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» Tuesday, December 24, 2002
A Christmas Story
I am a collector of good Christmas specials as well as of books about the holiday (not crafts or recipes, the holiday itself), but most of my favorites are the older things from my childhood, specials like Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, etc.
Some of my favorite tales are the Christmas stories they did on Lassie during the Timmy era, in 1958, 1960, 1961, and 1963. But I thought they were all merely heartwarming or fanciful tales until this year.
The 1963 Christmas outing for Lassie and Timmy was "Lassie's Gift of Love," a two-part story about Timmy's project to feed wild animals during the Christmas season. He's helped in this endeavor by Mr. Nicholson, an elderly man who mends toys and who volunteers to chip in to help with the Toy Roundup, which will give toys to children in the hospital on Christmas Day.
Mr. Nicholson is an odd fellow, even in the Lassie universe; even Paul Martin comments about it. He travels about in a wagon pulled by a donkey named Holly--and when he's around strange and wonderful things seem to happen. Wild animals become unafraid, and lost things are found again.
Obviously a man like that doesn't exist. I beg to differ. I met Mr. Nicholson this year, right downtown in Marietta Square. I didn't see him, but I met him.
Every year Hallmark did a Star Trek Enterprise ornament, we seemed to miss out. One year it was no money, another we waited until too late. I suppose James could have trolled about e-Bay for one, but we never could afford the horrendous prices.
This year was going to be different. The ornament, from the Enterprise series, came out the weekend of November 15. We were going to buy it. No waiting until the last minute, or until Hallmark put their ornaments 40% off.
Wouldn't you know that weekend was the definition of "busy," and then next weekend was the same?
The weekend after Thanksgiving, then, found us on a fruitless search for the Enterprise ornament. We started at a little hole-in-the-wall Hallmark store, one James figured wouldn't have been stripped. Was he wrong! Not only was Enterprise gone, but almost everything else, too, even all the American Girls ornaments and the Arthur and D.W cookie ornament I'd thought was cute.
The saleslady was wonderful. She called around to several other stores in the area. No dice. Every Enterprise had gone. She told us they had not been sent a lot in the first place, and the collectors grabbed them up the first week.
I still stopped at Cumberland Mall looking for the fool thing one day after work. No dice.
In the meantime, the season passed. On Friday December 21, I did something I'd been wanting to do for the entire seven years we've lived here in Marietta: go walk around the square. Downtown Marietta still has an old-fashioned town square, stores and government business buildings surrounding a little green park, with a fountain, sidewalks, benches. At Christmas they have a big decorated tree, a Nativity scene, and a little booth where Santa visits with children on the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Up in New England, we called these areas village "greens" or "the common"--the most famous of the latter being Boston Common.)
Back in the old days the stores surrounding the Square were probably shoe stores, dress shops, a five and dime or two, clothing stores, etc. When we moved here, the old drugstore next to Schillings (fairly noted restaurant in the area) and a dry goods store named Goldstein's were still in business; they have since folded. So what is left are a couple of costume/antique clothing shops, an a few restaurants, a children's bookstore, the Gone with the Wind museum and Marietta Museum of History, but mostly antique shops.
I have to confess, the hook was the antique stores. After wandering around Dupre's (which, from the storefront it's in, was once either a big five and ten like Woolworth's, or a small department store), I'm convinced that if we ever win the lottery, our new house will have some nice antique furnishings. Not frou-frou type, but nice sensibile sturdy cupboards, sideboards, and tables. I even found something in Dupre's I could have afforded: a beautiful red maple hutch circa 1940, well cared for and gorgeous. Only problem: there's no room in our kitchen for it. I nearly cried.
Also wandered around in another antique shop where they had many Victrolas, both cabinet models and "portables" (well, in the 1920 sense of the word, anyway), and Edison cylinder phonographs, and you are greeted at the door by a big white standard poodle named Luke.
So I strolled the perimeter and finally came upon the Square's one card shop.
In part two of "Lassie's Gift of Love," Paul takes Timmy and Mr. Nicholson into town to deliver to the Toy Roundup; Timmy wants to Christmas shop as well. He has seen his mother ooooh and aaah at a pink silk umbrella at Washburne's General Store and is determined to buy it for her. With his latest allowance, he now has enough money--but Mr. Washburne regretfully tells him the last pink silk umbrella was sold the day before.
Then Mr. Nicholson suggests, "Why not take another look in the back? At this time of year, stock can get misplaced."
Washburne says that they took a quick inventory that morning; there's no pink silk umbrella back there. But for Timmy's sake, he goes to look anyway--and returns, puzzled, to Mr. Nicholson's smile and Timmy's delight, with one last pink silk umbrella.
You've guessed this, haven't you? The card shop is a Hallmark store. I went in simply to see if they might have one Arthur and D.W. ornament left, and idly survey the other sci-fi type ornaments: the Doctor from Voyager, a couple of other spaceships, a...
My eye flicks back. Sitting there, although I didn't see it the first time, is one last Enterprise ornament. The elderly lady running the store graciously goes into the back, gets its box, and packs it up for me. In deference to what people think of my sanity, I do not emit the whoop building inside me the moment I get out of the store, or spin around like Mary Tyler Moore about to toss her cap.
But I was very certain that somewhere, out of the corner of my eye where no one could see him, Mr. Nicholson was smiling...