July 20th, 2024

Another Christmas season is upon us

By Lethbridge Herald on December 22, 2023.

Al Beeber – managing editor

Christmas is almost upon us. In three more days, kids of all ages will be sitting around the Christmas tree opening gifts and enjoying the merriment of the season.

I’m not a Christmas kind of person but this will be one of the rare Christmases I’m not in the office working on the 25th – at least for long.  I’ll be at LSCO doing a story on their annual dinner so will probably pop in here for only an hour or so.

Having  part of an extra day off is something I need – I’m here at my desk five days a week by 6 a.m. at the latest and often don’t leave until at least 5 p.m. or later. Not that I’ll be sleeping in at all on Christmas Day with Ben dog and new arrival Izzy and their routines. 

Eleven-year-old Ben is accustomed to his 5 a.m. walks and kelpie/Australian stumpy-tailed cattle dog Izzy – bundle of energy that she is – always is the first at the door in the morning to go for a car ride.

She’s caught on quickly to the daily routine and now puts on the sad eyes just as convincingly as Ben when I walk out the door. She also wrecks stuff to spite me when I’m away too long.

 So Christmas morning we’ll all be hanging together briefly and I know Izzy – with her penchant for chewing – will be having as much fun as any human kid would.

Inevitably when Christmas nears, I think back to my first in Ontario when members of the high school sports teams and the cheerleading squad surprised me by walking into my apartment and cleaning it spotlessly while I was at work on Christmas Eve. Everyone knew where I lived and I never locked my doors – not that I had anything to steal with just a sofa, an air mattress and a radio along with a typewriter for personal belongings – and I was absolutely floored at the kindness of these kids who I’d only met just a few months earlier.

I’ll never forget the kindness of one of the high school quarterbacks, Mike Cameron, who stopped by on Christmas night to see if I was doing OK alone.  He did the same thing my second Christmas and I still occasionally keep in touch with him and his dad Jack, a high school vice principal whose wife Elsie used to man-perm my hair when that became a thing.

Of course, I’ve probably told this story in previous columns along with many others but being a senior now – which is really hard to write – I find myself getting more nostalgic these days. 

As we age, we do tend to look fondly back on old times, even if those times weren’t so great. But in my childhood in the Sixties and Seventies, we had tinsel on real trees, delicate glass ornaments that looked like works of art and huge lights that probably used enough electricity to power a small house. It was a gentler, kinder time with real winters and family traditions that remained intact despite household turmoil. Christmas Eve at our house was always seafood night with fried oysters that I wouldn’t touch, and a smorgasbord of other fishy delights more to my liking.

In my later teens, Christmas Day was spent at the feedlot, giving meds to ill cattle, checking for frozen water troughs and occasionally getting fresh straw to lay as a bed for a newborn calf. 

I especially reminisce about the Eighties, the era of spandex, man perms and hair metal, the Eighties which is my favourite decade of all.

The Eighties were something special. Maybe because for me it’s the decade I felt I finally fit in – maybe it’s because I was a young adult in my 20s, experiencing so many things for the first time like ice-fishing, water-skiing, riding motorcycles helmetless in Minnesota and playing in bonspiels in Wisconsin. And if you haven’t done it, I can tell you nothing in summer is more fun than tubing down the Apple River in Wisconsin on a hot summer day with thousands of others. It was the era of MuchMusic and MTV which changed forever the way we thought about music.

To this day, my Sirius/XM app on the phone is packed with Eighties channels featuring bands such as Krokus, XYZ (Dale Woodard can tell you about them), John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (remember the film “Eddie and The Cruisers?”), the B-52s, Danger Danger, Psychedelic Furs, Van Halen, The Bangles, Poison, REO Speedwagon, W.A.S.P, Billy Squier and Missing Persons, whose song “Walking in L.A.” always makes me think of Lethbridge. If you’ve never heard of them,  Thunder and Michael Monroe along with his band Hanoi Rocks are always worth a listen, too.

All remind me of those halcyon times, which I’ll treasure forever, along with all the friends I made during those years.

And this weekend, as I celebrate the season with family and neighbours, the Ontario crew will be on my mind along with some great friends from high school – a few I occasionally still see and others who I still have the pleasure of calling friends so many decades after we went our separate ways.

And that’s another special part of about Christmas – it’s a chance to connect, reconnect and share cherished memories with people who had a positive impact on our lives.

As Christmas approaches, I wish the best to you and all of yours. Let’s all put strife and turmoil and worries and fears behind us this weekend and celebrate the season with peace and harmony. . . and maybe a little Poison cranking out loud enough to rattle the windows because it’s time for  “Nothing but a good time!”

THANK YOU TO A READER: Just want to give a quick shout-out to a new friend I met recently at Riverstone Dog Park who was introduced to me by Ryan Parker’s mom, one of the park regulars with her dog Annie.

Ninety-three-year-old Werner has long read my columns and I was happy to meet him. And I’ll try to spice things up a bit and get back to some of my old-style columns in the future for him and others who have noticed I’ve been toning things down since I took over my new role.

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Merry Christmas Al! Merry Christmas to all your great staff as well and to all the readers!
We are pretty lucky living here when we look at all the world events today!