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It will be a white star Christmas in Havre de Grace

It's Christmas and the song of the season that first pops into my head shouldn't be Elvis Presley crooning "Blue Christmas."

But it is, even though I'm not blue at all. Far from it, but that's the only Christmas song I can think of whenever I drive through downtown Havre de Grace. The only other words that come to mind are: "Attention, Kmart shoppers, the Blue Light Special…"

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It's Christmas and the song of the season that first pops into my head shouldn't be Elvis Presley crooning "Blue Christmas."

But it is, even though I'm not blue at all. Far from it, but that's the only Christmas song I can think of whenever I drive through downtown Havre de Grace. The only other words that come to mind are: "Attention, Kmart shoppers, the Blue Light Special…"

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Since it's "the season to be jolly," I'll leave the blue lights illuminating the Christmas Spirit in downtown Havre de Grace alone, other than to say they seem a bit odd. That's not odd as in bad, but rather it's odd as in eccentric. Nor is linking them with Elvis or Kmart bad, either.

I was sad, sort of, even though I love Home Depot, the first Christmas season that Kmart was no longer in the Beards Hill Shopping Center in Aberdeen, eventually replaced by the Home Depot.

The sadness, though fleeting, is more akin to John Prine's lament in "Souvenirs," a song he and the late Steve Goodman wrote about 40 years ago: "Christmas days have come and gone," he sings. Later in the verse he sings about the passage of time measured, at least in his song, in terms of graveyards and old pawnshops. "I can't forgive the way they rob me. Of my childhood souvenirs."

My childhood souvenirs, especially those from around Christmas, are untouched. Much of the time, no matter how hard I try, I can't remember a single thing Santa Claus brought me. But I'll always remember that he never once, no matter how less than good I might have been, failed to bring me plenty. I seem to remember always being thankful. I might not have been, but that's the way I choose to remember it.

There's a picture of me when I was very young on a tricycle. There's also a picture of me, when I was a bit older, decked out in cowboy garb. And there's another picture of me, a few years after that, sporting my Baltimore Colts football helmet. Without those pictures, I would only be able to remember one gift. The gift, from one of my first Christmases, is still around my house. It's a little green rocking chair. That chair was used heavily by my oldest daughter when she was very young and again by my youngest daughter when she was very young. That gift is unforgettable.

What I do remember most from each year is the whole Christmas experience. My mom and dad got us "new Christmas pajamas" each year and sent us off to bed each Christmas Eve freshly bathed and attired in new threads. That usually came at the end of a frantic day of bringing in and decorating the Christmas tree. The next morning, no one was allowed to rush the tree to see what Santa left us - and we never doubted he would leave plenty - until we were all lined up, youngest to oldest. I'm the oldest of the five, so I was always at the wrong end of the line.

I didn't mind. Those were great times full of traditions. My wife and I tried to create the same notion of family and traditions for our kids. One tradition in our house is that we never wait till Christmas Eve to decorate the tree. When that tree is decorated, usually a couple of days before Christmas or, if we're lucky, a full week before, the last thing is the placing of the star.

The star ties it all together. For many, many years, it took its place of honor atop the trees when I was growing up. Some time, shortly after Pat and I were married, my dad decided he would dispense with tradition and put something else atop the tree.

"No problem," I thought. If he didn't want it, I did. So I took it, didn't give him much of a chance to protest, and it's been ours for many, many years. Somehow, I don't think he's ever minded that our tree is decorated with that ancient white star.

That white star is just one of many, many reasons we'll never have a "Blue Christmas" in our house, even though we've been known, on occasion, to sing along with Elvis.

Here's hoping you and yours never have a "Blue Christmas" either. Merry Christmas!

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