Christmas has changed down through the years

By Steve Sell
December 24, 2013

I can just hear Bing Crosby crooning right now.

We’re going to have a White Christmas in these here parts, maybe too much so. While I’m not a big fan of snow, it’s nice to see the white stuff as it puts people even more in the Christmas spirit.

But enough was enough.

Two or three inches I can handle. When it starts inching closer to double digits, I want to get under the covers and cower.

But it’s Christmas and time for me to get in the spirit. It’s been a wonderful year, my first full year on the second chapter of my life. 

For those unaware and not avid followers of this column, I left The McPherson Sentinel  after 33 exhaustive years in October of 2012. I greatly enjoyed my time there, but the pressure, deadlines and hours simply were shortening my life expectancy. I was a heart attack waiting to happen.

Since coming to the radio station 14 months ago to join the online world and continue to report on local sports, I go at my own pace and have expanded my horizons with five columns a week, give or take. The work I do is rewarding, though maybe not as many people see it. 

My creative juices have never flowed as much as they do now and I think it’s brought more of an edge to my writing. At least that's what people tell me. I've tried to stay up with the times and keep things hip, not falling into the trap of "fuddy-duddyism." I also put out four sports magazines a year, which is another challenge that has been fun to take on.

As far as the broadcasting side of things, I’m admittedly a work in progress. I’ve appreciated the many compliments, while my detractors who tell me I’m too blunt and negative, you just need to know that’s just me. I guess I have too much Johnny Miller in me, you know the guy on golf broadcasts who calls it like he sees it. I, unfortunately, also have acquired Johnny’s yips with the putter in my golf game. 

I have met many new people on this job and maybe most gratifying is reconnecting with old friends. While I wasn't on Facebook before, I did go on as a favor to my one-and-only niece, the amazing Atley E, who wanted to keep up on my happenings. What has happened, though, is many of my lifelong friends have caught up with me after many years and I’ve also developed friendships with new, special people who have become important to me in a short time.

Nobody used to look forward to Christmas as much as me. Even after I got out of college in 1979, we’d go to my grandparents’ house in Girard, Kansas, for a big get together. The large old house had a huge living room and there was always music filling the air as my grandfather and father played the piano like professionals — they were that good. The good times rolled, for sure. Then I'd spend the night in the attic, as they had a big brass bed that probably would be 100 years old by now. While it was cold, it was tradition. I spent the night in the attic from the time I was about 8 up until I was 30.

Then on Christmas Day, it was out to my other grandparents, who lived on a farm seven miles east of Girard. Oh how I miss the traditional Italian meal that was cooked up as it tasted like food from the old country from which they came. I'll never have ravioli like that again in my life.

And topping the weekend was my Mom's red velvet cake. Nobody made it like her. In fact my Aunt Jo used to say, "there's Betty's red velvet cake and everybody else's is a distant second." In honor of my mother today, I went out and bought a red velvet cake, though it's a pale comparison.

But in the late 1980s and early 1990s it all changed. Three grandparents passed away in about four years, then my other grandmother and mother passed away five months apart in 1995. We would get together with the aunt, uncle and cousins who could make it, but that has disintegrated the last few years.

And now Dad is in the nursing home, having good days and bad in terms of memory. He really doesn’t remember much now about those Christmases and what fun we used to have. He can only get around in his wheel chair, though he’s like Speed Racer going down the halls.

So Christmas has changed for me. I try to enjoy the season, but the sense of family from those days as a kid and young adult are now only memories, albeit good ones. I’ll never forget every year in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when my sister, three cousins and I would gather on the stair steps for our annual picture. It was always the youngest on the bottom going up to the oldest. As we got older, we would pose in front of the fireplace, again youngest to oldest. It was amazing because basically one year separated each of us, starting with Cousin Rick, Sister Susie, Cousin Cindy, Yours Truly and, finally, Cousin Mark.

Christmas is a time for family and I hope you and yours enjoy it as much as I used to in the old days.