Part four of four

As the years go by, new Christmas customs are introduced and some of the old ones are dropped. For example, we no longer light the tree with real candles. The old style electrical string lights, where the whole string went dark if just one bulb burned out has also been replaced with those that stay lit. And now we have low operating cost LED lights that theoretically could last for eons.

Some of the artificial greens and trees look so real it's hard telling them from the real McCoy. I've seen wreaths that had me fooled to the point I purposely got close enough, not to feel, but to sniff them.

Two things that haven't changed, thank the Good Lord, are that wonderful custom of giving and keeping hallow the reason for the season. And what better promoter of giving than that of the jolly ol' elf from way up north. As our son, the late Jimmy Bock, and our daughter, Wendy Wilson, grew from childhood to young adults, we always bought a gift for Santa to personally deliver, thanks to the benevolence of the Portage Lakes Kiwanis.

One year I took a close up photo of Wendy sitting on Santa's lap while still in the sleigh. She could not have been more than four. We still have it and treasure it each December. As the kids matured, there is one custom we continued. That was to select and cut down our own tree each year.

On route 800 south of Canton between the Crossroads Restaurant and Carrollton is a huge Christmas tree farm. They raise just about every kind of evergreen tree you can imagine, including our favorite; Douglas Firs. On a Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my wife, Peggy, would fill the Crock Pot with home made chili and the thermoses with hot chocolate, and with some of Jimmy's friends, namely Kevin Adkins, Dano Mundy and others, we'd all hightail it to the Christmas tree farm.

We laugh at it now, but at the time it seemed as if every kid found the “perfect” tree. That is until they spotted another “perfect” tree. If I were to have cut down everyone they selected, first, I would've needed a huge trailer to haul them home, and secondly, I would've gone broke.

Half way through the day Peggy would serve her homemade chili and hot chocolate while the kids argued over which tree was the most “perfect.” Soon they were off for another round of searching and they loved it. Toward the end of the day they narrowed it down to two; one that Jimmy selected and the other that Wendy chose. Not knowing whose tree belonged to whom, I made the final selection and Jimmy would cut it down. One year it would be Wendy's choice and another, Jimmy's. When Jimmy started college, Wendy became the tree cutter and was just as proud as an NBC peacock.

Each year since the late 1970s, about a week before the big day, a group of us, led by Dano Mundy, would go caroling around the neighborhood. Dano still gets a group together every Christmas and carols the neighborhoods. And the shut-ins love it. Finally, we'd close out Christmas Eve with church services and more caroling. And then have Christmas Eve dinner at Peggy's mother's home.

Until the kids grew up, we never opened presents until Christmas morning. Once they left home, Peggy and I became like little kids once again. We'd get antsy and claim we couldn't wait 'til the 25th. But we knew if the kids found out, we'd have Christmas morning egg all over our faces. So instead, at exactly one minute after midnight on Christmas morning, we'd open out presents.

Here's hoping your Christmas was a blessed and merry one and your New Year happy and prosperous!

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