A Town Crier’s Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the land

Was utter exhaustion

The holidays were at hand

IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE. Time to wake up and smell the pine needles. Savor the flavor of spicy egg nog and hot mulled wine. Take a walk through the holly berries and spot the mistletoe in the treetops above you. Reach deep inside and find the spirit of the season — then let it radiate so others can feel the warmth.

And if all this seems hard — remember the children. They’ve been waiting all year for Santa’s arrival, and my “mole at the Pole” tells me a big stack of letters have come in from the Oakland hills. Here are some excerpts:

“Dear Santa: This year we’re on a cruise. If you could deliver them (the presents) on the cruise that would be great, but if you can’t — it’s awesome if you deliver them at home. There will be cookies and cider on the cruise but only cookies at home…”

“Dear Santa: I really, really, really want a pet. Any kind of pet. I just want a pet — badly. Maybe you can get me a hamster.”

“Dear Santa Claus: Of course I want a cell phone…”

“Dear Santa: I have been good most of the time. I would like a blue bike. No — a red bike.”

“Dear Santa: I want a toy machine gun that doesn’t shoot anything but makes the noise.”

And finally, the wishes of a little girl who didn’t mince words when she ended her letter with this: “Okay — only two words — may I please have an Aurora dress (from Sleeping Beauty), a sleigh, and snow on my Aurora dress.”

In reading all this, I can’t help it think how much better we’d be — if our own wishes were this simple.

E-mail bag

More letters are pouring in on the makeup of Montclair. With rumors that Cold Stone Creamery wants to open here (as reported in my Dec. 3 column), reaction has been swift to the advent of more chain stores in the village:

LaRee Jensen-Graham writes, “I have seen the dedication to service of Maurine Marie at Montclair Malt Shop, I have benefited from the knowledge and experience of Erik Hoffmann at Montclair Village Hardware, I have experienced the personal attention and marveled at the artistry of Jameela Bragg at Esther’s Garden (gone now to Orinda because of the very high costs of overhead).”

LaRee feels if competition from the major chains forces the little guys out, the younger generation will miss out on the personal attention and service offered by our “small town” merchants.

But reader Sharon Collins has a different perspective: “I think the idea of a small community shopping area is great, however, I have not found Montclair’s businesses for the most part to be very ‘thankful’ that they have this opportunity be a part of this wonderful community. For the most part, the people who operate the businesses do not show friendliness towards their customers.” She feels that competition can bring out the best in an area, and she wants Montclair to “show that it is the best.”

But maybe the future can best be told by looking at the past.

Harriet Schlader remembers the way things used to be: “It has saddened me each time a nice retail shop has gone out of business or elsewhere. Remember Rose and Rodden (next to the B of A, with shoes and women’s clothing). There was another nice dress store on La Salle next to the Travel Agency which I miss. The Ice Creamery was a place where my daughter worked, briefly, and we frequently visited as a family and sent Woodminster patrons there after a show on a warm night. The bakery, J. Coop Ltd., and on and on…”

Schlader thinks that shoppers, merchants and landlords should agree to a plan for preserving Montclair — and making it even better.

Seasonal offering

And finally, here’s an addendum to last week’s story about figgy pudding. When I mentioned the Jones family no longer makes the traditional English faire because of the hazards of cracking one’s teeth on the hidden six pence — I discovered a “pence-less” pudding for sale in Montclair.

The Malt Shop not only has little containers of the holiday dish, it also carries the brandy butter complement. So bring me some figgy pudding and bring it right here!


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