Reflections: Then And Now - A Gathering Of Friends

By Gipp Forster


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My wife just accused me of playing with dolls. I'm in the midst of setting up our annual Christmas display in the garage. We have three decorated trees, fibre optic stuff, 40-plus animated dolls who wave lighted candles, a nativity surrounded by moving angels, miniature village houses on a shelf the length of the garage, stuffed toys galore, trains, two life-size Santas, little Santas and little sleighs with reindeer, two fake fireplaces, toys of every description and that's not all!

I like to think of my wife and myself as collectors. People call it our "Christmas" collection, and we smile and nod politely. Only we know we didn't set out to "collect" per se; we simply got out of control. We are finished buying though. We are both adamant about that - unless, of course, we find an item we really like.

But getting back to what I was saying: my wife just accused me of playing with dolls! I told her I wasn't "playing," I was working, setting up the display, which is no easy task!

When she came into the garage, unexpectedly, my back was to her. I was taking one of my frequent rests and holding an eight-inch Santa Claus in one hand and a five-inch reindeer in the other! Just because I was bouncing Santa Claus along and with one leap landed him on the back of the reindeer crying in a hushed but loud voice and with great exuberance, "Dash away, dash away," does not constitute playing with dolls! I was simply rehashing Clement Clarke Moore's 1822 poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, in my mind and adding animation to secure accuracy

My wife considered that playing, failing to recognize the intellectual process of an ever-active mind. Just because I march our four black and red Nutcracker soldiers to their designated spots, imitating the sound of a bugle while I do so is simply adding ceremony to labour and should be recognized as such! Sure, I ask the life-size Santa how his spring, summer and autumn went, but that's just being polite. That's not playing!

She raised her eyebrows, shook her head and went back into the house. I said a few words under my breath that even I couldn't hear and went back to contemplating the work laid out before me. Playing with dolls indeed!

I have to admit, though, that I am glad to see the moving dolls, stuffed toys and all the other treasures that have been sleeping in cases, on shelves and in corners and crevices. It's like greeting old friends after a lengthy absence and reminiscing about old times as each is put in its designated spot. I've never considered it playing, simply a gathering of old friends.

I'm in my 71st year and not too distant from my 72nd! I quit playing with lead soldiers and other toys over 60 years ago. It was the same time I gave up my dream of becoming a cowboy and owning a Palomino horse. I'm certainly not going to backtrack at this late date. I mean after all, I have a beard now.

But I have always known the secret of this magical season called Christmas. My aunt taught it to me and an old man on a park bench with a pocket full of peppermints taught it to me, Walt Disney taught it to me and my children taught it to me. The secret is the belief in possibility. Though most would see all these toys that surround me as simply inanimate objects, I see them as friends who speak without talking and giggle when silence is complete.

Anyway, Christmas visits once more and reminds us of a child born in a manger, and toys, colours and red-striped candy reinforce the joy and the peace of this sacred season. Music abounds, goodwill flourishes and magic dances with imagination coaxing all minds, young and old, to come out and play.

But I wasn't playing with dolls as my wife says I was! I was simply helping that eight-inch Santa get to his designated spot in the display far faster than usual and, for a moment, failed to keep in check my enthusiastic imagination. It's true I tell you!

"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

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