MARLBORO MUSINGS:  It IS The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”

And it’s hard to argue with the words to that 1963 Andy Williams hit. There truly is something magical about this time of year, with brisk breezes scattering leaves, a fast fading sun racing to bring on cool evenings followed by even cooler seasonal nights, and hints of holiday celebrations soon to come everywhere.

Winter – and with it, Christmas – will shortly be upon us.

And while Hurricane Matthew’s winds left us bruised and battered and battle-scarred, with trees felled by the hundreds, our spirit held steadfast and new trees are sprouting daily, and while they might be only temporary, they’re also the best kind, the kind that bring sparkles to little ones eyes and families back together. And they’re popping up everywhere, more by the day.

It only takes a short drive to put yourself in the Christmas spirit these days. In my case, it’s usually just a short loop around town and back to the house. Something about seeing the city decorations and lights on the city trees all a-twinkle and the wreaths and bows on the lampposts, the school district office and storefronts all lit up and decorated, the courthouse square with the illuminated manger scene, the palmettos wrapped in lights, and the giant Pilot Club Christmas tree, that’s all I need.

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And it seems even more beautiful this year than in the past. Sure it’s not the same bustling little burg it was when I was growing up, but it still reminds me of when I was younger and we’d all bundle up after my parents got home and take a walk downtown to see the lights and window-shop at some of the old stores, like Roses, Gates 5 and 10, BDS, Jones Department Store, and Bob’s Music, or see what goodies Mr. Strom had in the windows of the Western Auto. Or look at the dresses in the ladies shops like Misses Wade’s or all the brilliantly shiny bejeweled goodies on display at The Jewel Box or Fox Jewelers, where you could check the time on the big clock that hung outside the storefront.

I can hardly ride down Main Street without a flood of memories rushing back, especially at Christmas.

I even got in the spirit myself recently and dug out my own personal Christmas decorations: five wreaths and a 32” Christmas tree. Not just any tree, mind you, but one of those high-tech, high-end, high-dollar, fiber optic specials with “dazzling lights that continuously change colors,” just like the box from Dollar General said. And that’s about the full Christmas arsenal for me.

But in my defense, regular readers might recall “Ho! Ho! Whoa!” which related my close encounter with The Grinch and unexpected near-banishment to Whoville from a few Christmases ago, and thus completely understand my reluctance to carry forward a heavy supply of holiday decorations.

And reminiscing about Her Highness tonight, I have to smile at that holiday memory. Moreover, given that recollection and a couple other holiday episodes a friend recently pointed out I had been involved in – innocently, of course, I reminded – and which we’ll leave unspoken, I had to admit that I have lived, as he insisted, a somewhat “interesting” life thanks primarily to my tendency to wander a bit.

Actually, that’s a tad of an understatement. Truth stated, dating back to the early 80’s the places I’ve lived reads like the path of an escaped con trying to stay two steps ahead of the law, as chronologically speaking those would be: Bennettsville, SC; Wingate, NC; Augusta, GA; Martinez, GA; Athens, AL,;Huntsville, AL; Elberton, GA; Sandersville, GA; Jimps, GA; Statesboro, GA; St, Matthews, SC; Orangeburg, SC; Boykin, SC; St. Croix, USVI; Florence, SC; Manning, SC; Cameron, SC; Augusta, GA; Buckhead, GA; Smyrna, GA; Marietta, GA; Boykin, SC; Kingsport, TN, and Bennettsville, SC.

But, hey, I travel light.

Anyway, they were great times and great adventures, one and all. And I learned. About life, and a whole lot of other stuff.

And speaking of learning and Christmas, I learned, for example, that the U.S. Virgin Islands basically celebrates Christmas for two weeks. For real. First on December 25, just like us, for the birth of the Christ child, then on December 26, for what they call “Boxing Day,” which goes back to the old days when tradesmen and sugar plantation workers would traditionally be given boxes containing gifts of extra wages, food, or clothing. Then again on January 6, “Three Kings Day,” which is supposedly when the Magi arrived to behold the baby Jesus. All three of these days remain official Virgin Island holidays and, in true island-style, they have unofficially figured to go ahead and celebrate all three sorta together, and just turn it into one big, long two-week party.

BTW: Did I mention rum is usually cheaper than water on most Caribbean islands? That two-week party makes more sense now, eh?

Anyway, for the better part of my adult life I’ve spent far more of my time away from Marlboro than in her caring arms, and sometimes that has hurt like nothing else can. There may be deeper pain, but there is no pain quite like missing home.

I say that to say this: Don’t miss a minute. Of anything.

Because I know of what I speak when I speak of missing something; take it from a guy who knows what is like to not be here and wish he was.

Because in all of those places, some of which were really fun spots with interesting and exciting people undertaking challenging projects, I always knew that no matter what the case, no matter how good things were nor how badly things had gotten, I always had Christmas in Marlboro County to save me, to look forward to, a date on the calendar that I knew would salvage me from whatever insanity I’d encountered on the roads of life, to re-center me to move forward.

Maybe it’s got something to do with getting old and decrepit – or just semi-senile and sappy, but Christmas seems to mean more to me with every passing year. And you know what? It really should.

Just read the last lines of that Andy Williams song:

When loved ones are near

It’s the most wonderful time

Yes the most wonderful time

Oh the most wonderful time

Of the year.”

“When loved ones are near.” What could possibly matter more?

I hope this is the most wonderful time of your year.

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