Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, and although there have been years when other things detracted from my enthusiasm, it still holds a degree of wonder for me.
OK, I'll admit I still believe in Santa Claus, but it's not the Santa we know today, the one who inhabits malls and shopping centers. It's the Santa I knew as a child, the one who visited our home a few days before Christmas, the one who looked suspiciously like my father dressed in a red suit, his face hidden beneath a flowing white beard and long locks of curly white hair. I was always curious, but too afraid to yank on that beard. If he was real, I knew I would blow the Christmas gifts.
And, if you don't believe Santa is real, my belief was reaffirmed last Friday evening. I was in the Giant Food in Dorsey Hall waiting for a prescription to be filled. As I stood in an aisle languishing over the candy and sweets I am supposed to avoid at all costs, a mother and her young daughter walked past. I saw the little girl staring at me in wide-eyed amazement.
"Santa, momma," she said, not taking her eyes off of me. "It's Santa."
In the bright red, white-trimmed, nylon windbreaker I was wearing, and with a stomach attesting that I'm more than just a few pounds overweight, and a bushy, gray -- but not yet white -- beard, I realized that young eyes, already gathering in the wonders of the holiday season, might mistake me for Santa Claus.
"Ho, ho ho," I said smiling.
The mother glanced at me. "That's not . . ." she started to say, but stopped. With a sudden twinkle in her eye, she smiled at me and told her daughter, "Say hi to Santa."
My thanks to 3-year-old Kathleen Dixon, and her mom, Mary Anne, for making this Christmas a little bit more memorable.
The long-range weather forecast says this will be a cold, snowy winter, and the folks at Hickory Ridge Village Center plan to be ready.
When the snow arrives, they know many Hickory Ridge residents will be calling the center asking for help to remove the snow from walks and driveways. To prepare for this, the office is asking for young people who want to pick up a few extra dollars shoveling snow to call the village office at 730-7327. A list of shovelers' names and phone numbers will be kept on hand for referrals. The list will also be published in the village newsletter.
Other village centers may offer a snow removal service. So, if kids in other areas of Columbia are interested in making some spending money this winter, they should check with their local village centers.
Although most of us have just put our Christmas tree up, it's not too soon to think about what we are going to do with it after the holidays.
Many Columbia neighborhoods have curbside recycling that includes post-holiday Christmas tree pickup. If you are unsure if you have this service, please call 313-SORT (313-7678) to inquire.
If you are without tree pickup service, here are three other options:
* Cut your tree into 4-foot lengths, bundle them and put them in your regular trash pickup.
* Take your tree to Cedar Lane Park on Jan. 13 or Jan. 14, where workers will shred it and use it for mulch in the park.
* Dispose of it at the Alpha Ridge Landfill at Marriottsville Road and Interstate 70 West.
The holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year's, is traditionally a time of joy, celebration and -- OVER-EATING!
You can make plans now to lose those pounds gained during the holidays by signing up for one of the Winter Aerobics Classes being offered at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center.
The following six-week courses begin on Jan 4. For additional information, or to register, call 730-3987.
* Step Aerobics with Joellen -- every Monday and Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
* Step One with Lena -- every Monday and Wednesday, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
* Funky Steps with Arlene -- every Tuesday and Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
New programs being offered this winter include: Aerobic Dancing with Jackie Sorensen -- Mondays and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., beginning Jan 4. Call Phyllis at 461-2331 to register.
* Fit, Forty & Fun, Jackie Sorensen's fitness program designed for women rediscovering fitness, will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to noon, beginning Jan 5. For additional information, call Sharon at 788-0037, or Helen at 988-9676.
You can also melt of those pounds away in the Body Express Aerobics classes with certified instructor Terry White.
Continuing sessions are offered every Tuesday and Thursday, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., at Linden Hall in Dorsey's Search Village Center.
Call 730-4005 for more information.
A more exotic form of exercise can be enjoyed by joining the new courses in Hawaiian Hula and Belly Dancing taught by WORLDancer instructor Sherry Coffey. The six-week sessions will begin Jan. 13 at the Meeting Room in Dorsey's Search Village Center.
Ms. Coffey will teach the beautiful dance of Hawaii in classes designed for children, as well as teens and adults.
The Children's Hula classes begin Jan. 13., 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hula for Teens and Adults begins Thursday, Jan. 14, 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Ms. Coffey will also offer Belly Dancing classes for both teens and adults. The classes, teaching both ancient and modern belly dancing styles, begin on Jan. 14, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The cost for each of the six week sessions is $32. To register, please call 730-4005.
May you all have a joyous holiday season!