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Editor's note: This column first appeared on Christmas Eve 2015. It has been updated slightly as needed.

On a Saturday morning in the spring, I sat alone, having breakfast at Leo's in Hillcrest. A text came in from Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business and regular estate-sale scavenger.

She said she was at an estate sale looking quite possibly at the very item I'd written longingly about in my Christmas column.

She was maybe five blocks away. I hurried over.

Indeed, she'd found it.

There was brief discussion of estate-sale strategy. You could take a chance that the item wouldn't sell, in which case you could get it for less on Sunday afternoon.

I took no chance. Full price. Right now. Into my Jeep. Then into my attic--until it was time.

And now it is time.

At some point tonight, I will sit in a comfortable chair with a glass of red wine or eggnog or even a deeply warming splash of Jameson's.

I will turn off all lamps, overhead lights, smartphones, laptops and television sets. I hope to have the beagle Roscoe in my lap and the beagle Sophie at my feet.

I'd like Shalah to be nearby, pleased to behold my rare serenity.

Then, in the darkness, I will gaze upon, and lose myself in, the vintage six-foot aluminum Christmas tree in the corner, a wonder of glorious tackiness.

I will watch the patiently circling color wheel transform the shiny tinfoil of the tree to a calm deep blue and then a blazing yellow and then a shining green and then an understated red, and then back around.

I will listen for the brief grinding sound each time the wheel relentlessly reintroduces blue.

I will think of my childhood, of life at 10 to 12 in that flat-topped, four-room house at the end of a graveled lane in southwest Little Rock. I will remember a tree just like this one, and a permanently creaking color wheel that I recall as bigger and better than this modern online discovery.

I will be returned to that hardwood floor of the mid-1960s, flat on my stomach, face propped on elbows, deep in my happy certainty that this aluminum tree--framed by a picture window outlined in blinking lights--was surely the most magnificent among all monuments of the season.

I will remember the happiness and safety of those Christmas seasons--of, in fact, an entire childhood. I will be thankful for the hardworking and low-income parents who provided that happy and safe childhood, and the little fundamentalist church that nurtured it, and the public school that educated it, and the community that encouraged it, and the backyard that was a field of dreams--a baseball park, a football stadium, a basketball arena, a golf course.

It was there I threw and caught the passes, even punted high and ran to make the fair catch. It was there that I provided the roar of the crowd and the play-by-play announcing and color commentary, which tended to be quite laudatory of my performance.

I'll remember concocting a baseball card for myself, one with impressive statistics and a brief biography that included the nickname: "Fly Ball Brummett." And I'll remember my dad telling me you don't want to hit fly balls, boy, because they get caught for outs. And I'll remember explaining to him that fly balls sent airborne by "Fly Ball Brummett" arced like gentle bombs to distant places that no one could catch.

He said I was talking about line drives. I said these go higher than that.

We'd argue that way, and more seriously, for a few more years. Then each of us would realize that the other warranted more regard. We got along with a steadily strengthening connection after that.

Then cigarettes took him much too young, at my age, 64. Then my mom gave me his cufflinks and tie clasp that Christmas. I fled the room teary, much as he'd fled the room that time I coaxed enough Okinawa memories out of him that he mentioned "Sarge."

So, after a half-hour or so of tinfoiled hypnosis, I'll head to bed. And I'll think about going to the nursing home tomorrow to see Mom. I'll find out if she remembers the aluminum tree of our happy little '60s home.

She won't.

She'll more likely remember the very thing I spent Christmas Eve remembering--the safety and happiness of childhood.

By what they call "cognitive decline," she spends much of her time now lost in her own gaze upon her own childhood Christmas tree, metaphorically speaking.

There are far worse places to be.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 12/24/2017

Print Headline: A vintage Christmas

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