recess radio program

12/12/06
Christmas Stories
    by Ramona Caponegro

As someone who has always wanted "just one more story,"I spend a great deal of time each year reading books that are new -- at least to me. But, every December, I immerse myself once again in a collection of Christmas stories that are as familiar to me as the people with whom I share them and almost as dear. My collection of Christmas books, which continues to expand each year, holds my own ghosts of Christmases past, present, and even future. The crinkled pages of Clement Moore's Twas the Night Before Christmas attest to my third Christmas when my mother read the story and sang the songs printed on the book's leaves so often that I could recite the poem and lyrics by memory-and still can. And I continue to be delighted and a little embarrassed when I see the dog-eared pages of a personalized copy of a Rudolph story in which I -- and only I -- save Christmas by finding Santa's glasses, and I remember how sure I once was that I was the only child in the world to receive such a present from Santa.

I will also read A Christmas Carol again this year, remembering all of the special afternoons that I have spent attending stage productions of Dickens' classic tale with family and friends and anticipating this year's pilgrimage to do so again, although I am now old enough to attend an evening performance instead of a matinee. And, without fail, I will quote lines of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas to my father, who, like the Grinch, detests the noise and commotion of the holiday season, but, who, unlike the Grinch, has always known that the most important things about Christmas come without "ribbons...tags...packages, boxes, or bags."

Each year, I relive all of my Christmas memories in the books that accompany me through the season, and my Christmas canon expands as my holiday memories do. Within the last few years, very young friends have introduced me to Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby and Susan Wojciechowski's The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey. Now, as I read these books again, I am reminded of the toddler and the preschooler who my friends once were and of the grade schoolers who they have become, and I smile. And I make my Christmas wish: that the holiday books that hold my favorite memories of the season become so numerous that I have to begin reading them in November.

Copyright 2006 Ramona Caponegro

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."