Christmas is a time for reflection. At least always has been for me in my adult years. When I was a very young adult not yet married, I loved Christmas Eve. I still lived at home, but I worked and I had my own car. I would save my money and go shopping on Christmas Eve. Oak Harbor was a lot different then, it only had one main street, Pioneer Way, and the stores were built out over the water on the South side. These were the old style buildings with wooden floors and high false fronts. The Christmas lights would be strung zig-zag from one side of the street to the other.
There were not many stores of note in town, there was the Co-op which later became the Pioneer Dept store, which carried EVERYTHING including piece goods. There was the shoe store, 3 drug stores, a coast to coast hardware store and two dime stores. That was just about it. None of these big box stores, and no strip malls. This was the mid 60’s, and we were a sleepy little town. I would buy a gift for all of my friends, even though it wasn’t much, a hanky or a scarf or a box of dusting powder. It did not matter. I felt so good about being able to save money and do this.
I would get all my shopping done, then go home and wrap the gifts. I always went to Christmas Eve Services at the Methodist Church, and gave all my gifts to my friends there. After Church services, we would have a cup of hot cocoa, and then head home to wait for “Santa”.
We lived in Coupeville, and my bedroom was on the second floor of an old Victorian home. It looked out over the field to the county courthouse. The County Christmas Tree was right in front of the courthouse, and was kept lit all the time day and night. Late at night I would sit there un my window seat and stare off into the dark night and look at the tree. I would then think back at how far I had come in my life, and how much farther I had to go to be where I wanted to be.
By this time, Mom had found her way to the bottom of a bottle, and was usually passed out in her chair. Dad worked 24 hrs at a time on the Crash Crew on Base, so it was up to Phyllis and I to make sure that Santa came for Michael. We would then head to bed and wait for him to wake us up in the morning. He was 8 or 9, and would be excited to see what was under the tree. When Dad got home at 830 in the morning, we were allowed to open our presents and empty our stockings which somehow magically got filled. Had to be Santa, because neither Phyllis nor I did it, and Mom was still passed out in her chair. Never did figure that out.
The quietness of the night sitting in that window seat remains with me still. The tree at the court house is gone now, and was not replaced. The County offices have taken over Coupeville, and Oak Harbor has become a hustle bustle place with three main roads all crammed full of strip malls and big box stores. We still have to go off Island to the mall, in Mt. Vernon, but we can find just about everything we need on the island. Everything that is except the community tree. There is no place in either town that you can call THE tree, that is all lit up and carols sung around it anymore. That has gone away. Every store has it’s own decorations, but there is no town center any more. No where to gather and have community sing alongs. It is as if everyone does their own thing and could care less about being a part of a whole. They all go to their different churches, and then home. No more neighborhood parties, no more caroling down the middle of the street. No more taking cookies to your neighbor’s houses. Where did it all go? When I sit there on Christmas eve and the nights leading up to it, with all the lights out except for the tree and the radio is on to Classical King FM and the non-stop Christmas music, I sometimes can hear the past calling out to anyone who would listen…”stop, people, STOP! Look around you, reflect on what you once had…grab that feeling with both hands and do not let go.” It would sure be nice wouldn’t it?