To V or not to V….  Verily, I wouldst
say, That is the question; methinks I shouldst
look for those old V gals wherever I couldst.

From what I’ve heard, there were at least three….
including one who’s as inViolate as she can be.
Now I remember “My Song” — will she hear me?

This time of year, many newspapers reprint an editorial which appeared in the New York Sun on Sept. 21, 1897 — an editorial which famously responded “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” to a letter written to the paper by eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon. Today I would further respond to Virginia that not only is there a Santa Claus, but Santa assures me that, just as in those indelible childhood days, he is coming back to wherever is home on the night before Christmas — and this time he hopes to stay, if only in spirit:

As for #3: They say it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Far be it from me to say any such things.

None-the-less, and in any case, it’s over.



I hear that Dec. 25 is Christmas, so I’m departing from my every-five-days schedule to post a day early. For this post, I thought I’d make a little game out of several of my favorite Christmas lines from song and film. It’s simple enough: below are the lines; you name the song or film from whence they came. If you’ve been good, attentive little girls and boys, you should get all of them right; otherwise, I’ll tell Santa you’ve been naughty. However, if you’re a big, grown-up girl, I’ll let him know — ere he shows up down your chimney tonight bearing gifts — that you plan to behave yourself (unless you have other ideas).

 1. He’s making a list. Checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

2. Christmas Eve’ll find me where the love light gleams. [SONG TITLE] if only in my dreams.

3. SCROOGE: “Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit.”
KERMIT: “Uh, tomorrow’s Christmas, Sir.”
SCROOGE: “Very well. You may gift wrap them.”

4. You can’t fool me – there ain’t no Sanity Clause.

5. Although it’s been said, many times, many ways….Merry Christmas to you.

Now for the answers:




Chico Marx to Groucho in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA


You say you answered them all correctly, and you want to know what you get? BAH HUMBUG, that’s what! Nonetheless….



Mary Christmas is her name.
Merry Christmas is her game.
So, Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas!
Merry, the way you made your list less
The merry day you lined off your wish list
The last name that you became
When you married Mister Christmas.

And now you’ve heard the gospel of how Christmas, Mister,
Made Maid Mary’s Merry Little Christmas….a tongue twister.



Yesterday may have been Christmas, but heaven only knows the exact date of Christ’s birth (Christmas wasn’t celebrated on December 25 until the 4th century A.D.). So, here it is the day after Christmas, which is a lull of a day following as full of a day as there is all year, and I’ve decided to find out who (of note) actually was born on December 25. Why? Not why they were born on that day (presumably, something naughty and nice happened one night nine months previously), but — why do I bother? Because inquiring minds want to know, that’s why….and my readers, being wise men and women, have inquiring minds (I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt).

Believe It or Not, Robert Ripley was born on Christmas day (in 1890). If you’re a lover of trivia, you can thank Robert Ripley for making it a popular pursuit even before you were born. Ripley was a cartoonist and amateur anthropologist who created Believe It or Not! as a panel series in Randolph Hearst’s King Features Syndicate in 1929. A year later, Ripley famously expanded into other media, including radio and short films such as this 1930 Vitaphone curio (it’s a hoot!):

Can’t get enough of his wonderful stuff? Then tune in January 6th to the PBS series American Experience (here’s a half-minute preview):

Ripley was voted the most popular man in America by the New York Times in the 1930s, a decade in which he opened (in six cities) museums called Odditoriums. He died 1n 1949 and is buried, appropriately enough, in Oddfellows Lawn Cemetery, Santa Rosa, CA.

Other notables who were born on Christmas day include Clara Barton, American Red Cross founder (1821); Kid Ory, legendary early New Orleans jazzman (1886); Humphrey (we’ll always have Casablanca) Bogart (1899); and Cab Calloway, jazz band leader (1907).

And while we’re at it, since Christmas both giveth and taketh away, here are some notable December 25th deaths: Charlie Chaplin (died 1977); two Martins, Billy (1989) and Dean (1995); and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown (2006).

And with that, I believe I’ll call it a day.



It’s only (almost) Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day, but we’ve already received several Christmas cards at our house, including one with a “generic” Christmas letter enclosed. If past be prelude, that was but the first of quite a few such “catch up” letters, which are welcomed by Mrs. Muse and not unwelcomed by Mr. Muse, understanding that who has time to write individualized holiday missives (though that would be nice) to dozens of friends and relatives?

Thus, we bow to the same exigency, with she doing the initial writing and me doing the editing, which often consumes as much time as the writing, because I don’t take such tasks lightly. This has me thinking, why should we start from scratch every holiday season? It would save both of us a lot of bother to come up with the mother of all generic Christmas letters and be done with it — a glorified form letter, if you will, which would serve the purpose every year, with perhaps a blank space or two here and there to fill in, if one wishes to be specific about something that happened during the year, such as:

As you may or may not know, (namedied of (diseasein (month). At least, we assume (name) died, because they buried the old fart.

Need I add, heed should be taken not to send same to the immediate family of the (assumed) deceased, which shouldn’t be a problem, as there are always a few Christmas cards you set aside where you just write a few words without enclosing a letter.

Of course, no Christmas letter would be complete without recounting your vacation and/or travels during the year. Unfortunately, Mr. & Mrs. Muse don’t get around much any more, so we may have to embellish slightly our trip to the Amish farm market an hour’s drive away:

This past summer, we ventured to an agrestal land of bearded men and oddly dressed women whose rustic appearance spoke of a time before civilization came to be. We nonetheless managed to befriend them by giving green paper in exchange for some of the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors. However, as we were leaving, a strange-looking, horned animal took an interest in our bounty and began chasing us. Fortunately, we barely beat the ferocious beast back to our car and escaped with our lives.

Happy holidays.




My kids haven’t been kids for many a decade. I, on the other hand, have almost decayed, but am still a kid. The old saying must be true that you can’t take the boy out of the man….at least, I think it’s an old saying. My memory isn’t as good as it used to was.

Anyway, what prompted the foregoing musing was a Children’s Books catalog I got in the mail the other day. Why the sender thought a V.A.P. (Very Ancient Person) might be a potential buyer of young children’s books, I can’t say — but upon perusing the catalog’s oft-amusing titles, I must admit I’m tempted. What young-at-heart reader wouldn’t be thrilled at the thought of receiving any of these books (words in italics quoted from book description):

ME HUNGRY! by Jeremy Tankard (sounds like he might be thirsty, too) — Book begins with a cave boy saying, “Me hungry!” Ignored by his family (“Me busy!”), he suddenly is inspired to hunt. But rabbit hides, and porcupine is too sharp, and tiger is too mean.
And you think you’ve got trouble.

DUCK IN THE TRUCK by Jez Alborough — While driving home, Duck gets his truck stuck in the muck.
Does duck have the pluck to buck such yuck? Or is duck schmuck-out-of-luck?

I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS by Michael Morpurgo — Eight-year old Tomas Porec hated school, hated reading, and hated stories, until the unicorn came to the library.
Why not? According to Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell of Answers In Genesis, the absence of a unicorn (mentioned in Job 39:9-12) in the modern world “should not cause us to doubt its past existence.” Tomas Porce was probably in a very old library in the very old days.

SANTA RETIRES by David Biedrzycki — Things up north are going south. “Sacks are getting bigger. Chimneys are getting smaller. And you never know what the weather will throw at you.” So Santa announces that he means to retire.
Say it isn’t so, Santa! Will Santa go the way of the unicorn? Come back, Santa!

There are more fascinating titles such as THE GREAT FAIRY TALE DISASTER and CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, but I’m already overwrought just thinking about the books I’ve already covered and wondering how they’ll turn out. Maybe you could order me one or two for Christmas. Hopefully Santa will change his mind and deliver them like a good old boy.



People instinctively think that what life is all about is some sort of complicated, incomprehensible thing…. I think a happy life is just about love — that’s it.
–Ben Nunery, graphic artist, Cincinnati

Thirty years ago, A CHRISTMAS STORY in film told of a nine year old boy named Ralphie growing up in 1940s Cleveland, wanting but one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun. But there are other bygone Ohio Christmas stories to be told — stories from a parental perspective. This is one such story.


Five years ago to the day — Tim and Karen Gordon’s first Christmas as man and wife — that’s how long it had been. His and her parents had traveled here to the middle of Ohio to spend the holiday with them for the first and — it turned out — final time. Really, that was the last result they would have expected.

They had known that their parents didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye, but even Scrooge would have been more sociable company in that setting. They didn’t know which had been worse: the ill-disguised hostile edge to the conversation before dinner, or the painfully obvious lack of conversation during that first shared Christmas meal. After dinner, both sets of parents had promptly up and left in a huff, and from that point on, it was implicitly understood that neither his nor her mother and father would welcome a return engagement.

So why did Karen do it? Why, after all this time, suddenly re-invite parents here to Columbus from opposite ends of the state — both literally and figuratively — when it would’ve been much easier to simply continue the practice of the past four years: Tim and Karen spending Christmas one year with his parents in Cleveland, Christmas the next year with her parents in Cincinnati. After all, what had changed? Yes, there was now a grandchild and they were now grandparents, but that only seemed to make them seem older, not mellower.

In any case, Tim had yielded to her determination on one condition — that several others also be invited to Christmas dinner in order to forestall the confrontation that was bound to re-erupt if decorum didn’t have to be maintained in the presence of outsiders. Thus he wound up inviting his eccentric boss, with whom he  didn’t have much in common, but who was single and without close relatives (and therefore presumably free for the holiday); the invitation was tentatively accepted, contingent upon being back in time from a business trip.

Karen invited their new next-door neighbors, the Crowleys, whom they had yet to get to know (but at least the Crowleys had given a definite acceptance — that is, until early afternoon, when they called to say their basement was flooded and they didn’t know if they could make it).

As for Tim’s and Karen’s parents, neither pair was told that the other had also been invited, but both must have had their suspicions — his parents had called yesterday to say snow was forecasted in northern Ohio with possibly hazardous driving conditions, and her mother had called from Cincinnati to say her father wasn’t feeling well. Both situations were presented as “coming if they could, but making no promises.” No wonder Karen’s exasperation reached its limits after the Crowley’s call — how does one prepare Christmas dinner for pick-a-number from none to seven guests? A definite “no” from any or all would’ve been preferable — not to mention, infinetly more considerate.

What’s the weather like out there, hon?” George Gordon asked his better half. He had just awakened and noticed her standing at the bedroom window looking out at a winter-gray Cleveland sky. “Is it snowing?”

It felt good to sleep late on Christmas morning (if almost eight-thirty could be considered late). If they were driving to Columbus today, he wouldn’t be able to stay in bed much longer. First breakfast, then church, then —

“It’s not snowing now, but it snowed overnight — looks like four or five inches on the ground.”

“Well, we’ll see what the driving’s like when we go to church. On the phone yesterday, Tim said they weren’t predicting anything more than flurries in Columbus.”

George had mixed emotions about going to Columbus — and not just because of the driving. Naturally, he and Vi wanted to be with their son and daughter-in-law for Christmas, but he couldn’t honestly say the same about Karen’s parents, Harry and Ruth Cain….and he had no doubt that they had also been invited. Oh, he supposed they had their good points. After all, they’d managed to raise a fine daughter — but he had never met two more opinionated — to say the least — people in his life.

George supposed he should he should get up and shovel the driveway before breakfast, but he couldn’t resist staying in bed a few minutes longer. Perhaps when he retired in a few years, this wouldn’t seem like a luxury, but for now….

Vi had gone to the kitchen to make coffee. Returning with a cup for him, he sat up as she sat down. He sip-tested his coffee: hot, hot, hot! Getting out of bed, he said, “I might as well shave while this cools.” When he came back, Vi was still sitting next to the bed. Of course, he knew what she was thinking. She would let it be his decision, but he knew she wanted to go.

“Too bad it didn’t snow four or five feet instead of four or five inches,” he muttered more to himself than to her, but he realized his comment fell flat, just the same.

“Either that, or didn’t snow at all,” she ventured to add pointedly.

By the time they left for church, it had started snowing again.

On Sundays and holidays, Harry always got up before Ruth to read the morning paper. He liked to give it a thorough reading, starting with the business news, front page, sports, and continuing until he had given at least a cursory glance to almost every page.

On this Christmas morning, it seemed vaguely materialistic to start with the business section, so he turned first to the front page. The once-a-year headline proclaimed PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TO MEN, but the news was the same old disasters/do unto others whatever you could get away with doing — the usual bill of fare from which he had always felt somehow detached….until the morning of a sales trip almost a year ago when he’d overslept, missing the return flight home, and the plane crashed on takeoff with no survivors.

No one knew of his missed flight, as he’d not been expected back in Cincinnati  until the next day; he had wrapped things up faster than anticipated and decided to surprise Ruth by not calling to tell her he was coming home ahead of time. Having almost been on that plane wasn’t something that needed to be dwelled on, much less expressed. Without saying a word, he’d stayed over until his originally scheduled return and, to this day, had kept it to himself. As far as he was concerned, it was a non-event. End of story. He was in control.

“Merry Christmas, Harry.”

He lowered his newspaper to find his bathrobed wife standing there, and allowed himself to realize that they hadn’t really talked in years. He didn’t know why he should think of that now — tuning out when she spoke had inexorably become second nature, like drifting off into sleep over a long period without being conscience of it. It was as if he had become comfortable with….what? Even Christmas had become a ritual, full of trimmings and trappings, signifying nothing. Shakespeare said it — at least the last part — not him.

“Ruth,” he found himself replying, “I hate to change things at the last minute, but maybe we should reconsider not going to Karen and Tim’s today.”

A twenty-pound turkey was in the oven and the dining room table was set for nine — nine and a half, if you count their  three year old, who for the first time was old enough (Karen hoped) to sit at the table without a high chair.  Her head told Karen that not all those invited would come, but her heart insisted this was still a day for belief in small miracles….or, at least, their possibility. Her sense of the symbolic — Tim would call it wishful thinking — suggested that if long ago a little child would lead them, why not today?

Two o’clock. Three. Three thirty. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas without guests. The house was as quiet as an infant’s nap, and Karen turned on soft Christmas music to fill the void. Tim was nowhere to be seen, as if he might be tempted to say “I told you so” if he appeared.

Three forty-five. Karen was about to open the oven to check on the progress of the turkey when she heard Tim call from the front door, “I’m going to mail a letter. I’ll be back shortly.”

What mail could be so important that it had to go out now, she wondered, realizing even as she wondered: there was no mail pick-up today. He just wanted to get out of the house. Well, that was the privilege of being a man — what chance did she have of getting away for a few minutes? OK, maybe she was being childish . Maybe not.

Tim had hardly been gone when the doorbell rang. Karen composed herself and took a deep breath. Time for the first installment of “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” she thought as she went to the door and opened it.

It was Tim.

“I forgot my keys,” he mumbled, and for one wild, improbable moment, she imagined that he was about to spring an elaborately planned surprise and produce, as if by magic wand, a happily reconciled foursome of smiling grandparents; but he was already striding past her toward the telephone in the foyer. As he picked up the phone, he saw her watching him, and paused before dialing.

“I was just standing out there thinking what wimps we are to take this lying down,” he told her with self-righteous resolve. “I don’t care if they are our parents — does that give them the right to treat us like this? I’m going to call my mom and dad — you can do the same with yours — and if they answer, we’ll know they’re not coming and wish them Merry Christmas. If they don’t answer, they’re probably on their way — and even if they’re not, we won’t be any worse off than we are right now.”

She was about to protest that calling too soon might only aggravate the situation, but he was probably right. If people won’t meet each other half way, it’s already a lost cause — why prolong the agony? So she simply slumped down into the nearest chair and let silly thoughts dance in her head: Comes Christmas and all through the house, not a creature concurring, not even a spouse. She didn’t need him to prove that Christmas was just another day in the year….she conceded it.

But he had already begun to dial, and then the doorbell rang again, and all was lost in the blur ofgreetings and hugs, handshakes and kisses.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! And many other words were spoken: joyous words, tenative words, exuberant words, inadequate words. And if at times the laughter seemed just a bit forced and loud, or if occasionally a pause in the conversation seemed a trifle awkward, the moment soon passed. It was, after all, Christmas.

After dinner, gifts were exchanged, and then someone proposed a Christmas sing-a-long. Outside the frosted window panes, darkness had absorbed the last traces of daylight as voices joined to repeat the sounding joy. Away In A Manger, Jingle Bells, We Three Kings, Deck The Halls, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear — they sang until no one could think of another song.

In Cleveland, darkness had fallen clear and cold, freezing tracks and footprints left behind in the snow. In Cincinnati, snowless streets and sidewalks left no evidence of those who come and go. In Columbus, Christmas was an ember when Karen sank exhausted into bed next to Tim and received his half-asleep kiss; then, like a simple child, she lay there thinking contented thoughts about people who know nothing is more important than being there for you in something like the silent night.