Every year around this time, I start looking for Christmas.
I never know when or where it might occur. Some years, if one of those rougher ones, I wonder if it ever will occur.
But somehow it always does.
By “looking,” I refer, of course, not to all the outward trimmings of the season — the orbs, tinsel, packages under the tree, all the lights of Kool-Aid colors — but instead the more subtle, all-but-unnoticed moments that occur in a flash.
Like the other afternoon.
I was wheeling down Washington Street, late for an appointment, when I saw a family unloading themselves in front of Clare House, the local food pantry. Each was armed with a bag or box of stuff to carry in.
In an instructive manner, mom was directing the troops and dad was reaching for another box deep in the back of the van, bending over in a rather unceremonious fashion, showing either his worst side or at least his burgundy boxers.
As I quickly passed, suddenly I realized something.
I’d just seen Christmas.
Couple evenings before, I’d overheard the story of a neighbor, Jane Scott Beck, who each year corrals her grandkids, Logan, Dawson and Kate, into a car and sets out on an annual grandma-grandkids ritual — driving the neighborhoods and looking at all the lights, until the kidlings decide which is the best. That’s when they walk up to that home’s door, ring the bell, introduce themselves and then give a bag of candy to the unknown set of total strangers.
“Soooo fun,” said Jane, “especially for the man of the house who had put up all the lights.”
As I heard the story, suddenly I realized: Ah … Christmas.
Then, there is the story, floating one afternoon in the newsroom, of 7-year-old Lauryn Stevens, a normal kid who was doing something rather surprising.
For her birthday, rather than getting another batch of stuff for herself, she asked only for money from relatives and pals so they could all go out and, as part of her celebration, use the birthday money to buy Toys for Tots for everyone else.
As I say, Christmas is all around us but, as I have discovered, only if you really look, study, admire.
This year, I even broadened my search into an “animal division.”
Seems each year Casey Kohlmeier, a Pontiac K9 police officer, has a holiday gathering for friends and his police dog partner, officer Draco.
Draco is a Belgian Malinois and excellent at his job but, you know, like other dogs, he’s just a dog.
He gets left out when it comes to fun and games at humanly events, except to maybe eat what’s left on the floor.
Except that is, at Christmas.
That when, as part of Kohlmeier’s gathering, a few friends, like Sadie Brommer (she bought Draco his very first custom-made protective vest five years ago) and Julie Philpott, wrap Draco “tons of presents” and at a specific party moment, put them out and then have a blast themselves, simply watching Draco tear them open and play with all his new stuff.
“It’s always Draco’s Day and he always has a ball,” says Sadie. “I guess I find that kindness to animals is always rewarded with love — unconditional love.”
And a good time?
That’s a photo of Draco after his party the other afternoon, on the couch, legs straight up. This year, Draco had such a wondrous time that, 20 minutes later, he was out like a Christmas candle with, as you might notice, a slight grin also washed across his face.
As some poet once said, “Christmas shows up when you least expect it, at odd times and strange places, in tastes and smells and sights, in the promise of a baby, the laughter of children or the joy that is seen in sorrow.”
Or, in Draco, too.
In all his glory, he had just found Christmas.
Bill Flick is at firstname.lastname@example.org