Perhaps I'd better explain.
Driving as much as I do, one gets to enjoy or at least observe any number of yard decorations, especially at this time of year.
There are some that are truly breathtaking in their beauty and the way they capture the true meaning and spirit of the season.
There are some that are fun and whimsical.
There are some that are simply astonishing in their creators' attention to detail, effort, and tolerance for high electric bills.
There are some that are baby alligator orchestras under glass; they are intricate, minutely detailed decorations, showing a superhuman amount of effort and thought and planning, simply to make the observer ask-why in the world would someone do this?
And there are some that are just plain tacky.
It was one of these that made me think of pink flamingoes. This particular decorator was no Martha Stewart.
Santa's sleigh-which was sitting on cement blocks-was being pulled by nine pink flamingoes.
The lead flamingo even had a battery-operated red light on his beak.
While I was simultaneously offended and envious, I realized that all these yard decorations-tasteful, tacky, faithful, foolish, or somewhere in between-were just another Christmas tradition.
There are plenty of other traditions, too-some of the traditional gifts I give my wife, mother and closest brother each year, the use and placement of some particularly special ornaments, the blind, anonymous call to whichever telephone operator happens to be working, just to tell her Merry Christmas.
While we don't have a yard-decorating tradition, there are other traditions in our household, some funny, some bittersweet, but all a part of what has made our family.
One of those traditions is the angel my mother made years go; the tree isn't finished until that fragile figure is placed on the tree.
Mother's fingers didn't shake so badly when she found that castaway doll atop a trash can. I cannot recall the whole story now-it was well before I was born-but I do know times were tough.
She was divorced then, a single mother caring for four children in a time when divorces, no matter how necessary, were frowned upon. She hadn't gone to work for the newspaper yet, so she hadn't met my dad, the man who always tried to dress well, smoked too much, and never ate enough.
Mother was on her way back from one of the two or three jobs she was working at that time and too a shortcut down an alley to get home. Christmas was rarely white in Colonial Beach, Virginia, but it was and is always cold, and saving a few blocks walking time in a Chesapeake Bay nor'easter is a good thing.
Mother found that doll, ragged, stained, torn, her china face and hands chipped, her hair somewhat mangled, thrown in a pile of trash.
It always seems the best Christmases are the ones with the least, because they have the most heart.
Mother took that doll home, cleaned it up, washed the chipped hands and face, and repaired her cloth body.
With eyes that didn't yet need the bifocals she now often loses, and hands not yet gnarled by arthritis, she guided a tiny needle and the thinnest thread, making over this castoff doll into a brand new angel. She even crocheted a tiny golden crown and collar.
As no angel is complete without a pair of wings, Mother created a set for her new angel.
That little angel would likely be worth a fortune now, as even damaged antique dolls are quite valuable.
But the worth our family places on that angel could never be exceeded by whatever an antique dealer might offer.
That tradition, of Mother declaring the tree finished when she hangs her angel upon it, is priceless.
The editorial reprinted on this page is a part of that tradition, too; being a newspaper family, little else could be expected. I have another copy, reprinted years ago in my father and mother's beloved Dunn Dispatch, a newspaper that also sparked traditions-but that's a column for another time.
We have another clipping of course, the old, yellowed clipping from Aunt Eleanor's scrapbooks, from a time when my Mother wasn't even born, and my dad still wore short pants.
The editorial is known simply and universally as "Yes, Virginia," and relates the true spirit of Christmas to a doubting young lady, using language that only the great writers of the late Victorian era could get away with.
Like many holiday traditions, "Yes, Virginia" has carried on, and will continue to do so.
Whether those traditions are cookbooks, the early morning father-and-son hunt, a huge family breakfast, a recycled doll turned angel and hung on a tree cut down in the woods, or even pink flamingoes pulling Santa's sleigh, it wouldn't be Christmas without traditions like "Yes, Virginia."
Merry Christmas, everyone, and may your family traditions all be pleasant ones passed down through twice as many generations as little Virginia O'Hanlon's plea for the truth, and Frank Church's assurances that there is, indeed, a Santa Claus.