Most of us love Christmas. Not the overdone, everything-but-the-baby-Jesus-Christmas, but the sounds and the smells and the overall goodwill that seems to seep through every nook and cranny at that time of year.
Sadly though, we often fall into that oh-so-familiar trap of overpromising, overextending, overspending, over-everything. There’s just nothing simple about the holidays for most of us.
Governor Huckabee makes the point that Christmas and all its traditions represent consistency in a world of uncertainty and confusion. It’s the sameness we relish. (Unless, as he describes, it’s about HAVING TO HAVE Ambrosia at dinner every year.) What’s really important is to have “A Simple Christmas.” More importantly, it’s about living and appreciating a simple life all year long.
A Simple Christmas is a sometimes funny, sometimes tender, sometimes a “tear-in-the-corner-of-your-eye” collection of stories. The governor wraps his recollections into chapters with one-word titles such as “Sacrifice,” “Loneliness,” “Hope,” and “Stability,” to name a few.
Sometimes, the stories are howlingly funny. Chapter 4 gives a play-by-play description of Gov. Huckabees’s extended family, strikingly similar to the relatives we all have and wish, in many cases, we could stash in the broom closet when our “respectable” friends come to call.
The governor’s description of his father accidently sticking his finger in a Christmas tree light bulb socket is priceless. I’ve never seen a swear word spelled quite that way before. Chapter 4 screams “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” sequel. (Note to governor: Call Chevy Chase and collaborate. We are long overdue!)
You can’t help thinking of your own history as you read this book.
I couldn’t help thinking of the Christmas I had in 1976, when I was a newlywed who had just moved to Hagerstown, Md. My former husband, who lacked patience with a capital-P, and I, with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, went shopping for a tree.
We selected a beauty. Too bad it was about 4-5 feet longer than my 2-door, shiny yellow 1975 Camaro.
After more calculations than NASA performs prior to putting a man into orbit, we managed to get the tree into the car, with a healthy portion sticking out the front window. (That was one cold ride home).
Upon arriving, we found the tree was also too wide and tall to fit through our front door. My then-husband, doing his best “Frosty Goes Berserk” imitation, stood in the front yard of our townhouse community, cursing, chopping off a foot, and then another foot, until the tree was finally short enough to fit through the door of our townhouse. (No wonder the Kranks just wanted to get out of town.)
We decorated the tree. It looked great. And three days later, all the needles turned brown and fell off. It looked like a tree that had gone through one of those California wildfires. Only this time, the wildfire’s name was Ed.
Yes, we all have our stories. And the governor has some great ones.
If you’ve ever lost a loved one, or provided care for one during a health crisis, his story of Uncle Garvin will tug at your heartstrings. With love and affection and frankness, Gov. Huckabee recalls his family taking his bachelor uncle in after a fatal diagnosis, their last Christmas with him, and the care they provided until his death.
Along the way, Gov. Huckabee spins a sort of Christmas magic with his tales of much-wanted gifts such as footballs and guitars and, years later, new babies and new houses, all intertwined in some way with the holiday season.
A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS is, to me, a Christmas classic in the making. In times of discord or confusion, classics comfort. They provide a chuckle or a sense of hope. They bring back memories, sometimes happy, sometimes not. They’re a safe port in a storm . . . or a welcome respite from reality. A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS is just that.
Often, when I’m finished reading a book, I give it to a friend or donate it to a shelter. Not this one. It’s a keeper, tucked safely on my bookshelf until next Christmas.
And so, here’s my Christmas wish:
Please give everyone a copy of Gov. Huckabees book, A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS. Perhaps then there will really be Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and Women . . . and the hope of A Simple Christmas.
Whether you read this book in January or November or June, the message is a good one. Slow down. Enjoy life. Appreciate what you have. And take time to savor the good times and good friends. A great message any time of the year.