How the Holiday Season Has Changed
Whatever holiday it is that a person celebrates, so long as it is a harbor for good memories, it still relates to what I’ve been feeling this morning. For me, it’s Christmas, and I’ll confess that I’m talking about the nostalgic memories and a little about the commercial side. Of course, as children, most of us had our full families around us on this holiday, something we will never get to enjoy again in the same way. Parents and grandparents, sometimes aunts and uncles – and those aunts and uncles were golfers, big time. I had a scratch sibling by the time he was barely out of high school, so things were popping in the golf world for us.
At that time, Christmas was all about what was going to happen, what was coming. It was a giddy festival of anticipation. Now, in later years, much of it is about looking back and trying to hold on to the best memories, and living vicariously through grandchildren. But it isn’t all about that. The call of the first thaw is still strong, and I continue to gauge spring by the decreasing snow conditions on the town’s golf courses, just like I did then.
I remember getting my first set of junior clubs at Christmas. If anything could compete with the mania of the Red Ryder BB gun, it was that. It was the ticket to living vicariously through my golf heroes. The real coup was the one-iron I got from my brother several years later – a sleek and sassy Taylor one-iron. It was a gesture of respect. No one can hit one consistently, but I got one. There must be hope for me yet. Somewhere along the line, I struck a rock with it, and something inside rattled up and down the shaft when I picked it up, but it still worked. I used that club through my 20s. Every so often, someone would give me the gift of golf balls, because I could lose them as few people can. The packaging was so perfect, and the Titleists, MacGregors and TopFlites were so shiny and unblemished. They might as well have been gold ingots. Rarely did a package of new balls make it far into the spring, and I could reverse the “unblemished” thing with the holiday barely out of sight, This was a mystery to my family, because I was thought to have a natural advantage at the time – I couldn’t hit it far enough to reach the worst of the rough. That theory, however, didn’t hold up, because I could still reach it in two.
If we didn’t have a white Christmas, we often spent the holiday at the local elementary school playground, which went on forever, a perfect par 5 in any direction we looked. We had a bag of over 100 balls, and we wouldn’t go home until we had retrieved every single one of them. Sometimes, spring was too far away. If there was a clear path that could suffice for a fairway, we were out there. Snow as rough was just fine. We were particularly fond of the snow in Lethbridge, Alberta. The local course had hard soil, and our drives would go forever – talk about living vicariously. I was a big hitter for the first and only time in my life.
So, here I am, the day before Christmas, looking out my window at the snow. I’m no longer growing up in the house – I own it, although the bank knows better. The parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have all moved on, and missing them has never gone away. Still, I savor the memory of asking my father how much he thought that window cost – the one he just broke. I remember holing out a long iron that looked more like a poolroom shot. My uncle reminded me that there was nothing on the scorecard that said how you had to do it. Then there was my aunt’s smile after a 6 putt. With a wardrobe like that, what else could you do but smile? When my brother put a 4-iron three feet to the left of the pin, I had to ask him why he thought that was a bad shot. He told me I’d have to take the game more seriously. Golf and the holiday is wrapped up in so many things, starting with the people. It extends to the feel of cold, the smell of alpine snow, the look of corn stubble rough, clubs under trees, and cradling a new putter looking out the picture window.
No two people share the same experiences of the holiday season, and I hope that your mmories are equally poignant to mine. I hope that they remain vivid for you, always. And for avid golfers, I hope there is a fairway out your window, thawing as fast as it can, so that you can get out there and live the holiday dream.