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The Newcomer

A victim of Christmas Spirit

by Frankie Potts

Christmas Spirit has me by the throat...and won't let go. So far, it has forced me to thrust myself among the hectic masses to search out such holiday necessities as candle holders, poinsettias and Christmas cards.

Old Man Spirit has even enticed me onto the lot where diamonds-or their equivalent-can be exchanged for a dying tree. If I succumb to the temptation to buy, it will mean another trip into the crowds for lights and something to hang on the bundle of branches that will cost more than my last batch of groceries.

Most people have a box of Christmas decorations stored somewhere, but in a fit of house clearing and cleaning I contributed mine to a thrift store when I recently moved. Christmas trees for me, I thought, were a thing of the past. To me, a Christmas tree demands an audience, and I didn't think a newcomer to town could expect to provide much of a one, so out went the chili pepper and twinkle lights and whatever ornaments had survived five children and way too many moving vans.

It was a toss that forgot to factor in that Christmas Spirit.

When it hit, it hit hard and fast.

I was carrying an armload of Avon products into a gym to help my daughter set up for a holiday bazaar. Without warning, I found myself dancing across the gym to the piped-in music of "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas." In mid-twirl, I came face to face with my daughter, who was doing her own set of swirls.

It seems Christmas Spirit was big enough to take on both of us at once.

However, while my reaction to its spell is to resurrect old Christmas habits from when I was a young mother decorating to please children, her response has been directly opposite. She would prefer to forego the tinsel and plunge her Christmas funds into providing for a family with needs greater than her own. I've been there, done that, and I know she'll find living the real meaning of Christmas rewarding.

For me, this year, the food bank donation wasn't enough to appease Christmas Spirit. It is demanding more of me. I'm being compelled to deck my halls, something I haven't done in many a Christmas moon.

I'm through fighting it. I'm capitulating. I'll get the tree.

But now I want a party, too. (Hey, someone besides me has to ooh and ahh over the tree.)

However, a party raises a concern. I am, at best, an insecure hostess. Giving a party should be right up my alley, because I am a worrier and a party sure would give me plenty to worry about. Like what to serve, who would want to come, and what to do if anyone did come. I respect those who are natural party-givers. They make it look so easy.

As a member of a news organization, I was often included at some pretty fancy parties, so you'd think I could learn from them.

There was a reception in Olympia where news people were guests of Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, who was her usual chic self in navy blue skirt, crisp, white, cotton blouse and good, solid, sensible shoes. She served peanut butter on little fingers of white bread-and seemed to be having a great time arguing with all us big, bad newspaper people.

I guess I could manage at least the peanut butter bread.

Then there was the year the Chinese invited us all in for a reception at their embassy in Washington D.C. Although it was quite a few years ago, I retain an impression of glittering red and gold decor, gallant courtesy and oh-so-sugary-sweet orange pop.

I guess I could come up with at least the soda pop.

I know I couldn't come close, let alone match, the superlative hors 'd oeuvres and powerful cocktails we newshounds were treated to at the White House when President Reagan and his wife were our hosts. I recall the refreshments were elegantly served to a stand-up crowd by waiters who were just like you and me, except they wore white jackets.

I've also been to receptions at the Russian and Polish embassies in D.C. The Russians were stiff with forbidding and slightly threatening military formality (but that was years ago), and the Poles were full of laughter, goodwill and assurances that they'd be free of Russia eventually (a forecast proven true). What, if anything, was served at either reception I don't remember.

No help there for my party plans.

The best parties I've been to have been ones where the conservation sparkled, the charades ended in fits of laughter and everyone went home happy.

That's the kind of party I'd like to have. I'm just not sure my bag of tricks holds what it would take to pull it off.

Oh well...I'll have the tree, sort of. I'm allergic to evergreens. Something Christmas Spirit didn't take into consideration.

But I'll get around it. I'm going to set my tree up outside, on the veranda, and peek at it through the living room windows.

. Frankie Potts is a retired journalist who spent her career working at several Washington state newspapers.

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