December 25, 2019

If you’re celebrating today, I hope the day has been good to you and that all of your truest wishes are coming true.

Yes, the phones work when hooked up to each other. With original parts, I can’t use them on our landline.

My truest wish is spending time with my wife. The two of us in front of the tree unwrapping gifts while on cat slept through it and the other played in the used wrapping paper.

Taking it easy by watching a movie (“Downton Abbey”); it was fun and a nice continuation of the series.

My brother Barry and his wife Mary brought back goodies from their trip to Scotland that made for some cool gifts. Scotch, of course. A book of Scots folklore, An Inveraray Castle Christmas tree ornament. Tee shirts. I kept expecting a can of Haggis, but fortunately no.

From Lesa, some great gifts, including three books I especially wanted to read. Santa brought us a sampler of raw honey and a sample of sea salts from around the world. And more!

I hope you have had, are continuing to have, a great holiday.

–Malcolm

Season’s Greetings

Happy holidays to all of you no matter how you celebrate.

Assuming family haven’t been banned from your house and/or vice versa, I hope you have the time and energy to experience the wisdom, knowledge, humor, and support of family and friends and to find renewal in their love and care.

My Celtic ancestry brings me strong feelings for Yule and its traditions. My upbringing brings me similar feelings for Christmas (both the commercial and religious versions.) Your background may lead you elsewhere and that’s as it should be as long as it provides growth and a strong connexion with the cosmic.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of western movies and TV shows such as “Little House on the Prairie” in which kids would save their pennies all year to by mama a new scarf and dad a new hat. Those kids were pleased if they got one gift wrapped in butcher paper from the general store.

I wish the season could more like that where family around a tree and then around a dinner table was far more valuable than $100000000000 worth of gifts. The trouble is, the commercialization is so strongly brainwashed into our psyches that if the resist, those who know us think we’re being cheap and uncaring. So, we keep playing the game even though we wish we weren’t.

My wife and I spent so many years celebrating Christmas at my folks’ house or her folks’ house, that we began opening gifts to each other on Christmas Eve. We still do this even though our folks are long gone. It’s a special time for us and we like it. The day is quiet, nearly asleep, and so there we sit in front of our tree with our cats and a few gifts and a lot of light. Hard to beat that.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Why our outdoor decorations go up on or near the solstice

We’re always the last people in our neighborhood to put up Christmas and the last to take them down.

We always had a Yule log then I was growing up. Sad to say, the practice has become rather rare now. – Wikipedia photo.

This began when I was in grade school and became a habit. The schools were always looking for families who would lend them Christmas lights. Once we started doing that, the teachers came to us first every year. We didn’t get the lights back until the last school day before Christmas, usually, somewhere around December 20th.

Needless to say, we waited until the lights came back to decorate the house.

After that, perhaps it was laziness to some extent. As for putting up the decorations, we rebel every year against the practice of decorating the house for Christmas on or before Thanksgiving. As for taking them down, we strongly dislike the people who throw out their Christmas trees as soon as they finish opening their gifts.

For years, we went up to my wife’s folks’ house on Christmas day. It was always disheartening to return to our neighborhood and find dozens of trees already out next to the curb for the trash truck. We leave our decorations up until Twelfth Night. That’s a rather old tradition with the twelve days of Christmas beginning on December 25 in spite of the fact that a lot of merchants try to drum up sales by claiming the twelfth day of Christmas is the 25th. (More commercialism by people who don’t do any fact-checking.)

It’s supposedly bad luck to leave any greenery, and I include modern-day decorations, up after January 5th. So we don’t.

Over the years, others in our neighborhoods have asked why our decorations go up so late and stay up so long. We’re always tempted to ask, “Why do your decoration go up so early and don’t even stay up until New Year’s Eve.” But we don’t.

Whatever you do with your decorations, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Malcolm

 

 

Was there ever an age of innocence?

I often use this old Victorian Christmas card as a cover picture on my Facebook profile because I like the fiction of it, that there was once a time when children were innocent and approached holidays with a sense of untroubled joy.

Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning The Age of Innocence while on the surface purporting to be set in a more glorified time of wonder, portrays no innocence. Whatton considered the title to be ironic.

Even if we go back in time no farther than Charles Dickens work, we see that childhood, in general, wasn’t a sheltered time of grace. We hope, of course, that our children and grandchildren will remain innocent even into grade school. And depending on their circumstances, they may truly have no knowledge of the worst the world–or even their neighborhood–has to offer.

I’m glad that my two granddaughters don’t know what I know. Yet, assuming no catastrophe alters their lives, they don’t yet know anything about many evil things. Sadly, we must begin chipping away at their innocence to keep them safe: “Don’t get in a stranger’s car,” “Don’t wander away from your group on a school field trip,” etc.

Novelist Robertson Davies wrote that ““One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” Long term, that is true. Personally, I favor my own mystery over innocence, but I want children in general and my two granddaughters in particular, to have a few years of wonder and magic before they learn the harsh realities of the world.

These old Christmas cards make me believe that might be possible.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Co-ordinating Christmas Gifts, Or Else

When we were kids, my brothers and I–and to some extent, our parents–posted Christmas wish lists on the refrigerator door. These not only let people know what we were interested in, but also were a promise that when records and books were concerned, we wouldn’t buy them for ourselves until the new year.

My wife and I make Christmas lists for the same reason. With online purchases so easy to make, we don’t want to find out on Christmas Day that the books we though each other might want have already been bought.

We exchange Christmas lists with my brothers for the same reason. And, we circulate a larger Christmas list for my granddaughters. For one thing, people our age have no idea what children a thousand miles away might want for books and hobbies and games. And, since we don’t want duplications, my daughter creates the list and sends it to my wife who shares it with my sister-in-law. Whoever sees it first, erases the things we buy so that there can’t be any duplications.

I suppose the alternative is sending the same darn thing every year: a box of favorite booze, maple syrup or candies, and other edible holiday treats where duplication doesn’t matter. After all, if every one of my relatives sent me a bottle of single malt Scotch, it’s not like it will go bad waiting for me to get to it!

(I seldom send copies of my own novels to family members. They’ve been so supportive of my career, that they usually order their own copies as soon as each book is released.)

As usual, it often costs more to ship Christmas gifts than it takes to purchase them. Fortunately, my wife is very good at wrapping gifts. I package them up and take them to the post office. Sure, we could buy them online, include gift wrapping, and have them sent directly to family members, but that just seems kind of crass. we also avoid sending checks because that seems to be just too easy a way to let non-involvement take over the holidays.

So, how do y’all approach gifts to family and friends far away? Same thing every year (the Scotch route), edibles you know they like, buy it and hope for the best, a circulating wish list, or have you just said “to heck with it” and stopped exchanging gifts altogether?

One thing is certain, now that I’m adult and having to co-ordinate gifts to the four corners of the galaxy, I appreciate what my folks, grandparents, aunts, and uncles did when I was a kid and Christmas looked so easy.

Malcolm

“A riveting great read from first page to last, “Special Investigative Reporter” showcases author Malcom R. Campbell’s impressive narrative storytelling talents. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “Special Investigative Reporter” is also available in a paperback edition (9781950750221, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).” – Midwest Book Review

 

Happy holidays however you celebrate the season

I still say “Merry Christmas” to most people because it’s hard to step away from one’s upbringing and switch over to the more generic “happy holidays.”

We put up our Christmas Tree on the Solstice and leave it up throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. While I don’t expect everyone else in the neighborhood to leave all their decorations up until Twelfth Night, I feel bad when I see people throwing out their trees on Christmas Day as though they can’t wait to get them out of the house.

Several days ago, I posted a Steve Allen quote on my Facebook page, “If there is a God, the phrase that must disgust him is – holy war.” I don’t think any war is holy, nor do I think all the wars of words about appropriate and inappropriate holiday celebrations are holy–or even necessary.

We are free to believe what we want to believe.  I think we should be able to believe that without being attacked by the local newspaper, the homeowners’ association, thugs from ISIS and other arrogant belief systems, or by ignorant people on Facebook who think “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a rape song. I do draw the line at one faith’s decorations at public buildings or neighbors who put up so many lights their house can be seen from the space station.

Otherwise, it does my heart good to see that in spite of the commercialism, a lot of folks have found something larger than themselves and their government to believe in.

But why should it matter to anyone whether his or her neighbors believe in the same god or not whether they choose to celebrate him or her in a different way? I see no threat in that.

My views are rather eclectic, but due to the prevailing winds about “how people ought to believe,” I keep quiet about them for the most part. I don’t need the hassle. I do like the magic of the season regardless of how others choose to celebrate it. For me, it’s a profound time of the year regardless of the usual sniping about the Christian Church and secular humanity adopting a lot of pagan symbolism. That seems to bother people. I say, “so what?”

I see this as a time of unconditionally giving to others whatever their faith. I hope you have a great holiday season, perhaps with family and/or travel and/or traditions that speak to you and yours.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Allowing children to experience the innocence of childhood

These Victorian Christmas images are expressions of one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, the parental support within a happy home that allows them to begin their lives safe within the innocence of childhood.

Children will learn the harsh truths of the world soon enough. Some say, their kids have a better chance of survival when they’re reared from day one in a boot camp-style environment with Pop as the Great Santini and Mom as the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t agree. A few years of innocence made me stronger because those years taught me that strength and honesty don’t require us to wear cynicism and brutal honesty on our coats like badges of honor.

Once lost, recapturing the magic of innocence lost too soon is more difficult than unringing a bell. Children, then young adults, and then adults can build on that magic forever regardless of the slings and arrows they see or experience as they grow older. Like all wonderful memories, the innocence that’s given time to grow can be drawn on later on in life as a talisman against everything that’s ugly and unjust.

The old question “when do you tell your kids Santa isn’t real in the way portrayed in Christmas cards?” seems to represent the dilemma most parents face about all kinds of truths they must ultimately explain to their children. Sooner or later, we’re all told not to take candy from strangers or accept a ride home from school by an adult we don’t know. It’s hard to say “why not?” without communicating the reason why not. Today’s parents have opted for postponing that explanation for a while by driving their kids to school when older generations of kids rode bikes or walked. A lot of variables come into play when deciding, for one’s own children, when to take away some of the magic and when to take away some of the freedom available when they slowly gain their independence from a parent’s smothering and watchful eye.

In a world where instances of child abuse and human trafficking are higher than many adults allow themselves to believe, some will ask how we can celebrate the innocence of any child by displaying Victorian Christmas cards or other positive messages of the season when many children are suffering. My response, is how can we not? We can’t solve the wrongs of the world by keeping quiet about what’s right with the world.

Every child, I think, deserves a chance to experience the innate goodness into which s/he is born. Then they’ll always have that strong magic do draw upon when confronted by those who have no magic or goodness.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s hero’s journey novel “The Sun Singer” and heroine’s journey novel “Sarabande” are based on the concept that that while the trials we survive can make us stronger, the magic each of us carries ensures we’ll survive those trials.