Weekend essay: A Christmas epiphany

Weekend essay: A Christmas epiphany

December 1975. The week before Christmas. A midnight stomach ache grew into a debilitating abdominal pain well before dawn’s first light. Dad called the family doctor.
“Yes,” I could hear Dad say. “Lower right side. OK … . We’ll go straight to the admissions desk; see you there shortly.”


Bum appendixes appear to have an affinity for arriving at the most inconvenient times. Winter track practice? Not this year. There was shopping and cleaning to do, too. And, as the cook of the house – at all of 17 years old — a big meal to plan for 16 people. Ugh!


And it also was in short order that a hate-love relationship began with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.


The surgery went fine; there were no complications. Not long after being wheeled from recovery, the refrains of the movie “White Christmas,” from the roommate’s TV, roused me. It was nice to have something Christmassy to help regain one’s bearings.


Unfortunately, it was part of a “White Christmas” marathon. As the fourth-straight airing ended – and knowing a dozen more were to come — “Never again” was sworn. But a funny thing happened on the way to maturity.


Flipping the channels in the run up to Christmas 1980, the end of “White Christmas” was come upon. It was the part where Gen. Waverly’s old charges surprise him with a Christmas Eve fete at his struggling Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vt.


They came from all over the country, but mostly New England. Some left their families. Others brought them along. And as “Der Bingle” reminded those he implored to come, such a last-minute trip certainly was “no bargain.”


But travel they did, by the scores, and the usually empty inn’s dining room was packed. The power of the sentiment — truly giving of one’s self to aid another — was overwhelming.


The throat tightened. The tears flowed. For a young man just finding his way in the world, it was a Christmas epiphany.


Bing and the gang have been in excellent standing ever since. Not a Christmas season goes by without at least a few viewings. In fact, there might be one or two this weekend as a magnificent Douglas fir is trimmed next to a low fire and smells of holiday cookies baking in the oven fill the air.


And, yes, just in case you’re wondering — the tears will flow anew when the general enters that room full of old comrades in arms and the members of his former unit come to “Attention!” — personally delivering the best Christmas gift that neither he nor a young man far removed ever could have imagined.


Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).