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Ask Santa
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 With Christmas just around the corner, and Santa Claus packing his sleigh, people everywhere had better let him know what they want before he departs the North Pole.

Now into my sixth decade of making lists for Santa, I sat down with pen and paper this week to compile my "wish list."

And as I really thought about what I want for Christmas, I realized there’s not one single thing that I need. My wife still loves me after 35 years, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, a good old Jeep to kick around in, three grown children who all thankfully took after their Mama, a new, healthy granddaughter, and I know who will carry my casket.

I’ve heard Becky Ramsey play Bach and Buxtehude on the organ at Covington’s First United Methodist Church, have been on a first name basis with most of The Canadian Brass for a long time, twice played in the stage band for the late, great Bob Hope and still catch a joyous thrill that makes me yell whenever I hear a real Hammond B3 organ cranking through a vintage Leslie speaker cabinet. I’ve heard ensembles conducted by three greats: Indiana band director emeritus Ray Cramer, Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra maestro Jere Flint and Kansas University’s Tom Stidham.

And once upon a time, Statesboro’s "Lady of 6,000 Songs," the late Emma Kelly, sang "I’ll Be Seeing You" just for my kids.

I’ve seen the Grand Canyon, Muir Woods, the Rockies, Ozarks and the Appalachians. Once, on a moonlit night flight from Seattle to Atlanta, I saw Mount Rainier, the ruined Mount Saint Helens and Mount Hood posing starkly in black-and-white as if waiting for Ansel Adams to photograph them.

 I’ve dipped my feet in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific and the Great Lakes. I’ve crossed American rivers of legend and once walked with my family across the mighty Mississippi near its source in Minnesota.

 I’ve sat courtside in the Phog Allen Fieldhouse and experienced the mystique of "rock chalk, Jayhawk" basketball, and cheered for Notre Dame in "the house that Rockne built."

 With my Hall of Fame uncle, Detroit’s Ernie Harwell, I’ve visited historic ball parks and met legendary baseball figures, but — most importantly — learned from Ernie that the greatest among us are also usually the most humble.

 A long time ago I asked Santa to let me see Pearl Harbor, the beaches at Normandy and the American cemetery overlooking them. A couple of years ago I made it to Pearl, but I most likely won’t get to see Omaha, Utah and Point du Hoc.

 I’ve been close, though, when visiting London, Stonehenge and the tiny village near Oxford which bears the name of Harwell, home to my family’s earliest ancestors.

 So, it dawned on me while working on that list for Santa, that I really don’t need anything. And it’s not because I’ve achieved any manner of greatness, or risen to fame and fortune.

 It’s simply that I was born in the United States of America smack dab in the middle of the 20th century, when this country unashamedly worshipped God and styled itself a Christian nation. America prospered and tolerated other religions, but we celebrated Dec. 25 to honor the birth of Jesus Christ.

 You know, Merry Christmas.

 I am free from need and from most wants as well, because patriotic men and women fought, bled and died, first to gain and later to preserve freedom. America thrived when "that government is best which governs least," before the entitlements era and the socialist notion that the government should give everything earned by folks who actually work to folks who don’t. 

 I can read and write and understand the lessons of history and how our government is supposed to work, for once there was no social promotion in schools, the paddle had not been taken out of the teacher’s hand, and parents actually parented their kids and supported the school’s disciplining of unruly children.

 Come to think of it, I believe I will ask Santa Claus to help me understand something which eludes me in light of the change for the sake of change our nation recently embraced.

 Santa, why should I continue to pay my mortgage? If government is now all about helping the disenfranchised and keeping folks in houses they can’t pay for, why should I keep paying for mine? If the plan is to tax those who obtained wealth, to make it easier for those who have not, why should anyone work at all?

 I’ll leave a notepad next to the fireplace for you, Santa. Enjoy the cookies and milk while you’re working on those issues.

And, oh, by the way…Merry Christmas.


Nat Harwell is a resident of Newton County. His column appears in The Covington News on Sundays.