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JOHN BRUMMETT: Glorious nostalgia

by John Brummett | December 24, 2019 at 7:01 a.m.

Editor's note: This is a revised and updated version of a column first appearing Christmas Eve 2015.

On a Saturday morning that spring, I sat alone, having breakfast at Leo's in Hillcrest. A text came in from Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business and regular estate-sale scavenger.

She said she was at that moment looking quite possibly at the very item I'd written longingly about in a Christmas column.

She was at an estate sale at a house maybe five blocks away. I hurried over and went upstairs.

Indeed, she'd found it, or, more precisely, one very much like it.

There was a brief discussion of estate-sale strategy. You could take a chance that the item wouldn't sell, in which case you could get it for less on Sunday afternoon.

I took no chance. Full price. Right now. Into my Jeep. Then into the attic--until it was time.

And now it is time.

If all goes according to tradition this evening, at or about midnight, I will sit in a comfortable chair next to a deeply warming splash of Jameson.

I will turn off all lamps, overhead lights, smartphones, laptops and television sets. I will gather the beagles Roscoe and Sophie at my feet.

Shalah will be nearby, pleased to behold my rare serenity.

In the darkness, I will gaze upon, and lose myself in, that vintage 6-foot aluminum Christmas tree, circa '65, in the corner, a wonder of glorious nostalgia and tackiness.

I will watch the slow-circling color wheel transform the shiny tinfoil of the tree to a calm deep blue and then a peaceful yellow and then a shining green and then an understated red, and then back around.

I will listen for the brief clicking sound each time the wheel reintroduces blue.

I will escape to my childhood, to life at 10 to 12 in that flat-topped, four-room house at the end of a graveled lane in southwest Little Rock.

I will recall a tree like this one, and a permanently creaking color wheel a little bigger and better than this modern online discovery.

I will return to that hardwood floor of the mid-1960s, flat on my stomach, eyes fixed, deep in my happy certainty that this exotic aluminum tree--framed by a picture window outlined in blinking lights--was surely the most magnificent among all monuments of the season.

I will remember the happiness and safety of those 1960s Christmas seasons--of, in fact, an entire childhood.

I will be thankful for the hardworking and low-income parents who provided that happy and safe childhood, and the little fundamentalist church that nurtured it, and the public school that educated it, and the community that encouraged it, and the backyard that was a field of dreams--a baseball park, a football stadium, a basketball arena, a golf course.

It was there that I threw and caught the passes, even punted high and ran to make the fair catch.

It was there I provided the roar of the crowd and the play-by-play announcing and color commentary.

I will remember concocting a baseball card for myself, one with impressive statistics and a brief biography that included the nickname: "Fly Ball Brummett."

I will remember my dad telling me that you don't want to hit fly balls, boy, because they get caught for outs. And I explained to him that fly balls sent airborne by "Fly Ball Brummett" arced like gentle bombs to distant places that no one could reach.

He said I was talking about line drives. I said these go higher than that.

We'd argue that way, and more seriously, for a few more years, and then each of us would realize that the other was smarter than we had thought.

Then we got along pretty well.

Cigarettes took him much too young, younger by two years than I am now. My mom gave me his cuff-links and tie clasp that Christmas. I fled the room teary, much as he'd fled the room that Sunday afternoon when I coaxed enough Okinawa memories out of him that he mentioned "Sarge."

After a half-hour or so of tin-foiled hypnosis, I will head to bed. And I will think about Mom, now in a long-term care facility with what they call "cognitive decline," and whether she remembers if only for a fleeting moment that aluminum tree and color wheel of our cozy little home.

It's more likely that she remembers instead the very thing I'd spent those moments remembering--the safety and happiness of childhood, her own, which is where she spends most of her time now.

There are far worse places to be.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 12/24/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Glorious nostalgia


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