I was driving home this evening and saw some one's yard lit up with tiny lights on their trees and bushes. Believe it or not, it's that time of year once again, the Holiday Season.
It's the middle of November and here in Utah (home of the "Greatest Snow on Earth") the temperature was in the low 50's today and there is no snow on the ground. Thanksgiving (falling late in the month this year) is less than two weeks away. Christmas is close on its heels.
The stock market took another downturn today, retail sales figures for October were released showing the worst sales decline in 40 years. One company filed for bankruptcy and another warned its investors that sales in November and December will be dismal. Everyone wants a piece of the $700 billion bailout package and the government doesn't seem to have a clue as to what to do with it.
It COULD be a gloomy holiday season- but, it doesn't HAVE to be.
There will be no cars or boats in the driveway of my house on Christmas morning. The latest MP3 player or 56" flat panel LCD television may not be lying under the tree wrapped in festive paper. Appliances and jewelry may not find a place under those green boughs either. But, one thing certainly will.
Books. And that dispels the gloom.
As long as I can remember Christmas in my 39 years, there have always been books. Picture books when I was young, science fiction and adventure books when I was a teen, and mystery, history and biography as an adult. Those gifts from so long ago are with me now as I write this, surrounding me on my library shelves.
"The Hole Book," one of my favorites from the time my parents read it to me was given for Christmas when I was eight. I was thirteen when Santa slipped "Have Space Suit, Will Travel" into my stocking. Fourteen when I received "Dune." A autographed copy of "The Sign of the Book" came to me just a few years ago.
Yet, as I look around me, many things from those Christmases past are missing- clothes, piles and piles of them; the hand-held electronic football, basketball and hockey games long since went to the landfill; my Sony Walkman was tossed when cassette tapes became obsolete. Shoes have worn out, game pieces have been lost (or eaten by the dog), chocolates and hard candies quickly disappeared within days. But, books. My books remain with me.
No matter the economic times, good or bad, books are always a part of my Christmas. They are as valuable to me now, and more so, as when I unwrapped them on those cold winter mornings. They are some of the few presents that have come with me through my childhood, into the teen years, and on to marriage and children. They have helped define me, educate me, and entertain me. Year after year. Try getting that from a pair of socks or an iPod.
There is no assembly required late into the night on Christmas Eve. No batteries to be forgotten. No pieces to go missing. No "next generation" to make them go obsolete.
In times like these, when we watch every penny, books make the greatest gifts, because for every penny you invest in a book your dividends are years of joy and appreciation.