause it’s r-s-v-p

No thanks, no party lights

It’s Christmas Eve, gonna relax

Turned down all of my invites.

Last fall I had a night to myself,

Same guy called, halloween party,

Waited all night for him to show,

This time his car wouldn’t go,

Forget it, it’s cold, it’s getting late,

Trudge on home to celebrate

In a quiet way, unwind

Doing Christmas right this time.

A&P has provided me

With the world’s smallest turkey

Already in the oven, nice and hot

Oh damn! Guess what I forgot?

So on with the boots, back out in the snow

To the only all-night grocery,

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

In the line is that guy I’ve been chasing all year!

“I’m spending this one alone,” he said.

“Need a break; this year’s been crazy.”

I said, “Me too, but why are you?

You mean you forgot cranberries too?”

Then suddenly we laughed and laughed

Caught on to what was happening

That Christmas magic’s brought this tale

To a very happy ending! “

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Couldn’t miss this one this year!

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Couldn’t miss this one  this year

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