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Observing long-standing tradition is a good thing. It provides comfort, a feeling of stability in a rapidly changing world. However, tradition followed with unyielding rigidity can blind us to new opportunities and pleasures. In short, it can become synonymous with being in a rut.

When I was 10 years old I asked my parents for a pair of walkie-talkies for Christmas.  My friend Randy and I were planning on protecting the neighborhood by going out on reconnaissance missions, not really knowing what "reconnaissance" meant, but in every war movie we watched whoever went on one had a walkie-talkie.

We lived on a farm with a barnyard full of animals when I was young, but moved to a small subdivision where no farm animals were allowed when I was twelve. Mama often talked about how much she missed the farm and the animals, but sadly accepted that she would not have that life again. On that first Christmas Eve at the new house, our family gathered for our traditional family dinner and gift exchange. Most of the family was in the kitchen when my brother burst through the door, breathless and wild eyed.

On Hubbard Street, situated in the heart of Concord Massachusetts, is an old brick house with black shutters. In this house on Hubbard Street, lived a mouse by the name of Margaret. Margaret lived with her Mother, her father the carpenter, and her younger brother Maxwell. Margaret and Max were so close in age that they quickly became best friends. Margaret and Max spent all of their time together. They would take swimming lessons together at Walden Pond and ice skating in the winter. They loved catching games at Fenway Park.

“No, I’m not going to put up a Christmas tree this year. After more than 70 years of Christmas trees, I think I can take a break. When the children come over for dinner, I’ll just put out a nice little table with a red cloth and they can put their gifts there. As for me, I don’t need anything anyway, except maybe a box of Belgium chocolates. In any case, my gifts to them are mostly in small envelopes these days. No need to have a tree just to have a place to put gifts.”

Somehow, around the Christmas holiday, I still recall a story that my father verbally recounted to me when I was a young teenager in the seventies.
Once upon a Christmas Eve, Lindsey, Caitlyn, Anna and Kali, were off to Grandmother Ruby's house for a noon gathering with all the family bringing food and gifts. As we drove away, we waved merrily to Amelia and Lily, our two King Charles Cavalier spaniels who stood watching from the window.

Five friends find the gift of Christmas is in the giving

Five Children stood at the entrance to the park early Christmas morning. Three girls, Katelyn, Maddison and Isabella or Kay, Maddie, and Izzy as they are known to their friends, stood on one side of the wheelbarrow. Two boys, Nick and Eddie stood on the other side. In the wheelbarrow laid a pile of Christmas presents. "Do you think this is enough," asked Maddie.
It started with a phone call in mid-November. Between jobs, I was temping at a county workforce development office. The caller was almost in panic mode. She hired the staff for Santa photos in malls in our area. A manager had resigned; she needed a replacement right away. I asked what the job entailed — managing the staff, hiring elves, taking photos of children, running the stage area, scheduling, timesheets and bank deposits. “I can do all that,” I said. And so it began.

My Santa story begins many years ago, when Prince Frederick was just a small, simple friendly town with just one shopping center. At this Christmas season it needed a Santa and this Santa needed a job. Santa’s job began on Saturday evenings in a trailer in the shopping center’s parking lot, where the children come to sit on his lap, and for a small fee they could have their picture taken with Santa.