Decking the Column With Yule Wishes

In three days, Santa Claus will come down the chimney with a sackful of Christmas joy for everyone. May this be one of the 10 best Christmases of your life. Every year, someone says, "Well, that's the best tree ever," and it always is. Christmas, too, is an ever-renewing feast, each one with its own blessings and small happinesses.

If Santa brings me my Christmas wishes I would like:

--A Christmas breakfast with pitchers of mimosas and Bloody Marys for the adults and orange juice and hot chocolate for the kids who will greet Santa Claus in front of Barbara and Earl Maple's house on Ocean Front on the Balboa Peninsula. Down there the houses face the ocean, silvered by the weather and brave with Christmas decorations.

No one is quite sure how long Santa Claus has been appearing over the sand dunes to the 50 or more adults and children gathered on the beach. For quite a while it was Ben Wright, whose family has seen four generations in their house, who wore the Santa suit and walked the beach, arriving with a sack of presents with a wrapped and named gift for every child. Ben had to give it up when his own children were old enough to recognize his voice. But now that they are teen-agers, he has assumed the duty again.

There's always been a resident to ho-ho-ho his way across the beach, hand out the presents and disappear down the wide sidewalk, the children watching until Santa is a tiny spot far down the walk. Then into the house for breakfast. Those houses along the beach are passed down in families like the great houses of Britain and are encrusted with summertime joys and winter comforts, one of the greatest being old Santa from the sea.

--A ski trip to some place that is perfect for the Occidental College Madrigal singers who sang the other evening in their beautiful costumes, looking as if they had stepped out of the Bayeux Tapestry, their voices clear as the ring of crystal in the high-ceilinged hall.

--A roasted goose, golden and crackling and dressed with lingonberry conserve for a gentleman who walked into my good friend Judy Murray's beauty shop the other day and asked if he could arrange for several hundred dollars' worth of hair cutting and styling for a lady who often helps him with his accounting and won't take any money for her services. She has a year of pretty hair in store and may she have a Christmas full of champagne and perfume in a faceted flacon.

--A silver goblet of St. Estephe, glowing like molten rubies, for people who work on Christmas Day. For emergency room doctors and nurses, for firefighters and for police, may their dinners be kept warm for them and served in front of the Christmas tree.

--A bicycle for a kid who mows lawns and runs errands no one else wants to do. A flute of Pol Roger to performers who do a Christmas show. Who are the people out front on Christmas night? Someone who really needs it, baby, or else they'd be some place else. So spread out, kids. Make it look like a big act. And smile, smile, smile. Pretty soon you'll mean it and the Christmas laughter will ring true.

--A breast of guinea hens with bar le duc for teachers, all kinds. From nursery school to graduate school. May your dedication and your patience match in their ardor, or else we will be left with the world full of dolts and no one to talk to. A baron of beef to veterinarians and especially to those who primp the dogs which are up for adoption on their Mondays off, so that some little animal will have a home.

--A plum pudding in a silver steamer to men and women who work with kids in trouble, boys, girls, runaways, kids without love and without hope, and a holly wreath for the hope you give.

--A cut crystal bowl of English trifle, made with fresh raspberry jam, to house painters and carpenters who say the new room will take two months and may the lady of the house not scream when the fourth month rolls around and the dishes are still not back in the cupboards.

--For the builders who lash an evergreen tree on the highest beam on the day of the topping out of a tall building, may there be harp music and teddy bears on Christmas day.

--For those of you who have Christmas birthdays, my heartfelt sympathy and don't whine. Look who you get to share your birthday with. What did you expect? Top billing?

--A glistening fall of snow in McMinville, Ore., to greet my young friend, Craig Hodges, home with his parents for Christmas. Craig speaks computer and what's more, he can translate it to me. I have a new printer and don't the lines look straight and pretty? And a decanter of Glenlivet to Patsy who knew how to speak computer all the time.

--To the party-givers, the music-makers, the inspired cooks who bless our lives, Joyeux Noel and don't shake the packages.

--Merry Christmas to people who love books and to the lucky ones who will find one under the tree, the happiest of seasons.

--To a girl who didn't expect it, an invitation to the Christmas dance and don't worry, your glow will make the old Christmas dress look like a new one.

--To people who write poetry no one buys or publishes, a cardinal sitting in the holly tree, even if it's an imaginary one and keep your iambic pentameter up. It may get better.

--To women who make quilts and knit afghans and finish them, a gold box of candied fruit. And to the poor souls who start and do not finish them, never mind, honey, here's a plate of springerle cookies, anyway.

--To tap dancers and deep-sea divers, to astronomers and space travelers, to wire walkers and office holders, may the Christmas star shine brightly on all of you.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and a day of bright joy to every one who took a toy to the United States Marines Toys for Tots collection sites. And a happy birthday to the baby boy whose birthday we celebrate on Wednesday. May His blessed love of peace shine on all of us and on our world. God bless all here.

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