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Music often can define and express an event or feeling for us more fully than the most eloquent words. Our spirits respond to the melodic or thundering sounds that reach our ears quicker than they do to any spoken words. Words are necessary, and can move us in many ways; but words alone fail to make our toes tap, heads nod or spirits soar or weep as involuntarily as music does.

Music, for me, is the background of Christmas. Without it, the annual holiday seems to be a little less joyous and unique. A day different from all other days. A day that provides a reason and path for the other 364 that follow.

That’s why I so love the many cantatas and musical programs that are performed this time of year. Even more, I relish the offerings of local churches and groups.

The previous weekend I was again entranced by the performance of “The Merry Christmas Show” provided by the Young People’s Performing Arts Theater accompanied by an entire volunteer entourage of talented and enthusiastic adults. I normally don’t single out one act or one performer, but Jorgen “Yon” Wibskov’s solo of “Believe” moved me to tears. Yon has been a memorable part of this particular program longer than any other person. Since starting in 1983, he has appeared in nearly every performance through 2017. His voice is a marvelous addition to the chorus and a gift to everyone who hears it.

Then this past Sunday I enjoyed a “double feature” - the Christmas Cantata at the Memorial United Methodist Church in the morning and then the Christmas Musical at the First Baptist Church in the evening. Stellar performances by both groups were enhanced by the accompaniment of orchestras.

That’s the lovely thing about our community and most small communities: there is an abundance of willing and enthusiastic people to be found who come forward to share their time and various talents to organize, plan, aid, inspire and/or entertain when needed. And all on a volunteer basis. What would our world be like without them? They each deserve our heartfelt thanks.

Even as I write this column about the generosity and pleasure found in our town and country as they are today, I think back to some of the things from the past and “the way we were” that I still miss; particularly at this time of year.

I miss the garlands that were strung over the downtown streets; seeing both sides of the streets lined with cars and the sidewalks filled with shoppers.

I miss the hustle and bustle of a busy main streets as shoppers hurried in and out of the many stores and businesses to purchase gifts and goodies. I miss hearing the happy call of “Merry Christmas” as shoppers paused to exchange pleasantries with friends and acquaintances and received from shopkeepers and clerks.

I miss the fun and anticipation of seeing the seasonal displays and decorations in our downtown store windows—and the annual treat of going to view the magnificent animated displays in the windows of the large department stores in downtown St. Louis (Yes, Virginia, downtown St. Louis was once a shopping Mecca!): Famous Barr; Stix, Baer and Fuller and Scruggs Vandervort quickly come to mine. Dads would hoist their young children to their shoulders so they could get a better view of mesmerizing scenes. I wonder what became of all of those beautiful old objects that were used to create these delightful displays?

I miss the visits from Christmas carolers who made their rounds throughout the town to stop in front of various homes and sing the well-known songs of the season and the sound of their voices calling “Merry Christmas” and trailing off into the night as they went on to their next stop.

I miss the arrival of the annual Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog that we would pour over until the pages were tattered and worn: the many items that were hopefully marked as gifts we longed for. We would linger over those catalogs for hours at a time. Visions of sugar plums never danced in our heads at night, but rather visions of the many treasures found in the pages of Sears Roebuck.

I miss going to the woods with my dad to select the perfect tree for our living room. I miss the smell of the cedars and pines and the sound of the ax as the tree was felled. Then the trudge back to the car towing the tree that would soon be in our home decorated with lights and ornaments. I miss the wonder of seeing my first strand of bubble lights that my mom splurged on one year.

Most of all I miss the sense of oneness, familiarity and neighborliness of that downtown of the past.

Yes, I am proud of the fact that our downtown has managed to remain a viable and attractive place, unlike so many other small towns. I applaud our businesses and shop owners who have stayed the course, kept the faith, and continue to offer goods and services in spite of the ever-increasing reliance of on-line shopping.

Somehow, for me at least, ordering an item through a televised or on-line shopping program just doesn’t hold the same excitement and pleasure as walking into a shop and being greeted by the clerk or owner and wandering through store to admire and inspect the merchandise first-hand.

Even the tattered old Sears Roebuck catalog brought far more pleasure and anticipation than the sterile on-line ordering of today. Just saying….

That being said…. I sincerely wish each and every one of you and old fashioned “Merry Christmas” and a New Year filled with peace, good health, happiness and at least one visit to a small store where you are greeted with a welcoming smile and a live person saying, “How may I help you?”

Cheers until 2018!

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