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Fitz's Opinion: Where to find Christmas in the Old Pueblo
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Fitz's Opinion: Where to find Christmas in the Old Pueblo

From the Fitz's opinion: A collection of David Fitzsimmons' opinion columns series
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David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

As sure as none of the holiday lights I stored last year will light up this year, this holiday has got a hold of my jingling-jangling heart like a grinning Gila monster with lockjaw. I knew the holiday season had arrived when I felt a chill in the night air, caught a whiff of mesquite drifting out of a distant neighbor’s fireplace, and got a text from my granddaughter.

“Grandpa, I love you.”

“Emma, I love you.”

Her next text was a link. Ding. “My Amazon Wish List.”

I replied with my own wish list. Double ding ding.

Bells on delivery trucks ring, making deadlines tight. O what fun it is to shop. Online. Tonight.

Yesterday I bought firewood from Carlos at my local Christmas tree lot. Do not tell Greta Thunberg. It’s once a year and we’re all doomed anyway. Carlos told me a story. “I was cutting a tree for a couple.”

As he set the saw blade against the trunk he noticed a small soggy envelope. Together they opened it. It was a note from a “Cindy LouWho” schoolkid in the Portland area asking whoever found this fine tree from Oregon to please mail a picture of the tree, decorated, along with the story of the tree’s final destination. No clue how it got there. “Do you folks want the letter?”

“Yes! We’re teachers. We’d love to answer the letter.”

Since then Carlos has seen a few more envelopes in some of the trees. Who doesn’t thirst for joyful connection at this time of year?

When I long for Noel nostalgia, coupled with sore feet, I head to Winterhaven, a painstaking re-creation of a Wisconsin atomic age suburb funded by the Williamsburg Foundation and built by Mid-West World, a subsidiary of West World Enterprises. Period re-enactors such as “Donna Reed,” “Dr. Ben Casey” and “The Beaver” actually reside in the homes built to replicate the range of postmodern styles that reek of authenticity. The realism and attention to detail is beautiful, from the lifelike vegetation to the spectacular effects in front of many of the homes.

If you think Christmas is a humbug, a waste of time, or a wicked capitalist plot, I commend to you two more experiences that will light your heart’s candle.

First, join us next Thursday at one of my favorite Tucson traditions, right up there with the tiny Santa hats that appear on the ears of Padre Kino’s horse, eating way too many Christmas tamales, and rolling down Tumamoc Hill wearing a lit Christmas light necklace.

Every year a bazillion elfin Tucsonans show up at a holiday sharing event to donate toys, wrap that glorious mountain of toys, laugh, gossip, dance, play games, sing holiday songs and listen to mariachis play holiday favorites loud enough to wake the reindeers at the pole. Who doesn’t love the challenge of enjoying Mexican food without accidentally taping a ribbon on a burrito?

Mi amigo, Dan Eckstrom, emailed me a reminder last week. “Amigo, let’s celebrate the holidays by sharing!” That’s “code” for “Let’s party, chingon.” Dan, eternally empowered by the memory of his beloved Mary Alice and the Hispanic Women’s Corporation, throws one amazing gift-wrapping party.

“When, Danielito?”

“Thursday. 6 p.m. Kino Community Center.”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

The first time Ellen and I went, years ago, she listened to me complain all the way to Kino, over the river and through the barrio, convinced this Scrooge wasn’t going to have a great time. I was as wrong as a U-turn on Grant at rush hour. By the time we left the event our hands may have been covered with paper cuts and Scotch tape, but our hearts were so full of horchata, churros and the glorious spirit of Christmas, we floated home like untethered parade floats.

Second, next Friday, the very next morning, we’re rising to witness a glorious Christmas miracle firsthand, for lo, a miracle is promised, at the corner of 12th and Ajo and lo, we’re never disappointed. Verily it shall come to pass, around 8:30, in front of the church of St. John the Evangelist, thousands of children shall gather to meet Santa, who, with his inexhaustible love for children, and a little help from Nova Home Loans, fundraisers and the simple kindness of strangers, will not disappoint a single child. It’s a Tucson meets Frank Capra scene that will realign your soul. In this Bedford-Falls-with-saguaros story, our George Bailey of the Barrio wants every kid to have a wonderful life for one magical day. Drop off your toys at any Nova office, then come to the celebration and marvel.

It’s not hard for the wise among us to see the forest for the Christmas trees. Greet the bell ringer, embrace the prodigal, share your feast with the least among us and joy will come your way. Magic, too. You may even find an envelope with a message tucked into your Christmas tree.

David Fitzsimmons: tooner@tucson.com.

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