by Ed Thompson
The frost nearly obscured the view through the tall windows of Ekstrand Elementary School. But nothing could obscure the clock high on the wall in Mrs. Hansen’s 5th grade class. It was nearly 3 o’clock. The bell would ring at 3:05, and school would be released in a symphony of children’s voices raised in celebration of two weeks of Christmas vacation. 3:05 came as it always does, right at 3:05. Never soon enough for a fidgety 11 year old boy whose Christmas vacation would be much more adventurous than previous Christmas breaks filled with snow fort construction, sledding parties at Springbrook Country Club, and opening presents on Christmas Day. Nope. This Christmas vacation, Mom and Dad would pick this lad and his two brothers up from school and leave directly for San Diego, California.
Grandpa and Grandma moved to California three years before and the boys hadn’t seen them that whole time. Even though the car trip took two days, their excitement never diminished. Along the way, they watched the snow-covered corn and bean fields of Iowa give way to the scattered oil pumps of Oklahoma and Texas (some were even decorated with Christmas lights) and their first look at real mountains in the New Mexico and Arizona desert until they finally saw the fabled sunshine of The Golden State.
Christmas came to San Diego much like it did everywhere else, with bright-eyed children and sleepy-eyed grown-ups laughing and loving as they tore through the paper on their carefully wrapped presents. But Christmas for the young boys didn’t end with just unwrapping gifts. There were side trips to Anaheim and Disneyland, to the ocean where humpbacked whales breached offshore, and to the apartment complex pool where three young boys from Iowa took a swim on Christmas Day.
Someone once asked me to tell about my best Christmas ever. That was the story I told them. But was it really my best Christmas ever? I must admit that after some thought, it was not. As memorable as that Christmas remains, there are others.
There was the first Christmas after the death of my youngest brother. Through the heartbreak, my family pulled together and found happiness and joy in each other’s hugs and kisses and shared memories of those who were absent, but were never far from us. Or the first Christmas with my fiancéwhen I presented her with an engagement ring wrapped in a tiny box held by a stuffed bear. There is even a Christmas, five years later when my wife presented me with a note saying we were expecting our second child! Yet, none of those happy days qualifies as my best Christmas yet.
For you see, each Christmas I see, grows more incredible, more wonderful, and more special, like a rare watch handed down from father to son. Each celebration adds another star to the sky that is my life.
To watch my daughter’s eye light up like a scrolling marquee when she sits on the mall Santa’s lap, to hear the innocent joy of the toy piano in Manheim Steamroller’s Stille Nacht, and to feel the warmth of an embrace from my dad even though he’s still a little uncomfortable with hugs adds brightness and light which I tuck away in a secret place to sustain me through times when shadow creeps up and threatens to consume me.
Christmastime is our most demanding time. But let it not be so demanding that we cannot take a small portion of our time to offer a word of thanks for our blessings.
From restless AE’s begging to turn an order in after the deadline to nervous clients requesting a small revision to their script, I thank you. You are my meat and milk.
I am grateful to my teammates, my assistant and my producers whose talents and friendship cause me to love my job as much as I love my work.
I am obliged to the publishers of this periodical and to those of you who read it. I have learned much from this magazine and I have made many friends around the world because of my association with it.
I offer my appreciation to my family. It is their love that inspires me to try to be better than I am.
And finally, my thanks to a God of my understanding whose loving sway has opened my heart, my mind and my eyes to see the joy and inspiration around me every day.
This Christmas, it is my hope and my prayer that Christmas finds you happy, joyous and free to be with the ones you love and who love you. In other words, I hope that this Christmas is YOUR best Christmas yet!