Places I’ve Played

This Christmas…


Dec. 8, 2011

By Bill Skiff


This Christmas has a feeling I have not experienced before. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s different.

My feelings might be related to the number of Christmases I have experienced. Christmas seems to have fallen into time periods. There was that wonderful time when Santa Claus and the magical sense of mystery and expectations were almost more than I could stand. Sitting at the top of the stairs in the old farmhouse waiting for dad to say, “Come on Down,” seemed to take a lifetime.

Then one Christmas I found myself at the bottom of the stairs saying, “Just one more minute and you can come on down.”

Both ends of the stairs had their magical, memorable moments. They went by faster than Santa’s sleigh.

I am now enjoying my grandfather time. This may be the last year I can write those Santa letters, at least in the lower 48. One of my grandsons told his mother, “Santa’s handwriting is beginning to look a lot like Papa’s.” My 1-year-old Alaskan granddaughter will continue to need Santa’s attention, so my creative work will remain important — kids and Christmas, what a gift.

This Christmas is different. It feels like I may be getting closer to the real meaning. As I experience the loss of family and friends, I realize what a special gift each Christmas is to me. To have health, a safe home and be surrounded by those who love me is the greatest gift I can ever receive.

I recently shared with my family that I don’t cherish their presents; I cherish their presence.

This Christmas I am reminded of a card I received years ago. It helps me understand the broader meaning of the Christmas message:


This Christmas

By Howard W. Hunter


This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out

a forgotten friend. Dismiss


and replace it with trust. Write a

love letter. Share some treasure. Give a

soft answer. Encourage youth.

Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.

Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgo

a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen.

Apologize if you were wrong. Try to

understand. Flout envy.

Examine your demands

on others. Think first of someone else.

Appreciate. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a

little. Laugh a little more.


confidence. Take up arms against malice.

Decry complacency. Express your gratitude.

Go to church. Welcome a


Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure

in the beauty and wonder of the earth.

Speak your love. Speak it again.

Speak it still once again.


Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at