Car­ry­ing on the legacy of joy at Christ­mas

The Progress-Index Weekend - - LIFESTYLES - Bill Atkin­son Bill Atkin­son is the as­sis­tant edi­tor of The Progress-In­dex. He can be reached at 804-722-5167 or batkin­[email protected]­dex.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @BAtkin­sonpi.

Is it my imag­i­na­tion, or does Christ­mas come around faster and faster with each pass­ing year?

It seems like just a few weeks ago that we pulled down the tree, packed away the dec­o­ra­tions, ex­changed (or re-gifted) any present that we did not want or need. And care­fully rolled up the lights so that it would not be like pulling apart a wad of chew­ing gum the next time they went up.

It doesn’t help that re­tail starts get­ting you into the Christ­mas spirit about a week af­ter they fin­ish their back-to-school push. I did not go out this past Black Fri­day, but I did not hear of any ma­jor throw­downs or ac­tiv­ity that in­volved po­lice at­ten­tion, so I can only as­sume the area was fairly or­derly and quiet.

But Christ­mas is com­ing, whether you’re ready for it or not. For­tu­nately in our house­hold, we are ready.

Our tree ac­tu­ally has been up since be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. We usu­ally buy a new tree ev­ery three years or so, and the time had come full-cir­cle for a new one. And since stor­age space in our house is at a pre­mium, we de­cided to go ahead and put it up the day we bought it.

It’s not as big as the ones we used to have, but then again, Sandy and I are not as en­er­getic as we used to be, ei­ther. So this year, we set­tled on an “age-ap­pro­pri­ate” easy-to-main­tain tree. It’s seven feet tall but not as big around at the base as our pre­vi­ous ones.

Our daugh­ter’s boyfriend helped put the lights up across the house. When you have the choice be­tween a young, strong, scrap­ping per­son or me up on a lad­der … well, you get the pic­ture.

One dec­o­rat­ing tra­di­tion we have got­ten into over the past cou­ple of years is one that ac­tu­ally my sainted father started many years ago.

Dad was an avid Santa fig­urine col­lec­tor. He liked all types of San­tas, but mostly he was al­ways on the look­out for dif­fer­ent types. Santa play­ing the pi­ano … Santa in a Hawai­ian shirt and shorts … Santa soak­ing his feet af­ter that long overnight trip … if it was dif­fer­ent, he wanted it.

The fact that his birth­day was 11 days be­fore Christ­mas made shop­ping for him that much eas­ier. He could not have too many San­tas.

By the time he passed away, Dad had amassed more than 350 dif­fer­ent Santa fig­urines. He used to just pull them out at Christ­mas time, but we fi­nally con­vinced him to get a cu­rio cab­i­net and dis­play them year-round. One can only imag­ine how many boxes 350+ San­tas took up, and if you knew my father, you knew that each one was packed away in a cer­tain or­der. It just made more sense for him to leave them up all year.

Af­ter he passed, we three sib­lings di­vided up the col­lec­tion among our­selves. There were only a few spe­cific ones I wanted from his col­lec­tion, so I got those and -- be­ing the good baby brother that I am -- let the older sis­ters share the rest.

I al­ways put out the San­tas I had each sea­son, but for the long­est time, see­ing all of them made me miss him that much more at Christ­mas.

A cou­ple of years ago, I put out the ones I in­her­ited, then started adding some more. Last year, I added even more. Then I got to the point where I ac­tu­ally would go look­ing for them in lit­tle an­tique stores, con­sign­ment shops, and even lo­cal Good­will stores. You would be amazed at what you can find at any time of the year in those stores. I know I was.

I think at last count, I have about 70 Santa fig­urines now, in­clud­ing the ones Dad had. Last year, they all stood guard atop a shelv­ing unit in our fam­ily room. This year, I prob­a­bly will scat­ter them through­out the house. I would love to even­tu­ally get a cu­rio cab­i­net like he had and keep them up all year long, but un­til then, I have to wrap them up care­fully and put them away for their 11-month sab­bat­i­cal.

There is just some­thing about see­ing these Santa fig­urines that brings a smile to peo­ple’s faces and a bit of joy in their hearts. It took me about 15 or so years to get over my gen­eral sad­ness and re­al­ize that Dad’s Santa fig­urines were meant to be put out at Christ­mas and en­joyed. And any that I can add to that col­lec­tion only will honor his pre­cious legacy.

Now if you will ex­cuse me, I got some Santa-ing to do. Merry Christ­mas, Dad!

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